After rescuing another half-drowned bee I ended up crouched by the hive, captivated by the drama and taking pictures. When my camera battery died I got up to go, and then the really cool thing happened.
I got stung.
When I got up and walked away, lifting my foot squeezed the bee that had fallen or explored into the top of my shoe, and she stung the top of my bare foot. I froze, setting my foot down to relieve the pressure on her.
Remembering that my bee guru said “If you give them time, the bee can work itself out after it stings you, and go unharmed”, I thought, well, I’ll just give her a chance here. I bent down to watch.
The bee stuck to the top of my foot by her stinger was agitated. She made a couple clockwise revolutions, but then turned the other way, and decisively started running circles around her stinger anti-clockwise. She paused, hunching like she was trying to pull free, and rubbed her stinger with her back feet. Then she resumed running counter clockwise (quite fast).
She was obviously unscrewing her stinger from my skin. Amazing!
My skin was reddening and swelling in front of my eyes, beneath the bee. I wondered if the swelling would “grab on” to her stinger. Of course, it felt like I’d been stung on top of the foot. That hurts.
She would pause and tug and rub with her feet, and then run some more. She made at least three dozen revolutions around her stinger. I couldn’t believe I was watching a bee unscrew herself from the top of my foot.
Did I mention the camera batteries were dead?
Near the end I could see her whole stinger, about 2mm, and it looked like the tip of it was barely attached to my skin – the weight of the bee was tugging on the very surface layer of my skin. She made a couple more turns, came loose! – and promptly fell back down into my shoe.
The whole extrication took somewhere around two minutes.
I waited, and she came walking back out, climbing my foot. I tried to pick her up, she tried to fly and she fell in the grass. She was all flustered, behaving weirdly drunk. Maybe she was simply dizzy. After a few more attempts to pick her up and dropping her, I got her to the hive and deposited her on the doorstep. Totally fine.
Then I went home to lie down. I get stung on my feet at least once a year. This time I got all the same hot, swelling, feeling like a big bruise symptoms, but I did fancy that this time, I got a smaller dose of venom.
When one gets stung on the hand, flinching or the reflexual flick is enough to throw the bee and rip the stinger sac out of her body. The sac speared into your skin by the stinger then autonomically pumps more venom in, pulsing like a disembodied heart. I feel like this time, I only got the one hit when she first stung me.