Preparation, placement, patience – safe beekeeping practices
Beekeeping involves working with a large number of unpredictable living things. So of course, there are risks and dangers.
But if you follow safe beekeeping guidelines, you should be able to minimise the risk to you, your family, your neighbours, and your bees. It’s about being well-prepared, thinking about the placement of your hives, and – most importantly – being calm and patient when you work with bees.
Every beekeeper will be stung at some point. That’s just a reality of working with stinging creatures. But if you’re prepared and properly kitted out, you should be able to keep stings to a minimum. And although stings can be painful, they’re not particularly dangerous for most people. (If you have a bee allergy, beekeeping probably isn’t the best choice of hobby.)
Beekeeping clothing includes a protective suit, which goes on over your normal clothes, a hat with transparent veil (if beesuit has no hood), close-fitting boots, and gloves. All clothing should fit properly and close tightly – bees have a knack for squeezing into small gaps.
It’s a good idea to suit up before you get close to your hives, and remove your clothing when you’re well away. Stray bees have been known to follow keepers as they leave the hive.
Friends and neighbours
Beekeeping safety isn’t just about those working closely with the bees. You also need to think about people living nearby. This is particularly true for urban keepers.
If you have hives in your garden, you can minimise issues by building a taller fence or hedge to force your bees to fly above your neighbours’ gardens; facing your hives away from your neighbours; and providing a source of water so your bees aren’t tempted to drink from neighbours’ swimming pools or birdbaths.
You can also avoid working with the bees at the wrong time – if your neighbours are having a party or playing in the garden, for example.
Beekeeping safely also means thinking about the wellbeing of your bees. A calm, gentle approach goes a long way – bees are more likely react badly if you’re rough or impatient.
Some new keepers can be reluctant to use their smoker, but it can actually be better for you and the bees. Using a smoker causes the bees to gorge on honey, which calms them down so you can examine the hive.
As with most things in life, safe, successful beekeeping comes from being well-prepared and doing your research. If you know what you’re doing, you’re calm, confident, and kitted out properly, you and your bees should be fine.