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Healing aids for summer bee stings

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Posted: Sunday, July 18, 2010 4:04 am | Updated: 1:13 pm, Wed Dec 26, 2012.

Editors note: Girl in the Woods is a new biweekly column that strives to answer everyday (and not-so everyday) questions about life, living and survival in Alaska. Send you questions to:

FAIRBANKS — Q: Do you know of any home remedies for bee stings? It seems someone in our house always gets stung in the summer and I never have any kind of antidote for the sting.

A: I read a very interesting article recently from journalist William Brantley in Slate magazine, who had this same question. Brantley went so far as to get himself stung numerous times in order to try out different remedies, then rated each for their effectiveness. This is what he found;

1. Ice worked far and away the best of any remedy. “A 20-minute application knocked out the symptoms almost immediately and kept them subdued for half the day. Ice reduces swelling by constricting vessels and slowing down the flow of venom-tainted blood. By numb force, it also cancels out pain and itching.”

2. Toothpaste. “…the toothpaste tingled. This not only made it seem medicated, it felt like I was actually scratching the itch, which was both psychologically and physically satisfying. One doctor I spoke to suggested that the glycerin found in most toothpaste dries out the venom concentrated under the sting area. But several others I asked said the tingle was a result of the alkaline toothpaste neutralizing the acid in the bee's venom. Either way, the toothpaste knocked Level 10 symptoms down to 0 in 15 minutes and held them below 7 for more than five hours.”

3. Another excellent remedy he noted was a mixture of vinegar, baking soda and meat tenderizer. Go figure.

Try these next time you get stung and let me know how they work for you. I thank William Brantley for doing the experimenting for me.

Q: I saw a bull moose in our yard just a month ago, and I’m pretty sure I saw the same moose this week. I couldn’t believe how much bigger his antlers had gotten in such a short time! My question is about antlers — can you tell me the rate of antler growth for a moose this time of year?

A: According to some sleuthing I did, it seems that increased daylight, genetics and good food all contribute to antler growth and the eventual size of the “seasoned” antler. Prime bull moose (between 5 and 10 years old) can produce a rack that weighs up to 60 pounds! Maximum antler growth occurs in June where up to one pound of growth can be added per day.

This makes my neck hurt.

The antlers are covered in a fuzzy coating called “velvet” during growth. The velvet is full of nerves and carries a healthy supply of blood to help nourish the growing antlers. This is also very sensitive to damage, which in turn can lead to deformities in the developing antlers. When the antlers are finished growing, the velvet begins to fall off creating quite a dramatic effect if you see it.

If you want to learn more about moose, check out the book In the Company of Moose by Alaska wildlife biologist Dr. Victor Van Ballenberge. Van Ballenberge has studied wild moose in the field for over 35 years and you will enjoy the wonderful pictures in his book and find out everything you ever wanted to know about moose.

Brookelyn Bellinger is an independent filmmaker from Delta Junction, and author of the book “The Frozen Toe Guide to Real Alaskan Livin’.” Send your questions to or visit her website at


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