Beekeeper’s Wife has Pioneering Treatment for Sting Allergy

LThe wife of a beekeeper is living on a knife edge – knowing that a single sting could threaten her life.

As a result keen gardener Lynn Rose won’t be helping husband Steve collect honey from his dozen of hives for the Hamper Llangollen food festival next weekend, Saturday and Sunday, October 19 and 20.

Years of being exposed to bee venom on Steve’s clothes has led to her being highly allergic to the fluffy pollinators, who usually get a warm welcome from gardeners and farmers alike.

After a sting saw Lynn dialling 999 for emergency treatment to save her life, she’s now undergoing pioneering treatment at Broadgreen Hospital in Liverpool to help de-sensitise the allergy.

Meanwhile she’s keeping a safe distance from the hives – home to 200,000 bees – at their house near Corwen, while Steve makes ready his display of honey and all things bee-related for the food festival at Llangollen’s Royal Pavilion.

The 62-year-old and her husband run a B&B at their converted farmhouse home, Cilgwri in Glanrafon, and also offer courses in bee-keeping

“I didn’t used to have any problems at all, and I’m not scared of bees – and I love honey, I have it every morning on my toast,” said Lynn.

“Our house is on a smallholding of seven acres, at the end of a half-mile track  – we moved here from the Midlands because of the space and to keep bees. But that means there aren’t many people close by if something goes wrong, and there’s poor mobile coverage.

“Steve was out and I was  in the garden when I got the fright of my life. I stepped into the flight path of a bee and it collided with me, on my collarbone. At first I didn’t think I’d been stung and so didn’t panic.

“But then I started to feel very short of breath, and tried to contact my husband but there was no mobile coverage. Finally I managed to alert my neighbour, who saw that I was very unwell.

“I was extremely brerathless and was covered in hives – not the bee home but the little red allergic spots. So we dialled 999 and fortunately an ambulance was nearby, on its way back from Corwen, and was with me in a few minutes.

“When the paramedics got to me I wasn’t in a very good state  – they gave me a nebuliser to help me breath, plus anti-histamine to counter the allergy.

“That seemed to sort me out, and fortunately I didn’t need to go to hospital. But it was scary.

“I now carry an epi-pen to give me a shot of adrenalin in case I get stung again and go into an anaphylactic shock. We’ve moved many of the hives away from the house or onto other sites.

“It seems a lot of bee-keepers’ wives develop an intolerance and even an  allergy to bee stings, because of the venom that’s often on their husband clothes,” explained Lynn, a former animal nurse trainer.

“My GP decided that it wasn’t safe for me, as we live remotely and there’s no way that Steve will give up his bees. So I was referred to Broadgreen allergy clinic. The treatment will last three years in total, so I am only partway through.

“I was injected with  a very small dose of bee venom and then monitored to make sure I didn’t react. The doses got stronger as the treatment went on – at first the injections were once a week, then once a fortnight, and now it’s only once a month that I have to go to Broadgreen.

“Eventually my resistance should be enough to cope with being stung by two bees at the same time,” added Lynn, mum to two sons.

Meanwhile Steve, a retired mining engineer, has been collecting honey from his 40-plus hives ready for the Llangollen Food Festival.

“I will  be displaying  my honey as part of the honey exhibition in the Pavilion, there should be around 100 jars to be judged,” said Steve, who says he’s not been stung himself by a bee for four years.

“We will also have a display area where people can see hives, with photos and a video of the life cycle of a bee.

“The second half of the summer has been good for bees, with flowers coming late – although the bad weather earlier in the year, and last year’s wet summer meant we lost of bees.

“My favourite honey is heather honey, which this year has been exceptional because of the warm August. I am also making honey mead, and there should be entries of cakes, biscuits and breads made with honey  – something for everybody.”

Cadwyn Clwyd’s contribution came via the Rural Development Fund for Wales 2007-2013, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Welsh Government.

Robert Price, Cadwyn Clwyd’s agri-food project officer, said: “The location of the Pavilion is absolutely  spectacular – I can’t imagine that any other food festival in the UK has a more beautiful setting.

“It’s also brilliant news for the local economy. If you buy from a local producer, all that money is recycled through the local economy and that sustains employment in our rural areas.”

For more information about Hamper Llangollen 2013 go to: www.llangollenfoodfestival.com