Yes, we love our honeybees, and they are usually gentle when we open the hive to work with them. However, bees sometimes get upset or scared and may sting to protect the hive. We always wear veils on our heads, and on occasion, protective clothing when taking honey.
The first time I was stung it was because I got too close to the hive entrance with my hand. It took me a few seconds to realize I’d been stung because a bee sting is so much less painful than a sting from a wasp or yellow jacket. It’s easy to take your fingernail and scrap, not pull the stinger out. After a honeybee stings once, it dies. Poor bee.
Bees Protect their Hives
We gave one of our Golden hives to a local college to put in their organic garden so the students could learn about honeybees. It was a warm night when I went to close the hive entrance so none could escape in the morning when Warren and I took them to college. Many of the workers were still perched on the outside of the hive keeping cool. I wore a bee veil, shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. I made the mistake of trying to sweep a few of the bees back into the hive, and the guard bees didn’t like that at all. Several flew at me and stung me on the leg twice, then buzzed around my veil and followed me in the house. I ran into the house with 2 or 3 bees with me. I was a new beekeeper trying to figure out honeybee rules. It wasn’t the bee’s fault.
We must understand that it’s natural for honeybees to protect their hives, and if we pinch one by accident, of course, it will sting. When the bees are foraging in flowers on the lawn or in the garden, we can be right beside them, and they won’t sting. They’re much too busy collecting pollen and flower nectar.
photo courtesy of Michael Thiele
That Didn’t Hurt Very Much
The grandchildren spend a lot of time here in our pool in the summer. On hot days, the honey bees try to get water from the pool instead of their usual place at a nearby pond. Unfortunately, several fall in the pool. Cody, Tori and Dylan put their hands under the drowning bees and let them dry off on their arms. Cody had 3 or 4 bees on his arms at once and wasn’t keeping track of them. One crawled under his arm, and when he put his arm to his side, the little bee stung him. He cried for a minute. I got the stinger out, and then he looked up and said, “That didn’t hurt very much.”
Bees Help Each Other
In the fall, if the weather has been too dry or too rainy, sometimes the bees won’t have enough honey for winter, and then we must feed them. There were 2 gallon containers from the feeding drying on the table on our terrace. Four of our Bee Team kids were here and found about 10 little bees stranded in the containers. They were wet and couldn’t fly. The kids gently shook the wet bees out onto their hands and ran them back to the hive. Next, they placed the wet bees on the ledge of the beehive. Immediately, worker bees came out and began to dry off their bee sisters and help them back into the hive. Tori had 4 more wet bees on a leaf in her hand. She put the leaf at the entrance, and the worker bees all helped to take the whole leaf inside the hive. Honeybees are a wonderful example of friends helping each other and getting along.
Flying to the Sun
One sunny spring day, I noticed a buzz of excitement around the top bar hive. Hundreds of worker bees flew straight up from the hive. Where were they going? Warren explained that a new queen must be taking her “mating flight. ” When that happens, she flies straight up as if she was flying to the sun. The worker bees surround her and fly with her to protect their queen from birds or other enemies. The drone bees mate with her way up in the sky.
One day we were painting a piece of plywood in the back yard. Several honeybees buzzed around, coming close to the painted wood and flying around our heads. The bees are curious about anything new that happens at their home.
A few times a day, bees fly to the back kitchen door. They know this is where the supplemental syrup comes from. What is baffling is the fact that we only make the syrup in the fall and only if necessary. Worker bees only live 6 weeks. How can they remember why they patrol the back door? Do they teach all their new bees about the back door? Bees are amazing!