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Handling Bees

74. The safe handling of bees is not so difficult a performance as many uninitiated imagine.

To begin with, it is important to know what are the requirements to render bees tractable. Bees that are filled with honey are never inclined to sting (Fig. 43). So the harvest worker returning loaded from the field is harmless, unless actually hurt and you may catch such a bee on the wing as you might do with a fly and emprison it in your hand without danger, provided you do not press it in your fingers.

In order to render the bees of a colony tractable it is only necessary to frighten them so as to compel them to fill themselves with honey. The bees that are most to be feared are the guards which usually station themselves at the entrance to protect the hive against intrusion. When these are alarmed and compelled to retire within the hive, it is easy to overcome the possible anger of a colony.

The Bee Smoker.

75. Smoke is harmless and is the best thing to alarm and quiet bees. With a good smoker (Fig. 46), blow a little smoke in at the entrance before opening the hive. Give them a little more as you uncover the frames; if very cross repeat the dose, until they yield obedience; then they may be handled with safety. Handle them gently and without fear, avoiding all quick motions; such usually incite them to anger. When honey is being stored rapidly, Italians may be handled without smoke; when there is a scarcity it is not safe to do so.

Very cross colonies of black or hybrid bees may be most completely tamed by blowing smoke in at the entrance, then closing it for a few minutes, tapping the hive meanwhile to alarm them. Swarms that have left the hive to seek another abode are rarely cross because all or nearly all the bees composing them are well supplied with honey.

Veil and Gowns.

76. To those who are commencing, and until familiarity causes the loss of fear, a pair of gauntlet gloves and a veil are necessary but after fear has been overcome, a good veil will be sufficient. Such may be placed over a hat, the bottom of it coming down under the coat or vest, and when thus adjusted it is a complete protection for the neck and face (Fig. 45).

A pair of gauntlet rubber gloves is best for those who need such protection, while unaccustomed to manipulating bees, but they are cumbersome at best. The advanced apiarist prefers to have the free use of his hands at all times. Bees when often handled become accustomed to the practice, and when this is gently done, they will scarcely notice the disturbance.

77. On being stung, brush the bees and the sting away as promptly as possible, because by so doing you may prevent most of the poison from emptying itself into the wound. The muscles which surround the sting have a spasmodic action, which causes pressure of the poison-sack and a deeper driving of the sting into the flesh. It is therefore a great mistake to hesitate in promptly brushing off the bee and sting with a sweeping motion which forces the sting and poison-sack away from the spot.

Remedies for Beestings.

78. Dozens of different ingredients have been commended as a cure for beestings. Most of them are useless. The poison of the bee is extremely volatile and diffuses itself in the blood promptly. Usually the practicing apiarist becomes inoculated by the poison and in a few days suffers but little from its effects. But some persons are very sensitive and suffer greatly. There may be fever and increase of temperature, in which case cold water applied to the swollen parts will prove beneficial. On the other hand there may be faintness and depression, when the administering of a small amount of stimulant will be necessary. Very nervous and excitable persons may be benefited by taking a dose of bromide of potassium. The action in each case will be upon the nervous system, which must be either strengthened or quieted. Nature is thus helped to work the poison off, which, is, after all, very infinitesmal in quantity.

79. The poison of the bee has been used satisfactorily as a remedy for rheumatism in constantly increasing the doses, beginning at first with a single sting, doubling the number every other day. So the novice will understand that the bee poison rarely proves dangerous.

How to be Safe

80. While going about the apiary, do not stand in front of the hives when unnecessary, as you interfere with their flight; do not make any quick motions. If a bee threatens you by flying about your head in quick and threatening circles, stoop down quietly and walk slowly out of the way. Never jar a hive until you have given it a few puffs of smoke at the entrance. A great deal of the annoyance which beginners experience in managing their bees comes from their carelessly jarring neighboring hives while handling others. That is why the placing of several colonies upon the same stand is unadvisable. The least jar caused by the opening of one colony arouses the neighbors.

Do not wear black or woolen clothes about the apiary. Wool is a fuzzy texture of animal origin, while cotton is a vegetable product resembling the stems of plants among which the bees seek their sustenance. A man is safer from stings dressed in a light-colored thin cotton or linen shirt, even with his sleeves rolled up to the elbow, than in the thickest of woolen garments.

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