Beekeeping doesn’t have to be a mysterious process or something only for farming experts. Almost anyone can raise bees right in their backyard, but no one can do it well without practicing good safety habits. Learn how to stay safe around bees while keeping them safe in your yard—and be well on your way to becoming a beekeeping expert yourself.
Everyday Beekeeping Safety
If you’re going to work with or around bees at all, you need to practice everyday beekeeping safety habits. The right gear, the right weather, and the right attitude all make a difference when you’re working with bees. Remember that your bees might be small, but there are a whole lot more of them than you.
- First Aid - Keep a first aid kit nearby at all times if you’re working with bees. The kit should have an EpiPen inside for emergency treatment in the case of an allergic reaction bee stings.
- Spare Your Back - Practice good lifting techniques when you’re transporting your hive or honey. Remember to lift with the knees and squat when you can, rather than bending.
- The Right Approach - Always approach a bee hive from the rear to avoid making the bees feel threatened in any way.
- Avoid the Burn - When using a smoker to work with bees, you want to always practice good fire safety. Keep the smoker in a metal or otherwise fireproof box to keep yourself safe.
- Wait for the Right Weather - It’s best to wait for a bright, sunny, warm day if you’re going to handle the hive. Bees get defensive during humid, wet days. Thunder and clouds can make bees downright aggressive.
Dress for Success
Bees are visual creatures. When you’re around the hive and working with your bees, make sure you’re wearing the right clothing. A veil is always a good idea, even if you don’t plan on wearing gloves. This will keep your face protected from stings, and prevent bees from getting inside your clothing through your collar. You should also tuck your pant legs down into your boots to keep bees from flying into your clothes this way.
Lightly colored clothes, particularly white shades, are best when you’re working around the hive. Colors, especially dark shades, can make bees agitated. Don’t wear perfume or scented body products around bees because the scent will make them want to sting you.
What About Your Friends?
Because bees can be intimidating, you may find that your neighbors aren’t so supportive of your new hobby. Help your neighborhood stay safer and feel better about your beekeeping with a fence or shrub wall. It should be placed near your hive to block the flight path of the bees, and direct them up and over people’s heads if they do insist on flying toward your neighbor's property. The fence or shrub wall should be at least six feet high for this purpose.
You’ll also want to make sure your bees have plenty of water. This will keep them from leaving your property and seeking out moisture elsewhere. Bees want a source of clean water close by, but not too close. Keep the water about 20 feet away from the hive.
Keep your hive populated with young queens in order to prevent swarming. But if bees do swarm, make sure they don’t swarm right over to your neighbor's house. By keeping a bait hive nearby in case bees do swarm, you can direct them away from someone else’s property.
On the Right Side of the Law
Beekeeping isn’t just a rural practice anymore. Urban beekeeping is growing in popularity. However, that doesn’t mean you can just start beekeeping anywhere. Staying safe with your new hobby means staying in line with the law. Register yourself as a beekeeper with your state government. Some states don’t require registration, but they do accept it on a voluntary basis. It’s a good idea to register to ensure that you aren’t breaking the law, and to receive regular apiary inspections, if required. Your state may require you to obtain a permit to keep a hive, depending on zoning where you live.
It’s also a good idea to check with your homeowner’s association when it comes to your beekeeping. They may have questions or concerns, and they may have their own rules about beekeeping in the neighborhood they’ll want you to follow.
If you’re going to keep a beehive, practice good safety for yourself and everyone else. Everyone, including the bees, will be much happier.