By Alastair Kinghorn
August 4, 2014
Have you ever been stung by a bee?
Not a big deal eh?… Unless you happen to be allergic to them and more of that later, but for those of us who live in Brazil, there are bees and then there are bees… and also wasps!
Since coming here to live there have been many who have warned me to take care with snakes, and even more who have displayed great fear of the spiders and even some who will not set foot in Brazil unless they are guaranteed a spider free visit!
I have often asked the people that I meet if they have ever been bitten by a snake, or know of anyone who has. I know of no-one who has suffered a snake bite and only a handful who have known someone who has been bitten. According to sources who publish figures on the internet, some 70 people die each year from a snake bite in Brazil. These are mainly agricultural workers cropping banana and sugar cane, prey to an occupational hazard.
Spiders are a different matter. They are most likely to cause a problem in our autumn season, from April through May, when they come indoors to seek a hibernation nest to lay their eggs. They can be anywhere. Always check your shoes and clothes before using them. I have been bitten by a spider and it is a common occurrence especially if you live in a rural area and work outside without gloves. You can get quite a nasty bite, but you would be extremely unlucky to need medical attention.
Bees, on the other hand are muito perigoso”!
The trouble is that there are so many of them and you can easily fall victim to a sting in any location. In rural areas their nests are formed in the summer months during December, January, February and March, but unlike European bees, they often build their nests on the back of the leaves of ground plants where people pass. The unsuspecting person on foot on a rural trail can easily brush against the leaf bearing a bee’s nest and will be surrounded within seconds by an aerial mob of angry bees intent on protecting their home. Stings are delivered on all areas of exposed flesh and the pain is enough to drive you away from the spot, flailing against the multiple assailants and wishing that you had chosen a different route. Thankfully these “Abelha Preta”, are quite small and their sting, although not be sneezed at, is soon tolerable.
Wasps, (Maribondos), however, deliver a sting that is extremely painful and multiple stings will incapacitate a victim for several hours. Like the black bees, they often build nests where folk are likely to pass by and they attack without mercy. I have been stung on several occasions by Maribondos and can testify to the excruciating pain that they cause and to the disorientating effect of an attack. I had the good fortune to be close to my house where I could seek refuge and administer vinegar to the stings in order to obtain some relief.
Now that you are suitably cowed, and alerted to some of the common dangers to be encountered by the unsuspecting rambler in Brazil, we enter into the domain of the deadly “Abelha Africana”, or African bee.
Some clever so-and-so had a brilliant idea, sometime ago, to create a super race of South American bees, that would make him rich. He imported bees from Africa which had a prodigious capacity for making honey, and crossed them with the native black bees. The result was an insect that reproduced rapidly, could fend for itself in the wild, and made huge amounts of honey. Unfortunately it also turned out to be viciously aggressive and in possession of a sting that delivers sufficient venom to kill an adult horse, let alone a human being!
Now I can just about hear someone saying, “Alastair, stop spooking the tourists! Most of them won’t even go anywhere near a bee’s nest and will never set foot in the jungle without a guide to bear the brunt of whatever creepy crawly lurks unseen.”
Listen up then you Football Fans here for the World Cup and those to come for the Olympics in two years’ time. I have just got back home with my girlfriend from our town Emergency Hospital. Earlier this afternoon she was in town, at a bar. She was just across the road from where I was downloading music from the internet. She was quietly drinking a glass of a popular soft drink, called Guarana, when unknown to her, an African bee entered her glass to take on board a load of sugar for honey making. She took another sip and the bee struck the inside of her upper lip. Within seconds she was in an anaphylactic shock and luckily managed to stagger to where I was, and of course, I immediately took her to hospital. She received emergency treatment, including several anti-allergic injections, oxygen to assist her difficulty in breathing, a drip to alleviate shock and close observation until she began to show signs of recovery. This was all from a single sting. Imagine what many stings could have caused!
Three hours later she was released for convalescence and told to be very careful of the bees.
Very good advice, I would call it!
2014 Alastair Kinghorn
Alastair is an expat originally from Scotland now living in rural Southeastern Brazil close to the city of São Paulo. He has led a variety of lives since leaving school at the tender age of seventeen. In the merchant navy he spent six years travelling the world including a trip to Rio and Santos in 1971. He then tried his hand doing a series of jobs in London as;- Mini Cab driver, Fashion allocator, Warehouse manager, Meat factory worker, before deciding to become an architect. He then went north to the Scottish Highlands for the next six years. Worked there as an architect, and as skipper of a pollution control vessel on the Moray Firth. He opened a shop selling stationary and art supplies. Started an arts group with an annual exhibition, became a member of the Community Council and ran as candidate in local elections, before returning south to London in ’86 due to recession in the Highlands. Worked in commercial architects practices in London during the ‘Yuppie’ years, before yet another recession hit the construction industry. Entered Local Government as an Estate Surveyor for Westminster City Council, then as Technical Manager for Camden and finally Repair Centre Manager for Greenwich. Took early retirement in 2006 and emigrated here to Brazil. Settled in Peruibe SP for three years before moving to Pedro de Toledo in the foothills of the Jureia mountains. Married and divorced three times he spends his time between his sitio, working part-time in a local imobiliaria, writing, photography and listening to classical music. Alastair decided to create Brazil: Copo de Vagabundos
A Fora de Prazo