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  • Writer's pictureCJ Turner

5 Ways to Avoid Angry Bees

When people hear I am a beekeeper, one of the number one questions I get asked is "How many times have you been stung?" While I have definitely been stung my fair share, and some may argue stings are inevitable, I do take some extra precautions while inspecting to keep my bees as calm and unthreatened as possible. The following are five ways you can make your beekeeping experience enjoyable for both you and your bees.

Smoke Smoke Smoke

The best advice to avoid angry bees that are itching to sting you is to "smoke" your hive. Introducing smoke into your hive actually prevents/decreases the potency of the honey bee's "attack" pheromone that is released when they feel threatened. When I first started beekeeping I did not realize how necessary doing a "good smoke" of your hive before an inspection was.... until I was stung 5 times within 2 minutes of opening my hive. So while lighting and maintaining a smoker can sometimes be the most difficult part of beeing a beekeeper, it is definitely worth the effort.

Watch What you Wear

There is a reason beekeeping suites are generally white or very light pastel colors. Bees HATE dark colors. If they see someone in a dark color coming towards them, they will feel threatened and want to attack/defend themselves. Therefore it is essential that you choose to wear either white or a very light color when checking on your bees. Your bees will thank you.

Clouds = Cranky Bees

Beeing in touch with your local weather is something every beekeeper should be accustomed to. Whether it is just monitoring the temperature, or rain patterns for nectar flow, knowledge of local weather is an essential component of beeing a responsible beekeeper. One specific weather component beekeepers should be mindful of when inspecting is clouds or an incoming storm. Bees do not like to be disturbed on cloudy days, ESPECIALLY if there is a storm brewing. If it is necessary for you to do a quick check on a cloudy day, you will definitely notice a difference in your bees' behavior, so please use excess caution when doing so.

Invest in a Bee Suit

One of the top purchases I have ever made is my bee suit. Any time I have ever gotten stung on the face is when I have taken off my hood and exposed myself to whatever bees were nearby. The peace of mind knowing that when I inspect my hive that I am safe is very much worth shelling out a few bucks for a well-made bee suit. I will also say wearing long pants and a shirt underneath your bee suit is a great way to prevent stings if you are still nervous about the bee stinging through your suit. Jeans (while miserable when it is hot outside) are a great way to keep your legs safe while inspecting.

No Smells Please

And finally, leave that new perfume/cologne/sweaty shirt behind. Bees are very sensitive to smells, so any strong scent will either attract them or cause them to engage in

defensive behavior. For example, a fruity perfume will attract bees as a flower would, whereas body odor can actually induce attack behavior in honey bees. So make sure you take a nice shower before checking your hives and do not have any strong smells around when you inspect. I am sure that new perfume smells amazing, but you will be grateful you did not use it when you aren't swarmed by bees as soon as you enter the apiary.

So while there is a good chance you will experience a honey bee sting if you are a beekeeper, there are definitely ways to decrease the chances of this unfortunate event occurring. If you are concerned about getting stung, always bring Benadryl with you (if available an epi-pen just in case), and when stung make sure to get the stinger out so it can stop releasing its poison.

Always consult a doctor if you are concerned.

Happy beekeeping :)

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