Bee Calm

| 6/19/2011 3:28:07 PM

You’ve heard it a hundred times…learn to work your bees without gloves. It’s so much easier because you have a better feel for where your fingers are and you crush and injure far, far fewer bees. You know it’s true, but maybe next time…

And then you watch the instructor or that experienced beekeeper work that colony without even a veil on…not even a veil! And they almost never have a sting to deal with, and when they do, they just whisk it away without missing a beat. How do they do that?

The truth of the matter is that when you are working your bees, the first thing is, you have to have confidence in yourself. That confidence comes, in part, from having reached a comfort level when you have a colony open because you kind of know what to expect, in part from knowing why you are in the colony in the first place. And, of course, in part from having done it enough that not only do you know what you are doing, but you know what you will do next.

Let’s first look at getting that confidence level up to where you want it.

For most folks it takes a bit of doing to get used to insects buzzing around your face and walking on your hands.  Most of us grew up shooing away buzzers – mosquitoes on the patio, horse and deer flies while on the beach, wasps and hornets at picnics. All of these can cause harm and we early on develop a survival response – we wave, slap, swat or spray.

So to invite a bunch of similar insects into our backyard may seem to go against the grain. It usually takes some getting used to.

8/16/2011 3:39:19 PM

We're so happy to have found this blog! We've been keeping bees at Sunset Magazine for the last 3 (going on 4) years. We have never gotten used to going without gloves, especially having seen two members of our staff develop severe bee sting allergies. So, while we love our bees, we hate to be stung, and we take every precaution. We have found that, since we are small women, child-size gloves work well for us. They fit snugly and we still have a lot of dexterity. You can read about our beekeeping adventures at

Tom Allen
7/31/2011 3:04:41 PM

Beth, your beekeeper was correct. The bees have a buildt-in GPS of sorts. If you move them a short distance, they will return directly to the house where you just removed them from. If however, you take the queen and as many of the worker bees, drones, etc., at least 3 (three) miles away, the workers will take an orientation flight to reset their GPS to the location of the sun in their new location. Leave them for several weeks and then you can transport them back to where you want them at home. Quirky, but just the way it is with bees!

Beth Bowers
7/6/2011 7:42:09 PM

For the last 7 years, I have had a wonderful, busy hive of honey bees living between the plywood and the joists of my house under a high porch (on stilts). There is a lot of room to spread out (17' by 17') but I really don't know how far they have spread throughout the joists. The plywood looks damp in some places as far as 6' out. I wanted to move them to a hive because they are so good natured and healthy. I bought a box hive and frames and was ready to go. I got a beekeeper over and he said that for a hefty charge, he would come and tear out the plywood but that he needed to take the queen ("if he could even find her", he said) and take her 5 miles away and then bring her back in 3 weeks. He also said he only had a 35% survival rate moving bees. I didn't want to take the chance of killing them and I didn't understand why he couldn't put the queen and comb in the hive I bought. Wouldn't the bees follow her? He estimated a 4000 bee hive. Is there any way I can get the bees from under the house (I can hear them through a heating vent in the living room above the porch in the winter) and into a regular hive other than having the queen taken away and risking the hive? Do I just have an uninformed beekeeper? I love the bees and will just let them continue to live in my house if the odds of moving them are too high. Any suggestions?

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