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Do Beekeepers Get Stung When Working With Bees? (How They Avoid It)

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Have you ever wondered, how beekeepers avoid getting stung by bees? Or if they’re stung all the time, but they’ve gotten used to it?

That’s some of the topics, we’ll discuss in this article.

Beekeepers are a unique type of people. They have an undying passion for their fluttering friends and work hard to protect them from harm.

Let’s take a closer look at their routines and safety precautions used when handling bees to avoid getting stung.

Do Beekeepers Get Stung?

Yes, beekeepers get stung when working with bees, but it doesn’t happen very often. Beekeepers learn how to keep themselves safe when working with bees, such as using a veil and mask, or even a full protective suit.

Bees are very defensive of nature, and they will at times try to protect their colony. As the beekeepers work more and more with the bees, the little buzzing insects can get used to the beekeeper.

A rule of thumb is to stay calm when handling bees. If you’re not posing a threat, the bees will stay calm as well.

How Often Are Beekeepers Stung?

Beekeepers are not stung very often. Most are stung less than 10 times in a year.

This, of course, varies depending on the amount of time they spend around their bees, how many bees they manage, what safety measures they use, and so on.

Another important factor is the aggressive nature of the bees. If a beekeeper handles aggressive bees, they’ll be stung more often.

bee stinger

How Many Times Are Beekeepers Stung per Year?

Most beekeepers only experience getting stung a few times each year, usually not exceeding 10 times.

Beekeeping is a hobby for some, but others make it their profession. As beekeepers work more with their bees, they are likely to get stung more often. 

Although how much time beekeepers spend with the hive varies, how many times they are stung per year also depends on how gentle or calm the bees are.

Do Beekeepers Get Used to Bee Stings?

Beekeepers never stop getting stung, but they can get used to it, developing a natural tolerance towards bee venom.

A study from 2016 showed that symptoms after a bee sting were less severe in beekeepers than regular people. [1]

Interestingly enough, the study also showed that symptoms were less severe the older the beekeeper was. This suggests that the more beekeepers get stung, the more they build up a tolerance, and that this level of tolerance keeps rising.

Some people claim, that if beekeepers are stung enough, they will eventually become completely immune to bee venom.

Others say no matter how many stings they get, it’ll still hurt a lot.

Related: Do honey bees sting?

Are Beekeepers Immune to Stings?

In a study conducted by the Yale School of Medicine, researchers discovered how to become immune to bee stings.

It seems that exposure to a critical toxic component found in bee venom can induce immunity. That explains how many beekeepers can manage a large number of stings and not get injured or die from anaphylactic shock. [2]

The study included injecting mice with an allergic component called Phospholipase A2 (PLA2). When injected, the PLA2 triggered a cascade of immune responses to fight the toxin. 

When exposed to enough PLA2, the mice would eventually develop immunity.

“These findings support the argument that allergic responses evolved to protect us from noxious environmental substances.” – Senior author Ruslan Medzhitov, professor of immunobiology at Yale School of Medicine and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.

How Beekeepers Avoid Getting Stung

Even though beekeepers love working with bees, they still want to avoid getting stung. They use a series of safe protocols to do this.

1. Wear Protective Gear

Beekeepers wear protective gear to avoid getting stung by bees. They use this beekeeping suit to keep themselves safe. 

This outfit usually consists of a heavy hat with a veil, gloves, jacket, and boots, with the majority of it being covered by white fabric. 

Many people think that its appearance resembles that of an astronaut or space explorer, which is why these people are also called “bee astronauts.”

The color of the suit is important, as bees are threatened by dark colors, but see light colors as friendly.

Beekeeper working collect honey.

2. Use a Smoker

Beekeepers use a smoker to avoid getting stung. 

When the smoker is lit, the beekeeper pumps air into it to produce the smoke. Then, they direct the smoke at bees that are close by or inside their hives. 

The smoker works by creating smoke from the smoldering of various fuels. When bees inhale the smoke, they calm down, making them easier to work with. Or rather, it prevents them from becoming aggravated.

The smoke masks alarm pheromones that bees produce when threatened.

Related: Why do beekeepers use smoke? 

beekeeper wearing gloves and using a smoker on an open beehive to calm honeybees. Collecting honey.

3. Avoid Working in Extreme Weather

To avoid getting stung, beekeepers work with bees when they’re calm. Therefore, there’s one important rule: avoid working in extreme weather.

When it’s very cold, very windy, or when there’s heavy rain, bees are easily aggravated, and therefore more likely to sting the beekeeper.

If you only work with bees when the weather is good, you’ll be stung less.

beekeeper working on beehive

4. Place the Hive Out of the Way

The more time you spend around a hive, without protective gear, the higher the chance is of getting stung. If you place your hive near your house, it’ll most likely end badly, but if you place it out of the way, the bees will keep to themselves.

Don’t place the hive near trails or other places where people might be passing through.

Bees will take advantage of easy access to food sources, even if it means invading your picnic basket.

artificial beehive

5. Don’t Stand Close if You Don’t Have To

If you’re out of the way, the bees won’t sting you. Hence, when you’re not handling the bees, step back. There’s no reason to tempt the bees.

It’s important to note that it is nearly impossible to avoid being stung altogether when you keep bees. You’ll have to get in the middle of the bees at some points, and it’s impossible to keep them all calm all the time.

beekeeper-or-apiarist-collecting-pollen-from-beehive (1)

6. Populate Hives With Gentle Genetics – Avoid Aggressive Behavior

Beekeepers should also take care to populate their hives with gentle genetics, avoiding aggressive bee behavior where possible. [3]

Only bringing honeybees with gentle genetics into an apiary is essential for ensuring the productivity and survival of both the hive and its inhabitants. 

