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7 Rules for staying safe around bees for non beekeepers

Many people, and I do mean many, are afraid of bees. Bees of all kinds, honeybees, carpenter bees, and bumblebees. I believe the reason for this fear is that honeybees in particular look very similar to yellow jackets. And many people, including yours truely, have had very unplesent experiences with the aggressive yellow jacket. In any case, I wanted to share some information that will hopefully help alleviate some anxiety over being around a colony of honeybees.

honeybees, in general, are very calm and not very defensive. This is one of the reasons that man can keep bees. If they are too arrgessive, it would be more trouble than it’s worth. Such is not the case. Even though many beekeepers wear protective gear, there are probably just as many that don’t. The ones that do wear the protection because they are entering the brood chamber, where the babies are, and the bees can become a little defensive then. Smoke is the main tool of protection for a beekeeper. The smoke causes the bees to gorge only honey which makes them less aggrressive, and therefore less likely to sting.

So enough of the descroptive paragraphs, lets get these rules of behavior around honeybees into a list.

  1. Never approach a hive of bees from the front. They perceve it as an attack and will retaliate. Always approch from the side or better yet the back.

  2. Wear light colors. White is the best color to wear. honeybees are aggitated by the color black.

  3. Keep pets out of the bee yard. In fact don’t pet your dog before going into the bees. The bees can smell it and they don’t like it.

  4. Stay calm. bees are like any other creature, they can sense and react to fear.

  5. DO NOT jar the hive. This includes not throwing things at the hive, knocking on the side of the hive or knocking it off it’s stand.

  6. Don’t make sudden movements. Honeybees will “jump” at you if you make sudden or quick movements.

  7. Don’t wear strong perfums or scents. Some cause the bee to think you’re a flower. Watch out for strong scented shampoos and conditioners too.

Not a rule exactly, but this is very important to know and remember. bees only attack when they are defending their young, the brood. Singular bees out on flowers won’t usually attack. However, if you step on one, it may sting you. But a sting from a single bee isn’t the same as an attack. Yet, to the allergic, a single sting may be all it takes. There are anywhere from 40 - 100 deaths resulting annually from stings of bees, wasps, yellow jackets, and other stinging animals acrroding to page which is using the government statistics as their source.

Similarly, if you see a swarm looking for a new home there is no reason to fear. It’s been observed by many experieced beekeepers that bees are the most docile when in a swarm. Again, there are 2 main reasons for this. 1) They consume as much honey as their bellys will hold before leaving the hive. 2) They have no brood to protect. When honeybees swarm they fill up on honey to prepare for the journey and the activity of building comb at their new home. All this requires energy, which the honey provieds. Since they have left the colony in search of a new home, they left all the soon to be hatched bees behind. Protecting the young is the main reason for defensivness. Without that motivation, an experienced beekeeper can scoop up a swarm of bees and not receive a sting.

honeybees are some of the most gentle of the stinging insects. It’s a quality that forged the relationship between man and bee. Man has since breed his bees to be even more gentle. Still, they are wild creatures and can be provoked to sting. Bees are not looking for a reason to attack though. Keep the above list in mind when around honeybees and you’ll have a much more enjoyable experience. Who knows, you may even fall in love and become a beekeeper yourself.

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