Lyme Disease Link?

By Daniel Sefton

Editor’s Note: We recently received this very interesting email from Daniel Sefton, a Connecticut beekeeper, regarding his bee venom allergies. Dan’s been keeping bees since he ordered his first packages from Kelley’s nearly a quarter-century ago, and now considers himself “a full-fledged novice.”

Dan raises some very intriguing questions about stinging, and Lyme disease. Readers? Please share your thoughts and experiences, thanks.

Three years ago I got stung a few times and developed a moderate systemic reaction, including swelling on my face, itchy palms and coughing. I visited an allergist, and to make a long story short I have developed an allergic reaction to honeybee venom (and bald faced hornets, but that isn’t a major concern).

My allergist said, “Um, it would be a good idea to give up beekeeping.” I laughed and he said he figured so, but he had to make that recommendation. For the past few years I have been undergoing immunotherapy. I now look forward to getting stung, to see how I react. There has been no major reaction since the first, but I keep an EpiPen® handy. A theory I have heard is that as beginning beekeepers, we get stung a lot. As we develop experience, our sting rate goes down, and that is when most beekeepers develop an allergy. Evidently getting stung frequently keeps the toxin levels high in the blood, but when they drop you somehow are more susceptible to developing a reaction.

Another thought: For the past ten years, Lyme disease has been a significant disease that my wife, children, neighbors and everybody has contracted multiple times. It is a major part of our life nowadays. Although it is now a threat all over the world, I take some pride in that I live in East Lyme, CT, where it was first described.

Anyway, talking with other beekeepers we realize that none of us has had Lyme disease. A little internet searching will turn up anecdotal evidence that some of the proteins in bee venom actively kill the spirochete that causes Lyme. Have you any thoughts on this? Anyone else reported or discussed this in beekeeper circles?

  • email