Raising Bees – Preventing Bee Stings
Nobody likes to be stung by anything. Let’s face it, it’s on the list of life’s least enjoyable things to do. None of us wakes up on a Saturday morning saying “I think I’ll go get stung by a bee today”. But If you are going to raise bees, at some point it is probably going to happen. However you can reduce your chances of being stung if you know a few things about bees.
First let me say, If you have a horrible fear of being stung or you are truly allergic (that means anaphylactic) then DON’T RAISE BEES.
There I got that out of the way… Now on to the rest of us.
Understanding What Makes Bees Sting
Bees don’t sting because they are sadistic creatures that have it out for humans and want them all eliminated. (that is just a nasty rumor) The reason a bee stings is (remember this) Defensive. Pure and simple, they sting to protect themselves, and to a greater extent, protect their hive. They do not want to sting you because if they sting you they will die. Well all of them except the Queen but that is a whole different story.
So how do we convince the bees that we mean them no harm?
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First, Learn what triggers there reaction to Sting.
In short what ticks them off.
- Clothing – Their biggest threat is predators such as bears and raccoons. Remember, we learned this while reading Winnie the Pooh as children. Pooh always had a honey pot. So what does this have to do with us? We aren’t bears! But are we going to the hive looking like one? What you wear to the hive will make a big difference as to whether the bee sees you as friend or foe. So don’t go near a hive with dark colors or fuzzy socks. Bears and raccoons are dark and fuzzy. By the way, it’s also not a good idea to look like a field of wild flowers either. Stick with white, tan or khaki. If you will notice, most beekeeping suits are white, that’s not by chance.
- Demeanor – Remember you don’t want them to think you are there to tear their nest apart. So move and sound calm, slow and methodical. Don’t move fast and flail your arms. When you get frantic , so do they. Don’t talk loudly. Be gentle with your bees. Every time a bee gets crushed it emits a pheromone that alerts other bees. Do be kind and gentle.
- Time of day – The best time to check on a hive is while most of the bees are not there. Wait until the middle of the day to open a hive so more of the bees are “at work” not at home. Less to squish, less to irritate, less to make angry. Besides they are busier and less likely to wonder what you are up to.
- Weather – Bees navigate by the sun. If it is a cloudy day they can’t go out and collect nectar. Unlike many of us, bees like to go out and work and it can put them in a bad mood if they can’t. If the weather is cloudy, rainy or especially windy, just leave them alone and come back another day.
- Don’t stink – Strong odors can be triggers too, whether it is a perfume or bad BO. Remember, you don’t want to smell like either a bear or a flower.
Watch where you are standing – A bee hive has one door in and one door out. If you stand in front of it….. I’m just sayin’
Ok, You’ve checked your clothing and perfume. You’ve checked the clock and the weather and you’re acting in a calm manner.
What else is there to preventing bee stings?
- Pull up a chair – Literally. Not right in front of the entrance, but where you can see it and watch it. Do this over several days and observe your bees. This does two things. It allows you to get used to how your bees act, interact and sound. And it allows your bees to get to know you. Bees will get to know your face and will be less likely to confuse you with that nasty bear we have talked so much about.
- Wear protective clothing – There is clothing that is made just for beekeeping, for the purpose of preventing bee stings. Get to know some beekeepers and check out the different types. There are full suits or just jackets and veils. They may look the same to the untrained eye, but the jacket with mesh that lets air flow through in my opinion is worth it’s weight in gold. You also want a veil that attaches to your jacket. When it comes to gloves, it is very much a personal preference. If you absolutely don’t want to get stung, you would need very thick leather gloves. But then you can’t feel to lift up a frame, catch a queen or many other things you might wish to do. Most people start with the thick gloves and then opt for neoprene gloves or no gloves at all. Your choice. If you are not wearing a bee suit, at the very least you should wear a veil. At least I think so. On one of my first excursions into the bee yard, the beekeeper was dividing the hive. The bees were very agitated. I got over heated and went what I thought was a safe distance away and took off my veil. Think about it. Where does a bee feel safe? In a small dark hole like the comb of his hive. Or like a nostril…. Yes I got a bee up my nose. My advice is wear a veil.
- Clean your clothing – When a bee gets squished or stings, it puts out a pheromone. Bees become aggressive when they sense that pheromone. If you walk into the bee yard with clothes that have that pheromones on it. They don’t know or care that it was from last week. That is their signal to become defensive. All those pheromones need to be washed away.
- Machinery – Bottom line. Bees don’t like noisy vibrating machinery. That includes lawn mowers and weed whackers. But the lawn has to be mowed so what are you to do. First don’t mow and go into the hive on the same day. Just don’t do it! Second, wear your bee protective clothing while mowing anywhere near the hive. Third, keep other people and pets inside while you are mowing around the bees, just in case.
- Smoker & Bee Spray – Learn to use your smoker and bee sugar spray to calm them and mask the pheromones when ever you will be going into the hive, moving the hive or working around it. (like mowing)
- Find a Mentor – If you are new to bee keeping, become an experienced beekeepers apprentice. You can learn so much about how to interact with bees from an ‘old timer’.
- Aggressive Hive – Occasionally you will just have an aggressive hive with a bad attitude. If that is the case, then it is time to requeen. And fast! Order a new queen and when you get her find and kill the old one and replace her. The attitude of the queen will effect the whole hive. She also may have mated with aggressive bees.
- Water – Bees, like all animals, need water. If you don’t provide it they will have to go find some. They could find it in your (or your neighbors) pool. Or the dogs water dish. Make sure they have their own plentiful source.
- Pets – Don’t forget your pets or the pets next door. Animals should not be caged or tethered near a bee hive. They need to be able to get away if there is a problem.
- Neighbors – If your neighbors live near by, remember to think to them too. Make sure none of them have a tremendous fear of bees or are allergic either. Then make sure you reward them with a bit of the sweet stuff when harvest time comes.
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