Growing up, it is likely you had a fear of bees. Maybe you have a vivid memory of playing in your backyard and getting stung. Maybe you think of bees as these buzzing pests that won’t stop following you around, no matter how hard you try to swat them away. Many people beginning beekeeping have a negative perception of honeybees. However, they truly are not all that scary; they’re incredible! Learning to appreciate honeybees will also help you to not fear them.
Most of the time, a honeybee will not sting you unless you are being aggressive toward it. They sting to defend themselves; they view you as a threat. If a honeybee is flying around near you, don’t start swatting and panicking. The best thing to do is remain calm – the bee doesn’t want to hurt you! It is just checking you out, making sure you are not a danger. So, prove to it that you aren’t. Leave the bee alone, and they will do the same to you.
A honeybee will also sometimes sting if it feels you are a threat to the hive. They want to protect their hive and it is their job to be skeptical of anyone or anything that comes near it. This mainly applies to beekeepers, who are around the hive quite often. In beginning beekeeping, it is inevitable that, honeybees will occasionally sting. But if you are properly educated and trained on how to enter a hive and take care of the bees, stings should be minimal. If the bees do not feel you are a predator to their hive, they will let you do your thing as a beekeeper!
If you do get stung by a bee – and in beginning beekeeping you will – remove the stinger quickly but carefully. Since stingers also come with a sac of venom and a tiny muscle that continues to pump the venom, it is important to not pinch the stinger, which would inadvertently inject more venom into you. Instead, remove the stinger with a small knife or credit card by scraping it out. Honeybee venom is pretty potent, so expect a reaction more severe than a mosquito bite. Redness, swelling, and hotness at the sting sight are common. Be sure to not wear rings, watches, or bracelets while working with your bees.
Understanding your hive and wearing protective gear are your best defenses against stings. Don’t let fear of stings hold you back from starting beekeeping. Honeybees are an amazing species and are naturally tolerant and docile!