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Beekeeping 101: How Not to Get Stung While Handling Your Bees

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about  212,000 people in the U.S. keep bees. But according to common sense, many more people love honey. So, why do so few people keep bees? It may be because not everyone understands how not to get stung when keeping bees.

If fear of the sting has prevented you from keeping bees, a little knowledge will go a long way. Before we talk about how not to get stung, you should first understand the reasons bees sting.

Why Do Bees Sting?

While many people are afraid of bee stings, the truth is that bees don’t like to sting people. In fact, when they do sting, they literally give up their lives for it.

That’s because barbs shape their stingers. And because bees aren’t particularly strong, once they insert their stinger into someone, they can’t pull it out without their abdomen and digestive track coming along with it. That, of course, leads to death.

Why would a bee die to sting you? Because bees have two jobs in life: to protect the queen bee and to protect the hive. That’s why when bees are out gathering nectar and pollen, they aren’t likely to sting you. They’re too busy concentrating on bringing back the goodies to the hive.

But when you approach a bee’s hive and try to extract the honey, the bees become agitated and may sting you. Luckily, you can learn how to get honey without suffering a painful sting.

Here are 11 ways to keep your bees from stinging you.

How Not to Get Stung By Your Bees

Before we tell you how not to stung when handling your bees, it’s important to know that sometimes bees can still sting you even when taking the best precautions. It only makes sense that when bees surround you and you try to take their honey, a sneaky bee might figure out what you’re doing.

But if you follow these 11 tips, bee stings will be much less likely.

1. It’s okay to smoke when…

Smoking is bad for your health, but when learning how to get honey without getting stung, smoke will definitely play in your favor. When a bee senses smoke, it thinks the hive is on fire.

To protect the hive from damage, the bees begin eating all the honey they can to take as much nutrition with them as possible when moving away from the “burning” hive.

But eating all that honey makes bees lethargic. The bees become less aggressive as the food-coma state makes them less energetic. That’s the perfect time to collect all that honey, and that’s how to not get stung by your bees.

2. Do what suits you

You’ve likely seen bee suits, but did you know they are the second most effective method when it comes to learning how not to get stung? If you combine a bee suit with a smoker, you will be on your way to learning how not to get stung.

Bee suits are protective gear that allows you to get close to the hive with some form of protection from the bees. Some people wear full bee suits that consist of full-body coverage and a veil and gloves. Other beekeeper jackets only cover your upper torso and utilize a veil and gloves.

The veil covers your head and face and typically hangs from a hard rim around the hat. That gives you space to see the bees, and if one lands on the veil and stings, it won’t touch your face. The gloves are leather and are long enough to cover your arms up to the elbow.

Although bees suits count as protective clothing from bees and their stings, they aren’t foolproof. If a bee crawls into your gloves or wiggles their way down a shirt collar, you could still get stung. But hopefully, the smoker will lull your bees into a food coma before you attempt to collect the honey.

3. Don’t go dark

Bees are attracted to dark colors, which is why bee suits are white. If you choose not to wear a bee suit and instead wear your own clothes, be sure to wear light colors.

White is best because it won’t make the bees feel threatened the way dark colors will.

4. Don’t block the door

Bees use one way in and one way out of a hive, and if you stand in front of the entrance (or exit), the bees will become agitated. To show you that they are going to sting you unless you move, they will begin thumping into you with their bodies.

Take this as a warning, and if you want to learn how not to get stung, quickly step aside so the bee’s entrance is no longer blocked.

5. Go against your instincts

Most people’s first instinct when a bee is buzzing around them is to swat at it. Unfortunately, this “instinct” can cause the bees to sting you. That’s because bees see fast movements as a threat, and they may sting to counteract that threat.

Instead of swatting at buzzing fees, move slowly and deliberately. The bees won’t feel threatened and you can more easily learn how to get honey without getting stung.

Here’s an inspiring video that shows how friendly bees are when they don’t feel threatened:

6. Pay attention to the noise

You can tell a lot about how bees are feeling by the activity of the hive. If the bees begin buzzing louder and thumping up against you, it’s a sign that they aren’t happy. And unhappy bees sting.

When the buzz becomes loud or the activity picks up, you should walk away for a moment to give them time to settle down. If you want to continue what you’re doing, pull out the smoker and lull the bees back into their coma-like drowsiness.

7. Don’t freshen up for the bees

Scents attract bees. After all, they gather around flowers with their fragrant scents to collect nectar. Because good smells attract bees, you should never wear a fragrance when retrieving your bees’ honey.

Wearing a fragrance won’t ensure that you get stung, but it will draw more bees to you. And the more bees that buzz around you, the more likely it is that one of them will sting you.

8. Welcome the new bees with a little sugar

Everyone, including bees, likes a warm welcome. When installing a new package of bees, it might be tempting to pull out the smoker to calm the bees while you introduce the new ones to the hive. But doing so will alarm the new bees that their new hive isn’t safe.

Instead, spray some sugar water on the package of new bees, and install them as they are cleaning themselves. Because they will be so busy with that task, they are less likely to sting you.

9. One sting doesn’t have to mean more

If a bee does manage to sting you, even after all your precautions, it’s time to move away from the hive. That’s because when a bee stings, it emits a pheromone that the rest of the hive will smell. That pheromone tells the other bees that the hive is under attack, and they should take action.

If you move away from the hive after a sting, the bees will see that the “threat” is gone.

10. Make a clean getaway

Your purpose is to remove the frames with all that gooey and delicious honey. The bee’s purpose is to protect the honey at all costs. That’s why it’s important to ensure that when you remove the frame, there are no bees on it.

If a stray bee or two is still on the frame, they will emit another pheromone that tells the other bees where they (and the honey) are. All the other bees will chase after the honey, which you hold in your hand!

To make a clean getaway, be sure your frame contains nothing but that awesome honey.

11. Start small

When learning how not to get stung when tending to your bees, it’s a great idea to start small. You can find a 10-frame beginner hive kit from places like Little Giant and see how you do.

Once you master the art of knowing how to get honey without suffering a sting, you can add more frames and bees to the hive.

Solved: How Not to Get Stung When Collecting Honey

Raising bees is a satisfying art that allows you to collect honey from your very own hive. Don’t let the possibility of a bee sting prevent you from practicing this art. Instead, when you learn how not to get stung, you will gain confidence. And soon, you will have more jars of honey than you know what to do with!

Are you a beekeeper? If so, do you have any other ideas that will help other beekeepers? Share them in the comments!

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