Beekeeping for Beginners: Common-Sense Guide to Bee Safety
It's common bee safety knowledge that bees are defensive by nature, so don't set off their warning bells is one beekeeping for beginners tip.
The best-dressed beekeeper wears light-colored, smooth garments.
Apiphobes … we all know one. Someone who is terrified of bees, who sees a bee and cannot contain his fear. Maybe he truly is allergic, or maybe, like a friend of mine, he was just trained from a young age to be afraid. Most of us (except perhaps those raised by beekeepers) have been conditioned to a certain degree: See a bee, think only of their capacity for stinging, not of their other less injurious attributes like making honey and pollinating many of our favorite fruits and vegetables. Because of this almost inborn fear, beekeeping for beginners can be a challenge for many people.
The first time you take the lid off the hive, hear the buzzing, and find yourself surrounded by bees can be a little scary for everyone, but keeping yourself safe is relatively easy. Many tactics for beehive safety involve plain old common sense.
Though we have been conditioned to think of them as attackers who live to sting us, bees are by nature defensive and reactive. Bees become defensive only when threatened in some way. They release an alarm pheromone (a smelly chemical that alerts the other bees of an attack), and when the odor gets the hive up in arms, the beekeeper is in for a bad day.
One of the keys to beekeeping is doing your best to avoid putting the bees on the defensive; a difficult task considering you’re hoping to steal their hard-earned food supply.
Timing is everything
When handling bees, it’s important to remember that a hive is moody. Knowing the natural rhythms of your bees is essential for staying safe. If you take the time to consider a few things before working the hive, your next bee encounter is bound to be more enjoyable.
If possible, choose a day that is bright, sunny and warm. Rainy or hot, muggy days can make bees more defensive. Thunderclouds or storms are to be avoided, as environmental factors during these times are thought to cause bees to be more irritable. More bees are likely to be in the hive during a storm – meaning more hanging around with the express purpose of defending the hive, and more bees for you to handle or avoid.
Working the hive on a colder day can be dangerous for the bees. The way bees stay warm is to bunch together in a complex cluster. Honeybees begin to cluster if the temperature drops below about 57 degrees. If you work the hive after the cluster has formed, you may cause the bees to become disorganized, and they may not get their cluster rebuilt before the temperature drops, causing the hive to be more susceptible to the cold. If you must manipulate them during colder weather, do so in the morning to give them plenty of time to get their cluster organized again before temperatures plummet.
The optimum time for hive management is during nectar flow, when most of the bees are gone from the hive collecting nectar. This occurs when the most flowers are in bloom and producing nectar and pollen for the bees to use. The timing varies based on your climate. Check with your local beekeepers association or extension agent to find out when nectar flow happens in your area.
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