Myths & Truths about Honeybees
I have found it very interesting lately, the amount of misinformation circulating about bees.I might go to a party, or meet someone in passing the topic of bees, and me being a beekeeper will come up. The first reaction I get is always wide-eyes and an eyebrow raise.. "Wow that must be dangerous." they say. What follows is generally the same series of questions and answers as I explain that generally honeybees are not dangerous at all (unless you have an allergy). Can they sting you? Yes. Why might they sting you? If you squish them, swat at them, rip open their hive, yes they will sting you and it will hurt. But almost always the issue seems to be people confusing this;
Honey bees, and bees in general (Bumble Bees, Solitary Bees) are not interested in Humans, hunting us, or "biting" us. They sting as a defensive mechanism only, and in fact the Honeybee dies after stinging, so it's unlikely to do so unless threatened. Other questions that come up are. How many bees are in each of your hives? (about 60,000). Followed by, aren't they a disturbance flying all around your property? (Well in fact the bees mostly forage elsewhere, and we rarely ever see them except on flowers or flying back to the apiary. Another interesting fact that people don't usually realize is that my Honeybees, are bred for favorable traits, gentleness is one of them. This is the same with most beekeepers. So normally I can walk straight up to the hives in front of the entrance and they simply fly around me. I have stood in front of the hive entrance and they have landed on me for a few minutes and moved on. That's not particularly aggressive.
There are days though, where they are in a bad mood, or are stressed by the environment, at that point you could get stung. In fact today I lifted the hives up and removed the bottom boards. It's cool and rainy, and they didn't like the disturbance. I expected as much, but only got 2 stings. A sting isn't really so bad. It feels a bit like a black fly bite, and then an increasingly burning sensation. If you remove the stinger quickly from your skin, the pain subsides rapidly, if not it may last as long as an hour. Yes, bees are wild animals and they can be dangerous if not understood. They are some species which are aggressive (Africanized Honeybee AHB). But let's be serious, the media has been over-hyping the dangers and sensationalizing them.
I often see these new articles about people being stung to death by "millions of bees" and such. And you really have to take these stories with a grain of salt. Many of the journalists don't bother to distinguish bees from wasps or regular bees from Africanized ones. There was one story that even claimed a man was stung and partially eaten by bees... Um, bees don't bite, or have teeth, or even eat meat. So hopefully this puts a few things into context. We can easily live side-by-side with our Honey making friends, or with some learning even have some of our own. Beekeeping has become a rapidly growing hobby. Over the past couple of months I've encountered 3 people who are actively considering becoming a beekeeper. If you're interested they are tons of resources online, local beekeeping associations, books, websites. You might even be able to do it in an urban environment with some restrictions.