A lovely picture of 14 year old Eva Wilson on her unicycle illustrates the Stuff heading "Shock at teen's death from [bee] sting".
As the owner until recently of hundreds of beehives, and as a beekeeper (of one hive) in Mt Victoria, I find such stories of greater interest than most, though parents all over the country will emphathise with Eva's family.
I've comforted myself when working on hives and stung (the worst night over 20 times when moving hives) with the theory that bee venom stimulates production of immunoglobulin G (IgG) which might reduce or fend off arthritis.
Nevertheless I've wondered when New Zealand's dedicated nannies would notice the opportunity to put bee stings into the category of peanut allergy and swimming pools and other common risks where precaution requirements are mounting to restrict ordinary conduct. Some precautionary principle responses may kill many more than they save. The added costs and risks of building and operating swimming pools or offering learn to swim training may be the main contributors to more than 30% of young New Zealanders being unable to swim.
About 40 people per year are killed by bee stings in the US, and one in Australia. For us it may be one every three or four years, on a population basis. So the risk of death may be greater than the risk of death from dog attack, or peanut allergy. If the population become as alarmed about bees as they have about dogs there could be a sad new expansion of cotton wool wrapping, to deprive more kids of confidence outdoors.
I'm intrigued by one aspect of the story. Eva's father is referred to by Stuff as "Fraser Wilson". A Frazer Wilson of Takaka is recorded on the National Beekeepers Association website as the President of the Nelson Branch. If he is Eva's father I would have thought it would be a significant part of the story, to have a beekeeper's daughter killed by a bee. Perhaps there is no connection.
But there is now suspicion that beekeepers' children are at heightened risk of anaphylactic shock from bee stings. Internet searching will throw up some advice that beekeepers should wash their work clothes separately from the family clothes. The theory is that othewise the washing passes on continual low level exposure to venom. Too late for my kids though we did not have the hives when they were young, but it could be slightly reassuring for the rest of us to know if Eva does come from a beekeeping family.
And very interesting for the immunologists studying allergies. Could it be that peanut allergy and the many other allergies that seem to be proliferating are being triggered by unremitting low level exposure for babies and children to the allergens in their parents. Should we parents lay off some of our favourite foods (e.g.wheat products) and drinks (e.g.dairy) to give our kids (and ourselves) at least occasional rests from exposures that would in past times have been seasonal. Should we be reinstating seasonality?