The Scaredy Cat beekeeper?


After I recently got stung to pieces trying to capture a swarm in the wrong manner, all kinds of things went through my pea brain.  Kind of like a person that falls off or gets bucked off a horse, I was reluctant to do my normal bee routine. I was having trouble wanting to get back out there and tend to the remaining bees that I did have. Although I know that with my suit and gloves on, the chances of getting stung again were not really very likely.  And I always take great pains not to crush anyone.

But I had never in 5 years of owning bees gotten to really enjoying them.  I did not enjoy the fact that they really didn’t like my presence, and could act really hateful at the wrong moves.  Adding to the fact was that I had changed my bees from Russians, to two different other breeds.  One of these breeds was Italians, which did not seem to be very touchy.  The other breed was a mutt breed called “survivor bees” who seemed calm, but with no warning would explode into a rage.  I had never had any bees that temperamental.

My Russians would always head butt me before actually stinging, so I had some kind of warning.  But they were very swarmy, so I changed types last year.

Anyway, after the attack I was leery of bees, not terrified, but reluctant.  I knew I needed to tend to them, but I found all and any kind of excuse to put it off.  However, I did consider the idea at the last that aside from that reluctance, those survivor bees did seem to be a tad screwy.  And since I didn’t actually see them leave the hive in a swarm, I entertained the idea that possibly these were not my bees, but a feral bunch from somewhere else.  OR “Africanized bees”?????


The culprits. Bee guarding entrance to hive.

But none of that explained that one hive in the back that was super touchy.

I thought possibly if I requeened all the screwy hives . . . And I also thought about selling all the darned bees, because what good is it having them if you don’t maintain them?  I didn’t mind having a few hives (2 or three), but six was a maintenance thing if you didn’t really love it.

Hey, here I am posting umpteen articles on how to take care of bees, and I didn’t even feel comfortable around them enough to want to keep them any more.  I opologize profusely.  But it is the trooooooooth.  I can stand sitting in a chair in front of the hive without fear at all.  But I put on that bee suit, and I know the bees will like me up until the point that I remove some frames.  Then they just lose it.  I keep going, but they are pissed and I do not enjoy them being pissed at me.  I guess I just want my animals to like me because I take so much care taking care of them.


Finger sting

It’s not as if I’m terrified, or in fear of my life or anything.  I know that it isn’t personal. I know the bees don’t hate me personally, or even all people personally.


My eye . . . swollen up

I think I need a beekeeper shrink . . .  But now for my other reaction

I got up the morning after writing the above article.  I was not even awake, with bleary eyes, cricked neck, and another thought coming into my not yet awake mind.  Here I am spending my hard earned money on beehives, frames, beetle traps, time out of my life, etc.  So I resolved to look at this in the opposite way for once.

    • They cost me over $100 each. x6 = $600
    • Their hives cost about $150 each. x6 = $900
    • The beetle traps cost at least half that each. x6 = $300
    • The extra supers cost a certain amount.
    • Extra excluders cost a certain amount.
    • Powdered sugar for shaking, and miscellaneous equipment probably cost at least $100
    • A SMALL spinner for spinning frames of honey cost $120.
    • Maintenance averages 2 weeks a year. That equals 5-6 months out of my life. Which is equal to a large vacation.
    • I worry over the parasites that attack them.
    • I have to go out in the cold and make sure they don’t freeze to death or starve.
    • I have to go out in a hot bee suit and sweat over them while they try to kill me.
    • Bee stings make me itch and dig my skin off for at least a week.

And the bad possiblities . . .

    • They are in MY backyard.
    • They are bought and paid for by me.
    • They are taken care of with time out of my valuable life.
    • I only ask for PART of their food, which is extra they won’t use.
    • They live at my discretion.
    • The beetles would get them if I didn’t do something about it each year.
    • They could have gone to someone that bangs on their hive.
    • They could have gone to someone that likes to smash bees.
    • They could have gone to someone that puts poison in their hives.
    • They would just act like bees and die a like a bee if I didn’t take care of them.

So, who cares if the bees actually LIKE me?

