Beekeeping is an amazing hobby that benefits not only the beekeeper but also the planet as well, but a lot of people worry about getting stung and potentially hurt – but is beekeeping dangerous?
Beekeeping is not dangerous unless you have an allergy to being stung by bees. Honeybees, in particular, are mellow and not aggressive. Using proper techniques and apiary safety can also reduce any potential stings, risks, or dangers associated with keeping bees.
Thinking about beekeeping? Here is what you need to know!
Benefits of Beekeeping
If you are wondering why anyone would want to keep bees, you should know there are many benefits. First, tending bees is fascinating; bees are interesting little creatures that never seem to rest! Plus, without bees, food sources would dry up. Bees are an important part of agriculture; without bees, animals and people would starve!
Beekeeping may be profitable for many beekeepers. Depending on the size of your apiary, you may be able to make money selling honey, pollen, royal jelly, and beeswax!
These are popular items that can be marketed and sold locally or online. Depending on your harvest, you may choose to simply keep these goods to yourself, for your own use.
Beekeeping is relaxing, which is why so many choose it as a hobby. There are professional beekeepers that do this type of work full-time, but most have home apiaries that they tend part-time. Contributing to the welfare of bees by tending a hive or two is a rewarding experience.
If you are wondering why anyone would subject themselves to possibly being stung, these are some of the reasons. Some beekeepers simply enjoy the work that they do with bees and wouldn’t trade it for any other!
Have you ever been working in the yard or garden when a honeybee started flying around your head? Likely, the bee is away from its hive, foraging for nectar to make honey.
If a bee lands on you, there is a good chance that it thinks you are a large flower- and if you leave it be, it will simply fly away. Remember, Honeybees are docile in nature, and typically, will not attack or sting without provocation.
Perhaps the real danger of beekeeping is the risk of being stung- both for you and the bee. Once a bee stings, their barbed stinger will stay in your skin until you remove it. Since this is part of the bee’s abdomen, a sting is usually fatal to the bee.
There are some situations that can make a bee aggressive, like cold temperatures under 50-degrees Fahrenheit, but usually, they will only sting if handled roughly or if they perceive you as a threat. The other exception to this is the Africanized honeybee, which is an aggressive breed created by science.
For this reason, be cautious near hives and kind to bees. Without bees, many of the crops that relied on for food would dry-up and both animals and humans would be at risk of starvation.
Simply protect yourself from stings with proper clothing and protocols that keep you- and the bees- safe and healthy.
If you are worried that you may have an allergy to bee stings, talk to your doctor. Severe allergic reactions may cause anaphylaxis, which can cause swelling of the throat, difficulty breathing, vomiting, and acute pain. If you are allergic to stings, you should always carry an epi-pen, which can save your life in the event of a severe allergic reaction.
Risks of beekeeping include bee stings, as previously discussed, but what else? Some other risks of beekeeping include the following:
- Insect bites from time spent outside
- Possibility for injuries from handling heavy beekeeping equipment, like hives
- Burns and fire hazards from using smoke in beekeeping
- Exhaustion and dehydration during warmer temperatures
- Risks associated with using chemicals
- Depression or loneliness from the isolative nature of beekeeping
Understanding the risks or potential dangers associated with beekeeping allows you the opportunity to better mitigate and avoid them.
So, is there anything that makes a bee act aggressively? Yes- there are some scenarios and situations that may result in a more aggressive and less-docile honeybee.
Bees will become aggressive and their stings become more venomous during cold temperatures or in winter. Bees don’t like to leave their hive when it is winter, but will out of necessity; the best way to avoid being stung is to stay out of their way!
While in warmer weather, a bee will sting, flee, and usually die- in winter, they will sting and hang on tightly until they die. The result is a very painful sting.
Any bee will sting or attack if they feel that their hive is under threat from predators.
Bees may also be more aggressive when they are hungry. If there is a lack of nectar or suitable flowers and vegetation nearby, bees may be more cranky than usual.
Help bees out by planting bee-friendly plants and flowers, like sunflowers, marigolds, poppies, and mint, so that they don’t become hungry and are less prone to stinging.
Some other situations that can lead to aggressive bees include:
- Their hive is without a queen. This can throw the bees into chaos, causing many to become aggressive. If the bees detect that their queen is in danger or gone, they can tell by the absence of the queen bee’s pheromones.
- You have gotten too close to the entrance to their hive. Bees protect their hive- and queen- at all costs. If you are a beekeeper, stay behind or to the side of the hive to reduce riling up your bees.
- If you jiggle or move the hive, it can stress the bees and cause them to act aggressively. Bees perceive vibrations to their hive as an attack and they will sting in defense or retaliation. Keep this in mind when mowing the lawn near a hive, which can cause reverberations.
- If you get stung by one bee, the odds are that others will try to sting you, too. Honeybee stings release pheromones to let other bees know that they need help; if you are stung when beekeeping, leave peacefully and finish your work later to prevent further stings.
Generally speaking, bees are calm and non-threatening when out foraging for nectar on a warm, sunny day.
Beekeeping and Apiary Safety Tips
If you practice some basic safety and beekeeping tips, you are at a much lower risk of being stung- or any of the other dangers mentioned. Plus, this ensures a healthier, happier hive- which could mean more honey. Some safety tips for beekeepers to minimize risks include these suggestions:
- Location, location, location. Make sure to choose a proper location for your beehives, that will be away from disturbances that could make bees more aggressive.
- Share with others in your neighborhood and family that you are keeping bees. This way, they won’t be surprised or startled by the sight of a bee. Teach them to treat bees kindly. Also, this can discourage neighbors’ use of pesticides that could harm bees. More on that later!
- Always work gently and gingerly if you are moving bees, inspecting hives, or handling either one of them.
- Make sure that you have the necessary equipment for beekeeping. This makes a world of difference and can help you tend bees much more effectively and efficiently.
- Animals- including bees- can smell fear. Try to have confidence when working with or around bees. Fear or anxiety may cause you to make costly mistakes.
- Pesticides and chemicals can kill bees, and they are toxic for humans, too. Keep chemicals to a minimum and always handle these substances with caution.
- Have a plan and make a schedule for harvesting honey. Remember that the honey frames can be heavy; you may do well to enlist some help.
- Do not risk making your bees sick with dirty equipment that can carry bacteria. Always maintain the hygiene of your beekeeping supplies and equipment. Store these items in a cool, dry place that is sheltered and protected.
Still on the fence about keeping bees? Consider the many benefits of beekeeping– like honey and pollen- as well as the sheer fascination of the hobby, when weighing the pros and cons.
Beekeeping is not a dangerous hobby, but if you have an allergy to bee stings, proceed with caution and always use best and proper practices in your apiary to reduce the risk of being stung.