Pets & Animals | 14 November 2016Keeping Gentle Bees Share article facebook twitter google pinterest Whether you’re a pro or a novice beekeeper, you know one thing for certain: Gentle bees are easier and more fun to manage. Due to studied, deliberate breeding programs, the bees you buy today are gentler than the bees available twenty years ago. Every line of bees is different, though, and sometimes gentleness is more subdued. Experience is the best teacher when it comes to judging your bees’ character, but thanks to Kim Flottum’s revised and updated edition of The Backyard Beekeeper, we have some guidelines to look for when evaluating your bees for gentleness: Guard bees should not greet you before you get to the hive. They should stay in the hive or at the entrance. This doesn’t include bees leaving to forage. In even a large colony you should not have many bees in the air after 10 minutes of having the colony open. A light puff of smoke should keep all the bees inside and between frames. There should be very few in the air when you remove the cover and inner cover. Bees should remain relatively still on top bars when you remove the inner cover. When a frame is lifted, the bees should remain calm and should not fly away, become agitated, nor run wildly on the comb, eventually falling off. Slow, easy movements should help you avoid any stings. Being stung should be the exception rather than the rule. Bees should not run or fly out of a super when it is removed from the hive and set aside. Photo credit: E. R. Jaycox / The Backyard Beekeeper, Revised and Updated, 3rd Edition After you examine a colony, no bees should follow you more than a few steps from the hive. In addition, you have to work with your bees in such a way so they’ll stay gentle. Follow the guidelines below to keep your actions to a minimum, and to engage your bees as little as possible: Only examine your colonies on sunny, wind-free, mild days (temperature between 65°F [18°C] and 98°F [37°C]) so as many bees as possible are out foraging, rather than staying at home, waiting for you. Absolutely avoid working colonies when it’s cool, rainy, windy, cloudy, going to storm, or just finished storming. Don’t start too early in the day, or too late in the evening. Between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. is usually the best time because that’s when the temperature is the warmest, the wind the least likely to be blowing, and the most bees out foraging. Always be gentle when opening the colony. Quick movements and loud, snapping sounds irritate the bees. Use enough smoke to make working the bees comfortable, but don’t overdo it. Too much smoke will overdose the bees and soon they won’t react to it at all. Keep your bee suit clean, and wash it often. The occasional sting on the suit will allow venom to build up, giving off an “alarming” odor to the bees. A manipulating cloth, which is a canvas and wire device that covers the tops of all of the frames of an open colony except the one you are working on, keeps bees contained and in the dark. If your bees are not very gentle, and they begin to sting people and cause trouble, you can re-queen the colony. Buy from an Online Retailer US: UK: The Backyard Beekeeper, now revised and expanded, makes the time-honored and complex tradition of beekeeping an enjoyable and accessible backyard pastime that will appeal to gardeners, crafters, and cooks everywhere. This expanded edition gives you even more information on “greening” your beekeeping with sustainable practices, pesticide-resistant bees, and urban and suburban beekeeping. More than a guide to beekeeping, it is a handbook for harvesting the products of a beehive and a honey cookbook–all in one lively, beautifully illustrated reference. This complete honey bee resource contains general information on bees; a how-to guide to the art of bee keeping and how to set up, care for, and harvest honey from your own colonies; as well as tons of bee-related facts and projects. You’ll learn the best location to place your new bee colonies for their safety and yours, and you’ll study the best organic and nontoxic ways to care for your bees, from providing fresh water and protection from the elements to keeping them healthy, happy, and productive. Recipes of delicious treats, and instructions on how to use honey and beeswax to make candles and beauty treatments are also included. After receiving a degree in horticulture from UW Madison, Kim Flottum worked four years in the USDA Honey Bee Research Lab, studying pollination ecology. After that, he spent two years raising acres of fruits and vegetables, where bees played a large role. He brings this experience, plus nearly 20 years of writing and editing articles for beekeepers in the monthly magazine Bee Culture. He is the publisher of books on honey bee pests and diseases, marketing, queen production, beekeeping history, beginning beekeeping, and the classic industry reference, The ABC & XYZ of Bee Culture. Kim Flottum brings a background of twelve years of plant science, honey bee research, and basic farming to his thirty years as the editor of Bee Culture magazine where his main occupation is finding the answers to the multitude of questions that beginning, intermediate, and even advanced and experienced beekeepers bring to the table. He teaches beginning and advanced beekeeping courses, travels extensively to educate and lecture, and contributes to a variety of other publications on the basics of honey bees and beekeeping biology, the business of bees and pollination, producing and using varietal honeys, and a host of other subjects. His books, magazine articles, interviews, and blogs are widely read for both their fundamental and advanced contribution to beekeeping knowledge. His magazine platform gives voice to his social commentary on topics ranging from genetically modified foods to pesticide abuse to both good and bad government regulations in the industry. He is beekeeping’s leading advocate for fundamental honey bee safety including insuring excellent honey bee health, providing extraordinary forage, and minimizing the use of agricultural pesticides. Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.