The perks used to be getting to watch bees and observe their many ups and downs.  And HONEY, the main thing that is not replaceable by getting it at the grocery store in the same manner.  The honey is storable for very long periods of time, tastes great, make great gifts and can be sold.  You can actually stockpile it, put it in your coffee, tea, cook with it, etc.

Well, they are insects.  And in their little pea brains I probably should not expect any more than that.  And I’m sure I wouldn’t get a heck of a lot of money if I sold them.  And that would also mean having some inspector running around my yard telling me what I already knew in the first place, which is that I have a few small hive beetles. Yeek.

So, I’m back to square one.  I need to get out there today and fix those hives so they’ll survive some more and see if they have any extra honey after swarming all over the place.  Anyone have one of these epiphanies?




They were imported by Europeans in the early 1600’s to America.  But they are native to many other parts of the world, including the Middle East.  For over 150 million years they have been making honey all over the world.

They eat honey, pollen, nectar, and royal jelly.  Wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets are carnivorous, and eat other insects.  They also are a lot more touchy and stingy.

BEE VENOM is acidic.  Wasp, hornets and the like have alkaline venom.  It still hurts no matter . . .

They protect their food, queen, babies, and home from predators.  Foraging and swarming bees aren’t apt to sting unless you bother or step on them.  If you make them angry they will normally only chase you about 50 feet. Bees on or in a hive will guard and protect the hive and their family, and they post guard bees for this purpose.  The hive contains their young and the queen, and also all the food they have stored over the summer to feed them in winter.  Without any of those they would not survive.  I think I’d protect that!

When they sting and die they give off a smell that alerts other bees that an enemy is around.  They are much more likely to attack and sting if they smell this.  Don’t squish bees, they take it personally.

HONEY BEES LIVE FOR 60 DAYS  Except queens, who live much longer I remember someone saying about three times as long as the workers.  Although I have heard the queen can live for up to three years, I cannot confirm that as of today.  Let me know if you know the answer to that.

HONEY BEES HAVE ONE QUEEN (unless another is born)
There can be only one.  If any more are born they have a big fight to the death or one leaves. She can lay over 1500 eggs a day.  Worker bees create new queens by feeding the larvae Royal Jelly, which they produce from special bee glands.

Male bees don’t do much work at all, except to date the queen for a short while. In fact they get tossed out of the hive before winter so they won’t eat all the food.  But spring more hatch out.

Yep, that’s right.  You can pick them up with your bare hands and they won’t sting you.  If you can dodge the guard bees while you’re doing it.  They are called DRONES.

HONEY BEES HAVE TWO STOMACHS     (One of them is for nectar and honey)

They can see ultraviolet light, and red is seen as dark brown or black.  The eyes also have tiny hairs that can detect wind speed and direction.  Some of those eyes are in the top of their heads.

Their wings beat over 11,000 times a minute. And they can fly 15 miles an hour.  But if you are being chased you will swear it’s 90 miles an hour.

Their legs are used to walk, grasp, clean their antenna (or doorstep, or other bees), carry pollen or propolis (resins from plants they use to close crack in their hives)

A Honey Bees antenna have sensors that detect odors.  In 2003 some bees were trained by researchers to associate the smell of explosives with food, therefore being able to detect bombs.

This is also why they are so easily poisoned by pesticides.  And why dusty stuff irritates them.  I even feel sheepish using my smoker on them, and do it sparingly.  Sometimes I don’t have to use one.  Sometimes it’s not advisable to use one.  But whenever I omit to bring it to the hives, I always end up going back to get it.  Such as when I accidentally squish a bee or two.  They hate that.  Well, it is murder, even if accidental.

They exude (push it out) of their abdomens (belly) in flakes.  Then they take the flakes and form them into hexagon shaped cells with their little jaws and legs.  It takes approximately 450,000 of those flakes to make one pound of wax.  I’ve never actually seen them make wax, but I’ve seen pictures.

They huddle together around the queen to keep her warm eating honey for energy.  They need about 70 pounds of honey to survive the winter, and if they run out of honey, they freeze and die.  This is why sometimes beekeepers feed them in the winter if they don’t have enough honey.

They make help make food for us when they gather pollen and nectar and go from flower to flower.  This places pollen from one plant to another, and fertilizes the plants.  Plants can then make fruit and seeds.

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