Bee Keepers: Help!

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snappyllama

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Howdy folks,

I know some of our multi talented folks here are beekeepers, and I need a little advice/reassurance.

I just found out my new next door neighbors will be keeping bees. Our houses are on standard lots. I'll be keeping chickens so doubt they will complain about my plans (yay), but I am a little concerned about so many bees zipping across my yard on their way to other places. DH is semi-allergic to stings.

Is there anything I can do to help us all live more peacefully together? Do I need to worry about startling the hive(s) when using a lawn mower in my yard?

I plan on putting up a privacy fence to get them flying up a little higher over my property. I read that a fence would help, but I trust y'alls advice much more than random blogs.

As always, thanks in advance!
 

Susie

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It is not the bees flying from point A to point B that you need to worry about. They have places to go, and will not slow down to visit. As long as no one freaks out and starts swatting at them. If you stay away from the hives, you should be OK. The only other thing to worry about is stepping on them while barefooted and when they swarm. If they swarm to your house, call the neighbor immediately. Don't call animal control, it will be hours before they find someone to take or eradicate them.

If you or DH happens upon some bees feeding on the flowers in your yard, just let them be. If they start flying around you, do not exhale. They are attracted to the carbon dioxide. Also, stay calm. The adrenaline we produce excites them. They will only attack en masse if the hive or swarm is attacked.

My dad kept bees the whole time I was growing up. Hope this helps.
 

DeeAnna

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If your beekeeper neighbors will place the hives as far away from you (and other neighbors) as possible, that would be good. They should also --

Orient the hive entrance(s) in a direction where humans are least likely to be. Hive entrances do not have to face south, even though many people do that.

Put some kind of barrier several feet in front of the hive entrance to encourage the bees to immediately fly up above human height as they leave. It doesn't take much of a barrier, because bees really don't like to zoom through obstacles of any sort. Something like pampas grass, a lattice fence, or even tall flowers will work -- it doesn't have to be a solid fence. Or place the hive up high to begin with -- some people put hives on the roof or in their attic.

Provide water. If there is no water in the beekeeper's yard, the bees will seek out sources of water in other people's yards. They might do so even if the beekeepers provide water, but they are less likely to.

As far as you mowing your yard, it should be no big deal if they do their homework on siting the hives and creating a barrier. The main risk of stings is when a person mows within a few feet of the hive entrance and stands directly in their path while doing so. Bees learn where their hive entrance is when they're young, and then the knowledge of how to get back home becomes a rote behavior. So if a big dumb human is standing in the way, bees don't always think to fly around the obstacle. They may inadvertently smack into the person, sting out of surprise, and then both parties are miserable.

When I mow in the area right in front of the hive, I stand as far back as possible and move the mower gently into the entrance area at arm's length. I try mightily to never touch the hive with the mower. If one of the bees gets annoyed with me, she will usually warn me first by flying close and displaying a bit of an attitude. If that happens, I immediately move the mower away and leave quietly.

Susie's right -- flapping arms generally makes things worse, even thought it's human nature to do that.

I've never had European honey bees attack as a large group -- at most, there will only be 2-3 bees that get annoyed enough to try to sting me even when they get really testy with me when I'm invading their hive. But they seem like a huge swarm. :) I have no experience with Africanized honey bees, but I do understand they can gang up as a group.

If you have lots of flowers in your yard, you ~are~ going to see more bees in your yard if your neighbors keep hives. That said, foragers are not likely to sting unless they feel they have to defend themselves. When clover or dandelions are blooming in your grass, it's good to wear closed shoes rather than go barefoot or wear flip flops in case you inadvertently step on a bee. Honey bees die after they sting, unlike wasps which can sting repeatedly, so bees would much rather take care of business (gathering nectar and pollen) than go looking for a fight.

More ideas:
http://www.grit.com/animals/urban-beekeeping-tips.aspx
http://beekeepinglikeagirl.com/8-tips-for-urban-beekeepers/
 
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reinbeau

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All that was said above plus a reassurance - I have never, in over 45 years of gardening, been stung by a honeybee while working in my garden. I've kept bees for eleven years now, so trust me, my garden is *full* of honeybees. They are not aggressive, they just want to go about their business. As for 'semi-allergic', you are either truly allergic or you are not. A large localized reaction doesn't mean you're allergic. Many people get large localized reactions. It's throat tingling/closing, shortness of breath, palms/soles of feet itching, etc. that indicate a true systemic allergic reaction. That reaction warrants a trip to the emergency room, and you should have have liquid Benadryl available, if not an Epi-pen.
 

DeeAnna

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Well said, Reinbeau. I've been stung when working the hives, but never in my flower garden.

I'll add this about first aid for bee stings -- If a person gets stung, ignore the absolutely wrong-headed advice about scraping the stinger out with a credit card. Get the stinger out however you absolutely as fast as possible -- scrape it off with a finger nail is the quickest way. Time is of the essence -- the shorter the time the stinger is pumping venom into your skin, the less damage will be done. If you go looking for the "right tool", it will be far too late.

Then after the stinger is out, cuss a lot -- that really helps. Next thing to do after (or better yet during) the cussing is to quickly ice the sting site to minimize swelling. Next, take an antihistamine like Benadryl or Zyrtec for 1-2 days. A sting site hurts like h*ll at first, and the site will swell up quite a bit, sometimes after a delay of some hours to overnight (enough time to make you feel cocky that you've "gotten away" with few or no after-effects). The site will remain puffy and mildly itchy for a couple-three days, and then the whole thing goes away.

