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