Bees exhibiting aggressive behavior are more likely to die before they can contribute to the hive, hurting future productivity.

And, it’ll reduce the number of stings you’ll receive.

Bees flying around beehive

7. Stay Calm and Handle With Care

When it comes to beekeeping, the most important thing you can do is stay calm. If you’re panicking, the bees will most likely start getting agitated as well. 

Handle the bees with care, take your safety precautions, and enjoy the process.

Of course, you should avoid killing any of the bees in the process. Harming any of the bees is the fastest way to get attacked. 

You can touch them, and let them crawl on you, without any issues, but don’t squish, smack or hurt them.

beekeeper-controlling-beehive-and-comb-frame (1)

Why Don’t Bees Attack Bee Keepers?

A honeybee will only sting as a last resort, but they won’t hesitate when their colony is disturbed and threatened, so why don’t beekeepers get stung?

Today’s modern man uses technology to keep bees. There’s protective gear, smokers, and other means to assist beekeepers to stay safe and sound when working.

Modern beekeepers use bee suits and special tools when inspecting their hives. A typical bee suit has a full-body covering, netting over the face, gloves on the hands, and closed shoes for the feet. 

Tools include an “extractor” which separates honey from the honeycombs, and a smoker (which calms the bees down).

Beekeepers are also masters in bee behavior. [3] 

beekeeper-controlling-beehive-and-comb-frame carefully (1)

They know that bees are usually calm in calm and warm weather, but will become more aggressive when conditions get extreme. 

One of the most important aspects, when it comes to avoiding getting stung, is staying calm. Beekeepers spend a lot of time around bees, so they’re used to handling them.

They know how to move, they don’t panic when bees climb all over them, and they handle the bees with care and respect.

Combining all of these aspects result in a lower sting rate.

Do Bee Stings Hurt?

Bee stings hurt – and usually a lot. Depending on your pain threshold, and whether you’ve been stung multiple times before, this pain can be very intense.

Humans have two different types of pain receptors: nociceptors and mechanoreceptors.

When bees sting, the venom appears to stimulate your nociceptors so intensely that they send a message to your brain saying you have been hurt. 

The pain receptors are there to protect us. These pain signals are a way for the body to let the brain know, that something is wrong. If we didn’t have pain receptors, we could place our hands on the stove without feeling anythings – which would be very bad.

Now, while getting stung by a bee hurts, it’s usually not a life-threatening situation. If you’re allergic to bees, this is a different story though. In this case, you should seek medical attention right away.

ant bite

What to Do if You’re Stung By a Bee

Being stung by a bee is never fun. If you are unlucky enough to get stung, there are some things you can do to alleviate the pain and discomfort.

If it’s your first time getting stung, you may be shocked at how much it hurts. First of all, try to avoid panicking. Staying calm is always the best course of action, as this allows you to think logically about your next steps.

As stated earlier, if you’re allergic to bees, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.

First of all, wash the sting with water and soap. This will rinse out any excess venom that didn’t find its way into your system. 

Next up, apply an ice pack to the area. Still can help relieve some of the pain, as well as reduce any swelling that may occur.

If you do not see any signs of an allergic reaction after getting stung, some temporary pain alleviation can be had by applying ice to the site for around 20 minutes. You can also take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain relief.

If you’re still in pain after a few days, you may want to seek medical attention.

large blister from insect bites

Conclusion

Beekeepers do get stung, but it doesn’t happen very often (usually less than 10 times a year). As beekeepers get stung more and more, they develop a natural tolerance against the venom, making the bee stings less painful.

Even though beekeepers have a higher tolerance against bee venom, they still want to avoid getting stung. To do this they use protective gear, smokers, avoid working in extreme weather, and handle the bees with care.

If you happen to get stung, you should wash the infected area and apply an ice pack. This should help you avoid some of the swelling and pain that comes with a bee sting.

FAQs

How Do Beekeepers Not Get Stung

Beekeepers do not get stung because they know how to interact with bees in a way that doesn’t aggravate or agitate them. They also take several safety precautions.

Can You Handle Bees Without Getting Stung?

Yes, you can handle bees without getting stung. It may seem impossible, but there are a few tools and techniques that will help you approach bees without getting stung. 

First, you will need a bee suit and gloves, which can be found at certain retail stores and online. 

Second, you will need the appropriate tools: a bee smoker and an extraction tool. The smoker emits smoke that calms the bees, and the extraction tool pokes into the bee’s nest for supplies so you can avoid touching the bees. 

Third, you will need to move slowly and calmly around the bees. Do not make any sudden movements, since this could trigger an aggressive response in the bees.

Do You Get Used to Bee Stings?

People develop immunity to bee venom over time because their bodies produce antibodies to fight the venom. These antibodies are created in direct response to being stung by a bee multiple times

This means, to get used to bee stings, you have to get stung multiple times. A study showed symptoms were less severe in older beekeepers, who had been stung more.

How Do Beekeepers Avoid Getting Stung When Collecting Honey?

Beekeepers take precautions to avoid getting stung when collecting honey. One of those precautions is to wear thick gloves to protect the hands when reaching into the hive.

A smoker is also used to keep the bees calm, and this can help prevent stings. 

When collecting honey, beekeepers may use a fume board. This is made of wood and has a screen on top. The beekeeper places the fume board over the bees, then smokes them.

About Teodoro Pittman

Teodoro is a nature and animal lover. He specifically focuses on insects, such as ants, bees, and the like. In his free time, he takes care of his own ant farm, where he analyzes their behavior. Teodoro has spent the last 7 years studying the intricate behavior of these small creatures.

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