A Lesson in Beekeeping

Bees In The Hood

bee in the hood

The relationship between the honey bee and man is an interesting one. Each have duties to perform for the benefit of the colony. The beekeeper dons protective suit and veil to examine the hive and assure all is well in the artificial environment we create for the bee.

The bees have several jobs. Some gather nectar and pollen, some transfer this to the honey comb, some build the honey comb, and some protect the colony and queen from invaders in search of the sweet results of the colony’s labor. Usually they go about their duties with little care to the outside world.

While examining the hive the beekeeper becomes accustomed to guard bees bent on driving the intruder away from the colony. They will sometimes sting the suspicious character giving their life to protect the well being of the other bees and the food stored for winter.

Frequently these guards will hurl themselves against the veil of the beekeeper with great enthusiasm in an effort to sting the most vulnerable part of the intruder – the face. The beekeeper becomes inured to the occasional sting on the arm or ankle and with time and experience the beekeeper takes little notice. There is a certain beauty when one opens a hive and thousands of bees are released. It can be a magical experience. They fill the air with motion and sound. Yet the beekeeper stands confident in the knowledge he is protected by suit and veil in this maelstrom of a beautiful yet potentially dangerous place.

Today, while inspecting the hives, I had one guard bee who was particularly persistent in her efforts. I only took notice because of her incessant banging against the veil. It was constant and unwavering, quite unlike any other bee I have experienced. It was time to stop and take stock of the situation.

It is a peculiar form of panic one experiences when sharing the inside of the veil with a bee. The outside observer will see the normally calm beekeeper hastily dropping the tools of the trade while performing an erratic flailing of arms and a curious spinning motion while attempting a futile retreat only to realize the inevitable; wherever the beekeeper goes so goes the enclosed bee.

Beekeepers dislike killing bees but accept some will be squashed as the hive is inspected and reassembled. In this case the wild, epileptic like slapping was in vain as the veil is designed to stay a certain distance from the face rendering the effort useless. Slapping serves only to aggravate the already determined and confused insect. The bulky gloves hinder any attempts to remove the veil and suit in a timely manner as well. Prayer does no good, bees are not religious creatures and have no use for scripture.

When faced with such a situation one eventually realizes calm is the order of the day. Bees respect calm and deliberate movement. While the bee may not be calm, the beekeeper should set an example.

Some sixty or seventy feet from the hive the bee gained its freedom and I mine. However, I have resolved to be more cautious and check the zippers twice on the next inspection.

  • reply Your sister-in-law Pat ,

    OMGOSH–the description of the ‘flailing arms’ of the beekeeper cracks me up!! I can see it now: you doing that ‘dance’ with the guard-bee. Hilarious!!!

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