There is something very rewarding about keeping bees, and it’s not just the honey. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there is a sense of achievement at knowing the colony is doing well. Especially when I place my ear against the hive and hear the happy buzz inside after a particularly good day.
Here are my 5 top tips on how to bee happy - see what I did there ;)
- Get to know your queen and her colony. Don't only go to visit them to raid for honey, otherwise it’s hardly surprising if they associate you with disruption. I love to meditate around my bees, they are happy to have me sitting next to the hive and aside from coming over to initially check me out, I pretty much get left alone. This makes me much calmer when working around them and less likely to panic if I do something wrong or something unexpected happens.
- Work with their agenda, not your own. Open them up during the day when they are mostly away anyway, rather than late when they have all returned. Also take the time to pick your day carefully. A wet and windy day is not going to assist in keeping you or the bees calm. It’s also not fair on the bees as trying to open the hive in these conditions will only result in more injuries. Likewise, if it’s too hot then it will make it difficult for them to regulate the temperature. Never put yourself in a position where you MUST do it now. Also remember many of the bees coming out with the frames may not be able to fly, so do keep this in mind when clearing the frames you’re removing of bees. I’ve been known to go back after and transfer any fallen bees back into the hive by hand.
- Listen to the warning signs. If the bees are getting worked up and becoming aggressive the first thing to do is to examine your own actions, chances are you’re doing something to cause it. Are you in their flight path? Is the smoker too hot? Are you being too rough? Whatever you do, don’t ignore it. It may be as simple as walking away, giving the hive (and you) a chance to calm down, and then returning. Remember, bees work on smell and you smelling of fear is not going to help reassure them.
- Don't panic. Maybe a bee has got into your suit, or you’ve been stung - doesn’t matter, whatever you do, stay calm. I can assure you the alternative is only going to make the situation worse. Panicking leads to dropped frames, injured bees and an increased chance you will get hurt.
- Be ready to change your plan. If you’ve been paying attention you should have a pretty good idea of what’s happening, but until you open up you can’t be entirely certain. Make an assessment and be willing to do whatever is best for the health of your bees, even if that’s closing it up and doing nothing.