Interpreting the Buzz of Honeybees



Every visit to the bee yard, I learn something new. Either about beekeeping in general or about my particular colonies. In previous years, I have gone four to six weeks without opening a hive. This spring and summer, the longest is two weeks. It is one thing to read about bee behavior and quite another to experience it for yourself. My latest curiosity is about the sound of the bees.

Yes, bees buzz. But careful attention reveals there is a difference in their sounds. This morning I was sitting on the deck, probably 3000 yards from the bee hives yet I recognized the sound of the foragers buzzing around me. I can close my eyes and differentiate between the honey bees, the bumble bees and the wasps.

Learning their behavior and sounds keeps me from being freaked out by the close feel and sound of a honey bee buzzing my hair. As long as I do not threaten her, i.e. slap and flail around, she is unlikely to sting me. She is checking to see who I am, if I am a source of nectar/food for her and a general check of what is in her environment. Honestly I never thought I would be able to overcome that innate reaction to swat away something buzzing so near my head.

Let’s examine three levels of honeybee sounds.

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