Most people assume the swelling at a sting site, which I totally appreciate is quite impressive and sometimes even alarming, is a sure sign of allergic reaction. It's not. Swelling AT the sting side is the body's normal reaction to a sting and not much reason for an emergency room visit unless the sting site happens to be near the eyes, nose, or mouth. Bee sting allergy is when symptoms occur throughout the body or far away from the sting site -- hives, difficulty breathing, faintness, low blood pressure, and other signs of anaphylactic shock.
 
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TeresaT

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I double the recommendation of the liquid Benadryl. I have a dog that is allergic to bee stings and have to have it on hand. Chase nearly died several years ago from a bee sting (I thought it was a snake bite). Animal ER to the rescue. It is also good for snake bites (which Ivy taught me, twice!!). So, that is a staple in my house. The liquid gets into the system quicker than the pills do and starts working right away. Because of my dogs' love of snakes and bees, I have benefited a few times, as well. I've been stung in the head and on the finger by wasps (gosh I hate those effers!) and have immediately dosed myself with the liquid Benedryl. Although it did not do anything for the pain, the swelling was minimal in both cases. (The finger swelled up enough, though, that I could see the hole the stinger made. I had a hole as big as Jupiter on the side of my finger. Really attractive.) Most important, make friends with your new neighbors. Swap honey and wax for soap and whatever else you make. YUM!! Fresh honey is the bomb!!!
 

Susie

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If your hubby truly is allergic, get an Epi-Pen as fast as possible, and learn how to use it. It could save his life. Oh, and you use that to buy time to get to the ER, not instead of going to the ER. He needs additional treatment, but the epinephrine buys time to get there.
 

Obsidian

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I'm allergic to bees so I always try and watch out for them. That being said, I've only been stung when I step on one like I did a few days ago walking through the clover barefoot.

My family keeps bees and though I'm not comfortable being around the hives, I can and have walked around the back within a couple feet and with no issues. They just aren't aggressive unless the hive is being gone through, then they get cranky.

I would talk to the neighbor about where they are placing the hive and if they will be willing to let you know when they will be tending the hive, so you can stay indoors. Moms bees would get worked up for 2-3 hours after being disturbed.
 

snappyllama

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Thanks everyone!

I actually really like bees and was happy to hear about the neighbor's endeavor until DH reminded me of his reactions...

DH's reaction after being stung hasn't been anything as severe as throat closing. He feels very lightheaded/ill feeling and gets truly massive swelling and eventually blood blisters. I guess the right terminology for him would be "worse reaction than me" instead of "semi-allergic" (his words). I've been stung plenty of times before, but it doesn't really bother me past the initial surprised cussing phase and some localized swelling. Just in case he gets stung, I'll make sure to keep Benadryl on hand and make him take it.

We've happily coexisted with bees on our shrubs and flowers up here. We get so many in early spring that we can feel their vibrations in the air. The bees never pay a bit of attention to us. I'm was just worried about upsetting the hive itself or that they would be more sensitive around their home. The neighbors are supposed to keep hives at least 10 feet from our property line so it sounds like we should be okay with mowing.

That's great advice on being able to use lattice topped fencing. That will be a lot nicer looking than a giant wooden privacy fence. If they don't have a water source already set up, I'll give them a housewarming present of a bird/bee bath so that they won't go after my chickens' hanging water.

I'll make sure to remember to wear real shoes outside too. I really need to start doing that anyway since we are going back into venomous snake territory.
 

GeezLouise

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I've heard that banana resembles alarm pherome and can aggravate bees, but not tested that personally. The only time the bees chased me more than a few feet was during a dearth (they were already defensive due to little available nectar and many marauding yellow jackets also known as spawn of satan) and I did something stupid that caused baby larvae-filled comb to fall to the hive floor.

Also read but not personally tried: some people in urban areas locate hives a foot or so away from one of their buildings, with the entrance facing the building, forcing bees to fly up before they can fly out.
 

DeeAnna

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On the subject of a bee barrier -- I think you can make the argument that lattice fencing, a tall garden planting, a hedge, etc. can be as much a barrier to keep humans away from the hives as well as to force the bees to fly above the humans. Here's a study that might give you some ideas for approaching your neighbors about their beekeeping plans: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.3896/IBRA.1.53.1.06 Some tidbits from the study:

"...The results show that a barrier always tended to raise honey bee flight
height provided that it had been in place for a few days (i.e., was a
pre-treatment). When the barrier treatment was changed, there was
usually no immediate effect on flight height. The fact that a barrier
needs to be in place for several days to be effective is not a problem
for beekeepers, as barriers, whether hedges, lattice, or a building, are
effectively permanent structures...."

"...barriers can potentially greatly reduce the
chance of being stung in the vicinity of an apiary. This is of importance,
as stinging is by far the most unwelcome thing that honey bees can
do to people. ... [T]he selection of nonaggressive
colonies can also be of high importance...."

"...We, therefore, recommend their use [of barriers] around apiaries,
particularly in urban or suburban locations, such as private gardens or
allotments, where nuisance to other people is likely to be a problem.
Barriers are low cost and have other advantages, such as in reducing
exposure to wind and improving security..."

Edit -- Just remembered... I have a beekeeper friend Linda who lives in the Kansas City metro area. She says there are stories of "neighbors" in the metro area who vandalize hives. I would think a visual barrier would help with that problem too -- out of sight, out of mind.
 
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