Sting in hive move

By Liz Wylie

Shirley Benjamin, with her EpiPen, is concerned about an influx of bees. Photo/Stuart Munro
Shirley Benjamin, with her EpiPen, is concerned about an influx of bees. Photo/Stuart Munro

A Wanganui woman for whom bee stings can be deadly is worried about moves to allow beehives in the city.

Shirley Benjamin loves the flowers and fruit trees in Wanganui - it's just the bees she cannot stand. She suffers from anaphylaxis, a severe reaction to bee venom which can be life-threatening.

At this week's Apiculture Industry Conference in Wanganui, Mayor Annette Main backed calls to allow beehives in the city boundary. At present, hives are permitted in the rural area but a resource consent is needed in the urban setting.

Ms Main said council officers had been asked to review the rules around beekeeping.

Responding to Ms Main's comments, Mrs Benjamin said: "I don't want them to get rid of the bees. I just don't want to see more of them because it will increase the risk for people like me."

Mrs Benjamin must carry an EpiPen, which contains a dose of adrenaline to treat anaphylactic shock, with her at all times.

"My grandchildren have been practising with the dummy pen I've been given so they know how to treat me if it happens when I'm with them."

EpiPens are not subsidised and cost around $200 for a single use unit. There are hives next to her rural property in Rangitikei and they are near the property boundary, where there is gorse and manuka, which attract the bees.

"We don't have cellphone coverage where we are and I'm by myself a lot of the time so it's very scary, I don't know if help would get to me in time.

"I've written to the neighbour about moving the hives, but I've had no response."

Mrs Benjamin has been undergoing "desensitisation" treatment at Wellington Hospital. The treatment involves injecting patients with increasing amounts of bee venom, which is intended to decrease their level of sensitivity over time.

"I've had severe reactions to the treatment, and I'm not sure I want to carry on. It's painful and stressful."

Penny Jorgensen of Allergy New Zealand says the duration of treatment is generally for three to five years.

"It is not without risk and may not be suitable for some people for a number of reasons. Therefore, patients should always be referred to an allergy specialist. Those at risk should also be prescribed an EpiPen and given an anaphylaxis action plan by their doctor."

Monday's call by the mayor to consider beehives in the city attracted a lot of comments on the Chronicle Facebook page.

Here are some:

"I'm petrified of bees and wasps ... they follow me too, I swear." - Charlotte Henderson

"So if she knows what she is doing why allow this to happen? Do you know how many people have allergies and how these allergies affect them? I'm not moaning; I am stating facts for me, and how it could affect me." - Judy Cleeve

"Annette knows what she's doing. Stop moaning, Wanganui people." - Barb MacArthur

"Without bees this earth be bugged & filled #GMO, organic, labelled products etc. Everything natural will go into extinct, & only #GMO will be used." - Rasta-irie Rastastyarasta

"Doing it and disallowing it are different things. Whose doing it? Lawsuit coming." - Andrew Sheldon

"And putting the public in danger - especially everyone that is highly allergic to them." - Tuna Man

"The public are in no more danger than when they take a walk in the bush, the garden, or the countryside. Stop over-reacting." - Bridget Hurley

- Wanganui Chronicle

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