How to Overcome the Fear of Being Stung When Beekeeping

Perhaps the best-known part of the bee’s anatomy is its stinger. It may be your biggest apprehension about taking up beekeeping. Even if you’ve never been stung by a honey bee, you may have felt the wrath of yellow jackets and hornets. Experienced beekeepers will tell you that honey bees bred for beekeeping are docile and seldom inclined to sting.

Honey bees are docile and gentle creatures. You can make it through your entire first season without receiving a single sting. Your friends, family and neighbors shouldn’t have to worry, either.

Honey bees use their stingers only as a last resort to defend the colony. After all, they die after stinging. When bees are away from the hive (while they’re collecting nectar and pollen) defending the colony is no longer a priority, so they’re as gentle as lambs out in the field.

Beekeepers get stung, but these injuries are a result of carelessness. You might be rushing, taking short cuts, or being inattentive to their moods — all things that you shouldn’t do. That sloppiness is merely the result of becoming comfortable with your bees. The secret to avoiding stings is your technique and demeanor.

Here are some helpful tips for avoiding stings:

  • Always wear a veil and use your smoker when visiting your hive.

  • Inspect your bees during pleasant daytime weather. Try to use the hours between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. That’s when most of the bees are out working, and fewer bees are at home. Don’t open up the hive at night, during bad weather, or if a thunderstorm is brewing.

  • Don’t rush. Take your time and move calmly. Sudden movements are a no-no.

  • Get a good grip on frames. If you drop a frame of bees, you’ll have a memorable story to tell.

  • Never swat at bees. Become accustomed to them crawling on your hands and clothing. They’re just exploring. Bees can be gently pushed aside if necessary.

  • When woodenware is stuck together with propolis, don’t snap it apart with a loud “crack.” The bees go on full alert when they feel sudden vibrations.

  • Never leave sugar syrup or honey in open containers near the hive. Doing so can excite bees into a frenzy, and you may find yourself in the middle of it. It can also set off robbing — an unwelcome situation in which bees from other colonies attack your bees, robbing them of their honey.

  • Keep yourself and bee clothing laundered. Bees don’t like bad body odor. If you like to eat garlic, avoid indulging right before visiting your bees.

  • Wear light-colored clothing. Bees don’t seem to like dark colors.

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