With beekeeping, any mention of “safety” is usually concerning a beekeeper’s protection. But today we’re going to talk about safety for the other half of the beekeeping equation… the bees! Sure, beekeepers should protect themselves as they go about their work. But it’s just as important that we protect our winged friends. Following these steps will help you keep your bees safe and happy while working around the hive.
Interacting with bees should always start with getting in the Beekeeper’s Mindset. Prepare by contemplating your intentions, focus on mindful breathing, and remain calm. Acknowledge that how you behave toward your bees will dictate how they behave toward you, and consider thinking how a bee might interpret your behavior toward them: If you were a bee, would you like it?
If you’re calm when you approach your hives, it will help the bees to be calm, too. If they show aggression, take a step back and let them adjust to you before approaching again. An instinctive response from you, like swatting at the bees, could hurt or aggravate them. Plus, bees pick up on your pheromones. If you’re agitated or fearful, they’ll become defensive.
Move slowly and think about how your movements might impact the bees. They will perceive fast movements as threatening. By going about your work at a slower pace, not only will you prevent accidents that could hurt the bees, but you’ll make them more comfortable.
When you’re maneuvering bars in the hive, try to only leave one gap among them at a time. This will help the bees feel more secure. Use a technique we call “bee bumping” to keep bees from being squished. If you find that bees are hanging out between the bars, use a bar to repeatedly apply and remove pressure to encourage them to move to a safe spot.
If the ladies build abnormal comb that requires fixing, you can safely manage it while keeping them out of harm’s way. We recommend Beepods Hive Tool for cutting or prying comb and encouraging the bees to move away from the action. Hold the tool like you would a pool cue, and gently nudge the bees to safety so you can deal with the comb.
When you need to move bees, do so as gently as possible. We don’t use smoke since it leaves a film on the bees and the hive. Instead, we like feather guiders, which are effective at brushing them out of the way or moving them to a specific place.
When you’re using a feather guider, if you brush the bees too softly, you might annoy them. Instead, guide them with a firm hand, and try to let them get back to business quickly. The Beepods Feather Guider is excellent for this purpose. It even has a handy ergonomic hook for easy handling and safekeeping when you’re not using it!
Do your best to limit opening and closing the hive. Leaving the hive open while working can expose brood to cool or windy air, which isn’t good for their development. Plus, the bees will have to work hard to return the hive to the right temperature.
Take extra caution when you’re handling the queen. If you need to remove her, avoid having her away from the colony for too long. Her subjects will get agitated without her. If she’s still in her cell, don’t flip her upside down. This could result in her not fully developing or even dying.
Try to carry out inspections and other hive tasks mid-day, when the bees are out of the hive foraging or enjoying the weather. Avoid working during extreme temperatures, and try not to open up the hive when it’s raining – the bees hate that!! What season you’re in should be considered, too. Fall is prime time for honey robbing, and bees might be on guard when you come near.
Trying to keep your bees as happy and as safe as you can while working around a hive should be a priority for any beekeeper. Be calm and respectful, mind their whereabouts and safety, and plan for when you visit the hive. These are just a few steps you can take to make the experience as enjoyable as possible – for the bees, and for you!