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How often do beekeepers get stung?

In a bee’s natural environment, they live in hives in trees and produce lots of honey. As consumers of honey, it would be challenging to go from tree to tree to get our honey. That is why certain angels take it upon themselves to keep bees in special hives to harvest their honey. Of course, I’m talking about beekeepers!

Yes, beekeepers definitely get stung by their bees! It’s only natural and part of the job. If you spend as much time around bees as beekeepers do, stings are inevitable. But, the stings are just a small risk that goes along with the rewarding feeling of keeping bees.

The moral of the story is that everyone needs to respect bees, especially us as beekeepers. However, there is no need to live in fear of getting stung! With a little bit of information, you will know how often beekeepers get stung and what they do to minimalize it!

How Often Do Beekeepers Get Stung?

How often a beekeeper gets stung by his bees depends on how many and what types of bees are being kept. Several factors can contribute to how much a beekeeper gets stung, like the level of skill and practice. Usually, the more experienced a beekeeper becomes, the less he is likely to get stung.

A brand new beekeeper might get stung several times a week. This is most probably because they are using the wrong movements around the hives. They are causing fear within their bees without even knowing about it!

In addition to learning what types of behavior trigger the bees and how to avoid behavior like this, the best protection against bee stings is to wear protective gear. This includes a veil or mask and a protective bee suit.

Although bee stings hurt, they tend to hurt less over time the more you get stung. This is because the human body can build up a tolerance against bee venom. Some beekeepers are brave and actually allow themselves to get stung several times each season so that their bodies will build up a tolerance!

Beekeepers can also use other strategies to avoid the painful stings and their poor bees losing their lives. It is best to never work with bees on cold, cloudy, or windy days. These weather conditions tend to make bees much more agitated and may lead to a more significant risk of getting stung.

Beekeepers also use smokers when working with their bees quite often. A little smoke around your bees’ hives helps to calm your bees and make them less active. When bees are calm and docile, they are much less likely to sting.

Beekeepers spend a lot of time around thousands of bees at once, yet they somehow manage to avoid getting stung often. In fact, a majority of beekeepers might only get stung a few times a year, usually no more than ten times!

How To Avoid Getting Stung (Mostly)

The golden rule to never get stung is to never swat at a bee. There are, however, some things you as a beekeeper can do to minimalize stings for the most part:

  1. Wear protective gear. Some beekeepers don’t mind a few stings on their hands and just wear a veil to stop stings in their face, but others want to avoid stings at all costs.

Depending on your comfort level and your hive’s behavior, you can wear a veil, gloves, a jacket, or even a full suit. This is the first step in rarely getting stung if you wear the correct equipment.

  • Use a bee smoker. A smoker will not only calm your honey bees but will mask their pheromones, which are the chemicals they use to communicate with each other. When a bee stings, it sets off an alarm pheromone to tell the other bees that she is in trouble.

 You can puff some smoke into the hive before opening it up to let the bees know that you’re coming in and keep them docile.

  • Work with the weather and use it to your advantage. Bees are grumpy when the weather is gloomy. It is best to work with your bees on a clear and sunny day. It is also a good idea to open your hive when there’s plenty of daylight left when you do your regular checking.
  • Place your hive in a convenient location. Sometimes, stingings can occur when you are not even actively inspecting a hive. To avoid this from happening, avoid placing your hive where people are often walking. A spot with partial shade in the back of your yard or field would benefit you much more.
  • Never walk in front of your hive. It could be seen as relaxing to watch your hives, but it is always better to stand closer to the back of the bee box. This is because the front of the hive is where your bees will be flying in and out, so give them their needed space.

Unless you perform a hive inspection and are an experienced beekeeper, it is advised to stay at least one meter away from the hive’s entrance.

  • Stay calm and never swat at bees. If a honey bee lands on you, it is because it’s curious. Once the little bee realizes you’re not a flower, it will go peacefully about its day.

 Most bee stings happen when people panic and swat; the bee gets scared and will sting to protect itself. If a bee continues to bother you, just slowly walk away and keep your cool.

Why Do Some Beekeepers Make It Look So Easy?

You may have seen some beekeepers work without any protection and then still experience no stings! They might be working carefully to avoid crushing bees and setting off their alarm pheromones. But, then, you have seen beekeepers in full gear also not getting stung on their suit. The reason for this is quite fascinating!

Have you ever wondered why beekeepers’ suits are white? It’s certainly not because of fashion! The answer is so simple it’s revolutionary. For bees to survive, they have had to protect themselves against predators and threats who wanted to harm them.

Ironically, all their predators and threats were usually dark in color. As a result of this, bees have learned to dislike dark-colored animals who approach their hives.

 Therefore, when a beekeeper wears white, he can approach and open the hive without the bees getting defensive and attacking, thus, decreasing the chances of the beekeeper being attacked and, ultimately, stung.

Conclusion

It will take a decent amount of time for any beekeeper to understand the behavior of his bees and how to act appropriately around a hive. But, developing positive interactions between you and your hive will reduce the risk of getting stung significantly.

As with all animals, it is of utmost importance that we respect bees. If you keep a safe distance from a colony and don’t swat at them, you likely never have to be worried about getting stung. To keep their bees healthy, beekeepers have no choice but to open their hives. Remember, wearing full protective gear doesn’t make you less than a real beekeeper! As you get comfortable, you can choose when to use complete equipment and when not to!

With some time and experience, a beekeeper will understand just what they need to do to avoid getting stung!

Jaco Stander

My name is Jaco Stander. I’m from Cape Town, South Africa. I’m a registered beekeeper with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform & Rural Development in South Africa. Registration number WC808. I live on a small holding where I keep my 16 beehives. Taking care of bees is a very rewarding feeling, contributing to keep our bee colonies growing and thriving, and as a bonus, enjoying that sweet pure raw honey!

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