If you keep bees, you are going to get stung. This is a fact. How often you get stung can be greatly reduced by keeping several things in mind. Despite all the supposed health benefits of bee venom and apitherapy, getting stung whilst trying to get other apiculture related chores done can otherwise ruin a rather enjoyable day at the apiary. Fear not, this year I have been stung on multiple occasions but I still maintain that each and every time it was my fault. Let’s start with some basic rules.
Is it a good beach day out? Would you rather be sitting in the sand slacking your thirst with a Mojito? If you answer positively to the question, you are not in luck. There is work to be done, and your bees need you. If you cannot see the sun, and feel its warmth go find something else to do. When it is over casted, cloudy, going to rain, raining, sunrise, or sunset you are going to get lit up. On a nice day, most of your hive is out foraging, gathering water, and doing what bees do. On a crappy day all those bees are inside your hive, and they are ornery (wouldn’t you be ornery too if you were stuck inside?).
Pay attention to the length of days. Bees are smart little creatures, and they pay attention to earth’s rotational cycles. Perhaps not in astrophysicist terms, but they know when the days are getting longer and when they are getting shorter. Between spring and the summer solstice the days are getting longer and the bees concentrate more on brood rearing. After the solstice is when the days logically enough get shorter. This is when bees start collecting their stores for winter (ie honey). They also become more defensive over it.
If you fall into any of the following subcultures you may wish to adopt a wardrobe change: emo, punk, metal, goth. Bees are somewhat superficial about who takes care of them. Sure it’s blue collar work, but the bees prefer to think their handler is white collar management –you do have hundreds of thousands of employees. What I mean by this is bees will react differently depending on what you are wearing. Many historical predators of bees come in the black, or reddish brown fur variety. For this reason if you are wearing black or red, they will associate you as being there to rob them of their honey. While this is our intended goal, its best if we try and dupe them. They also tend to actually like other collars, white and yellow come to mind. Stick with bright colors, I had to buy new clothes to be a beekeeper. The money I spent on clothes saved on Benadryl. Also, stick to natural plant based fibres. Bees will think you are an animal if you go into the apiary wearing a fur coat, wool is not great either.
Move slowly! Any fast movements or jolts will be interpreted as a homo Saipan invasion.
Know those little tabs on the frames? Bees love to hide underneath them. Double check before you squash one, get stung, drop the frame, get more stung. I was stung on the index finger. My fingertip was numb for days.
Beekeepers have smokers for a reason. Use them. It doesn’t take much, a few quick puffs of some cold smoke is all it takes.
Some bees are just plain more aggressive then others. Maybe yours mated with an old german black bee, maybe they are just a little hot. Its your call whether or not you want to requeen them. Sometimes its worth it to have those feral genetics in your stock. They are surviving, yours are not.
If you do get stung, scrap the stinger and venom sack out. Use a fingernail, hive tool, I don’t care but scrape. If you try to brush it off, pull it out, you are going to miss the stinger or possibly push more venom into your blood stream. Out? Good. Now smoke the shit out of it. When bees sting you it releases a pheromone that will tell other bees they are under attack and to sting you some more! Also note, it is perfectly normal to swear when you get stung. Make use of those f-bombs.
If you keep bees, you will get stung.