Bees, bees and wasps

With some disgust I brought home the empty supers from the failed honey harvest and the boxes from the bait hive that didn’t attract a swarm, and the boxes and frames from a hive that had died out. The latter beehive had seemed fine few weeks ago with a few supersedure cells (the makings of a new queen) but the queen must not have mated as the weather was too awful and so the bees were left hopeless. They hadn’t been robbed out as there was food left in their hive. As usual, I’m left wondering if there was something I could have done to save the hive. Disheartened, I abandoned the old boxes and frames overnight in the back garden, I couldn’t face cleaning them up just yet.

It’s still a little bit of a mystery how the bees and wasps seem to know where the goodies are.

The next day the bee boxes were covered with honey bees and wasps. There were also strange dances going on the ground a few feet from the hive, wasps were nudging bees and bees were nudging wasps “Get out of my turf!” in competition to glean the last crumbs of pollen and honey from the abandoned hives. I worried that the old hive frames might spread disease. Worrying is not unusual, beekeepers are in a constant state of anxiety.

Mainly wasps at this stage.on my abandoned hive boxes – wasps on the ground, the ultimate victors of the spoils this time around.

You can’t just shoo away bees. Waving your arms around a bee (let along hundreds of bees) is the last thing you should do. As for wasps… they get kicked out of the nest at this time of year and are cranky…very cranky. Keep away! They gravitate towards surgery substances, so you’ll find them where there is jam or such like, or spilled sugary drinks – take particular care around recycling bottle banks at this time of year. Wasps have a pointy stinger like a needle and can sting more than once.  At this time of year I’d have no qualms about killing a wasp but I’ll avoid it if I can, live and let live. Earlier in the year I’m even be less inclined to kill them as they too have a function in ecology but now, in the autumn they are dying before the winter – only the queen wasp hibernates overwinter.

Honeybees by comparison are (generally) docile. Leave them alone and they will leave you alone. They usually give a warning bizz-bizz around you first and if you back away they’ll go on with their merry business. The have barbed stingers so once the bee sting goes in that’s if for the bee, the stinger stays inside you and the bee dies shortly afterwards. You will have to scratch the sting out – don’t pull it.  Some hives do get cranky and might attack anyone near their hive but once a bee is away from the hive it usually won’t attack unless you step on it or put your hand on it or it gets tangled in your hair. Thousands of honeybees will live (not hibernate) in the hive over winter not just the queen.

Note to self: I must get a doctor’s stethoscope this winter. 😊

Hear your Hive) 😊.

I was asked lately about the ethics of squishing an attacking bee. I wouldn’t be too concerned about rescuing one single bee on the attack but I am very concerned about keeping wild bee nests, if found, intact.  

 Most bees and wasps leave a pheromone behind when they sting and the honey bee attack pheromone smells like bananas. Tip: don’t eat bananas near a beehive! The pheromone attracts their fellow bees or wasps to attack the poor recipient as well.  So if you get a sting, mask the smell with smoke or something else as soon as you can and get out of the line of fire.  Bees can fly 15 mph so be careful you don’t run and trip!

Thanks to Daniel Restrepo Londoño for sharing their work on Unsplash.

If you want to keep bees and wasps away, here are Ten plants that repel bees and wasps.


One response to “Bees, bees and wasps”

  1. I am learning new things from you!

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