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How To Tame Honeybees

Updated: Nov 22, 2022

If the honey bee did not have a necessary and formidable weapon of offense and defense, more people would be open to their cultivation. However, it is relatively easy to work in an Apiary without incurring any severe risk of exciting their anger.

A Brood Frame
A Brood Frame

My friends and family always show expressions of wonder and astonishment when I open up my hives and deal with the bees as if they were as harmless as houseflies. Because the bees I work with are always relatively tame and calm. Almost anyone favorably situated may safely enjoy the pleasure and profit of the pursuit of beekeeping without being made too familiar with their sharp little weapon.

In our early histories of the world, indeed until very recently, honey was almost the only natural sweet. The promise of "a land flowing with milk and honey" had significance, the full force of which it is difficult for us to realize. The honey bee was, therefore, created not merely with the ability to store up its delicious nectar for its use but with specific properties which fitted it to be domesticated and to labor for man.

In my experience, a honey bee never volunteers an attack or acts on the offensive when it is gorged or filled with honey. The sight of a swarm can easily startle someone, but when the bees are swarming, they have filled their honey bags to their utmost capacity. Therefore, they may be in a suitable condition to be secured by man. Out of their hive, the honey bees are in the most peaceable mood that you can imagine. And unless they are abused, they allow themselves to be treated with great familiarity.

Show Care Handling The Bees
Show Care Handling The Bees

Beekeepers who understand their nature could almost always tend their hives without the risk of any annoyance. There are occasional cases of honey bees that come forth without the soothing supply and, not being stored with honey, are filled with the gall of the bitterest hate against all humanity and animal kind in general and anyone who dares to meddle with them in particular. Such radicals are always dreaded, for they must vent their spleen on something, even though they lose their life in the act.

Suppose the propensity to be exceedingly good-natured after a hearty meal had not been given to the bee. In that case, it could never have been domesticated, and beekeepers would still procure our honey from the clefts of rocks or the hollows of trees.

A second peculiarity of the bee is that, under any circumstances, they can't resist the temptation to fill themselves with liquid sweets. If we call the bee's attention to sugar when we wish to perform hive maintenance which might provoke them, we may be sure they will accept it and allow us, without molestation, to do what we please.

Always be careful not to handle them roughly, for they will never allow themselves to be pinched or hurt without thrusting out their sting in defense. I always keep a small watering can in my Apiary. As soon as I take the hive cover off and the bees exposed, I sprinkle them gently with water sweetened with sugar. They help themselves with the greatest eagerness and, in a few moments, are in a perfectly manageable state.

The truth is that bees managed this way are always glad to see visitors, and you cannot look in upon them too often, for they expect, at every call, to receive a sugared treat by way of a peace offering. So beekeeping can be done without running the risk of being stung. Beekeeping beginners are initially timid and use a bee suit and veil, though, through experience, they will soon discard them. There are some people to whom the bees have a particular aversion. Such unfortunates are sure to be stung whenever they show themselves at a bee hive, and they will do well to give the bees a wide berth.

Bees At The Hive Entrance
Bees At The Hive Entrance

Apiarians have, for many years, employed the use of smokers to subdue their bees. It deprives them, at once, of all disposition to sting, but family beekeepers should not use it for such a purpose. If the construction of the hives will not permit the beekeeper to sprinkle or spray sugar water, you can use a smoker; however, the memory of this, not being as intoxicating as the shower of sugar, the bees will resent the person who clouded their hive with smoke.

Let all your motions about your hives be gentle and slow. Accustom your bees to your presence; never crush or injure them, and you will build a genuine friendship with your bees.


Hop Head Jon

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