Keeping Your Neighbours Happy

Most neighbours are supportive of beekeepers, especially if you provide a gift of honey at the end of the season. Apart from the benefits of higher yields in a veggie garden, keeping bees is an opportunity to educate people about the wonders of nature and the importance of pollinators.

About swarms

The main concerns expressed by the public are "what-about" swarms and stings. Both of these issues are easy to manage in the suburban environment.

Swarms are natural and usually occur in late spring to early summer. Bees are not aggressive when they are swarming so there is no need to be fearful of stinging incidents.

Swarms occur when number of honey bee in the hive has increased to the point that there is not enough room for the expanding population. The queen bee produces a pheromone (chemical scent) called queen mandibular pheromone that workers pass along from one to the other, letting each other know that the colony is "queen-right". When the colony is too crowded, the scent does not reach the outer workers and the absence of the pheromone triggers workers to build new queen cells and begin raising a new queen. Scout bees search for a new home and communicate to the colony when they find a suitable location. When the new queen is about to hatch a swarm of bees will leave the hive along with the old queen. This is a nature's way of reproduction for the social honey bee.

Beekeepers in urban areas should manage the colony to prevent swarming behaviour. Provide more room in the hive so the queen has space to lay eggs and the worker bees have sufficient empty frames for storing honey.

Honey Bee Stings

Honey bees that swarm with their queen are docile and rarely sting.

What to do if a bee stings?
If a honey bee stings, stay calm and quickly remove the stinger.

Remember the faster the stinger is removed the less venom is injected and the less painful the reaction.

What to expect if you are stung?
Unless you have experienced many stings you will probably see redness and swelling around the sting site. This is normal. Expect to feel a little itchy around the site as your body deals with the sting. Ice packs help reduce any pain from inflammation.

What is not normal?
Call 911 if any of the following occurs:

  • More than 10 stings

  • Stings in the nose or mouth as this can lead to shortness of breath

  • immediate itching

  • redness beyond the sting site

  • hives (raised welts)

  • shortness of breath