Lessons from the bee yard

Lesson 1 

Do not mistake bees for pets. Honeybees never welcome nor appreciate your opening and exposing the interior of their home/hive.  Bees have millions of years history of bears ravaging their stores of honey, and I imagine that I seem similar to a bear in their sense of things.The guard bees emit alarm pheromone that a bear has come to rob them, and thousands of bees whirl out of the hive boxes to drill their stingers into the ears, eyes, head of the bear (me).  Bees belong in the category of wild.    

Lesson 2 

Use smoke: Beekeepers use smokers to dilute the alarm pheromone.  Learn the skill of preparing a smoker and then smoke, smoke, smoke the hive and the bees when working with the bees. 

Lesson 3 

Start right – get good equipment. Buy a bee suit that protects the wearer. Bees live in 3/8-inch spaces, so bees easily find entry into a partially zipped suit or a tiny opening between glove and sleeve.  When I started beekeeping, I bought a bee suit with a hood that fit over a wide brimmed plastic helmet. The hood fit over the helmet and tied under the collar of the bee suit with a closure that zipped up to the collar. A bee found her way between collar and tie.  I felt her crawling over my cheek and panicked and in my haste to rip off the helmet, she stung me, and when the bees recognized a way to attack, they swarmed into my hair and stung me many times.  Bee stings cause intense pain.  My current bee suit has an attached hood with velcro closures under my chin and a sturdy zipper that zips from ankles to collar.  


My messages to me as I step into the bee suit before working with the bees is, “Zip, snap, press Velcro, wear gloves and move slowly and quietly and use smoke and attend to your task and work quickly with the least disturbance as possible.”

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