The most commonly known fact about bees is that they sting. While honey bees are typically docile, if they become agitated and fear that their colony is under attack, they will sting you. Not only will a sting hurt us, but it will also kill the bee. That’s why, as beekeepers, we want to avoid stings and agitation as much as possible. Not to mention, we don’t want to stress out our bees. They work so hard!
If you’re a beekeeper, you’ll be stung at some point, probably during an inspection. Inspections are necessary to make sure your hive isn’t infested, there is healthy brood, and that everything in the hive is running smoothly. Today, we’re going to be discussing steps you can take to keep your bees calm during an inspection.
If you’re a new beekeeper, peeking in your hive to check on your busy ladies might sound intriguing. However, opening your hive too often can agitate your bees. Imagine if your nosey neighbor kept poking their head in your door and window. It would irritate you, wouldn’t it? During the early part of the season, checking your hive every 7-10 days is a good idea to make sure they are getting enough food and to make sure the queen is doing her job. Later in the season you can do inspections every 2-3 weeks.
Make sure when doing an inspection that you check the weather beforehand. Try to avoid windy, cool days in the spring. The temperature should be above 60 degrees and the sun should be shining. Same in the summer, make sure it’s a warm, still, and sunny day. You don’t want your bees to get rained on or tossed around in the wind.
It’s very important that you remain calm during an inspection. Bees can smell fear after all. Well, not exactly. When you’re nervous, bees can sense the pheromones your body gives off. This triggers them to go on the defense.
While at your hive, take deep breaths and exhale slowly. Bees are triggered by the carbon dioxide we breathe out. Make sure you have your jacket veil on and do your best not to breathe on the bees. Don’t make any sudden or quick movements, move with a purpose. Moving too quickly can frighten your bees. If you notice a change in the temperament of your bees, “Bee a Tree”. Meaning hold still until the bees calm down. If they don’t, back away slowly.
If you haven’t guessed by now, bees are sensitive creatures. When you’re doing a hive inspection, make sure you dress for the occasion. Bees don’t like strong body odor so make sure you take a shower beforehand and brush your teeth. However, don’t use overly scented soaps, shampoos, or conditioners. This could attract unwanted attention from your bees.
Next, get dressed. Avoid anything leather or wool for they trap unwanted odor. Wear a long-sleeved, light-colored, cotton shirt. Bees tend to react to dark colors because they see the world through UV colors. So, when they see a dark shape, breathing CO2 on them, they may think it’s a hive invader.
Next, get on your protective gear. Your bee-suite (if you want one) and jacket veil. This gear will also help you stay calm during an inspection. It’s meant to protect both you and the bees!
You may have heard about some of the drama surrounding a Texas beekeeper named Erika Thompson (@texasbeeworks). She’s been posting videos of herself relocating swarms with no protective gear and while wearing black. Other beekeepers claim what she is doing is dangerous, and in some cases, it can be. At Beepods, we believe in doing everything possible to make life easier and healthier for the bees. So, we encourage you to follow along with the typical bee-attire guidelines to make sure your bees stay safe during an inspection until you feel more comfortable working with your bees.
The right tools can make or break your inspection. Luckily, Beepods has you covered, literally! As we mentioned above, get your beekeeping suit and jacket veil. The next set of equipment you’re going to need is the Beepods Feather Guider and the Beepods Hive Inspection Stand. Why are these tools so important? They help you complete inspections to the best of your ability and they help prevent your bees from getting crushed. Crushed bees will release a warning pheromone and this can cause your bees to be aggressive.
Unlike a beebrush that bees can get stuck in, a feather guider helps move the bees gently off the top bars. This way they won’t get squished or stuck!
This tool is like having an extra set of hands while working with your bars of comb. It will hold the bar in place so you can do your inspections without having to make a lot of movement. It works great for keeping everyone calm!
Follow along with this video for more inspection tips and don’t be afraid to contact us if you have any questions! [email protected].
Working with bees doesn’t have to be stressful. Bees are incredibly smart and delicate creatures. If you dress and move with care, your inspections will go smoothly. Just remember to follow the weather a few days before opening your hive and if you notice your bees are aggressive, even on a beautiful day, just close the hive up and walk away. At the end of the day, beekeeping is meant to give your bees a better life, following along with these tips will help make it so!