Bee Venom.. the Good and the Bad

| 3/29/2011 11:44:16 PM

Four Bees 

I was born the son of a beekeeper, who was a son of beekeeper, who was a son of beekeeper, who was….. Anyway, the bee venom runs deep.  So deep that as a kid I developed the classic curse of a beekeeper’s offspring – severe allergies to bee proteins. Probably because I received chronic-low dose exposure to bee antigens on my Dad’s skin, clothes and vehicle upholstery, but never had many (any?) direct stings until I was about a year old, I was sensitized to bee proteins and my immune system was primed to mount a full court press against bee venom.  The result was a bad experience when I was first stung.  I suffered full-blown anaphylactic shock at about a year of age. I survived, but the risk is real, though probably much more pronounced for the offspring of a commercial beekeeper or the child of someone who is around bees a lot.  My recommendation – bee stings hurt, but if you’re worried about allergies, get that immunologic tolerance going early, even in children.  If you’re serious about keeping bees, or just spending time around a feral honey bee colony in a hollow of a tree, you’re probably going to get stung sooner or later. So why not go ahead and get it over with when you’ve got your family or a friend and some Benadryl handy, and before you become sensitized to bee venom.


On the other hand, don’t be foolish and unnecessarily provoke a colony, always make sure you have a lit smoker around when you work your hives, wear appropriate protective clothing (hat, veil, long pants tucked into boots, long sleeved shirt, with optional gloves and coveralls if they make you feel more secure or your bees have a bad attitude) and have a place to retreat to if you find yourself being pursued by more than a few angry bees. The precautions are especially important if you live in areas where New World African honey bees may be present. 


Most honey bee colonies will warn you if they perceive your actions or your presence as a threat to the colony, and they’ll begin by bouncing off your body, and buzzing around you with obvious purpose, especially your head. If that doesn’t work they may resort to additional, less diplomatic tactics, to get your attention. 

4/3/2011 8:41:59 AM

Laurie B, some beekeepers have started rooftop apiaries to get around the bear issue, but electric fences are the most common deterrent. First understanding what attracts bears and making sure you do not have these other items around the bees will help. Montana's state website has a list of bear attractants: Bears love honey and seek bee larvae in beehives. You can protect the hives with electric fencing or by elevating the hives on platforms 15-20' above the ground. These can be supported by metal poles that bears can't climb. Beehives should be located 50 yards from forests or other sources of cover for bears. For more information please follow this link: GOOD LUCK!

Laurie B
3/31/2011 10:14:04 AM

We ave tons of noeybees & mason bees in our yard & I would like to start bee keeping. How do I keep bears out of the hives? Electric fences don't work.THanks

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