Beware of the stinging end – a beekeepers warning!!!

The bees have been sitting tenants in my friends forest garden since April this year and although he keeps a healthy distance from the hives he has had the occasional sting whilst carrying out his daily jobs around the land. Unfortunately most of these seem to have been in the back of the head which makes them more difficult to remove unaided.

This week the weather has been close and muggy with a threat of thunder in the air which always leaves the bees slightly more agitated, coupled with the fact that the colonies are now up to a full strength adult population, with up to 80,000 bees and they have honey to defend! A honey bee that is away from the hive foraging for nectar or pollen will rarely sting, except when stepped on or roughly handled. Honey bees will actively seek out and sting when they perceive the hive to be threatened, often being alerted to this by the release of attack pheromones.

More info on the effects of bee stings can be read at:

On Thursday this week my friend was stung by a wasp, then about 45 minutes later he took a second sting from a bee in the back of the head. He felt ok to start with but then had a tingling sensation in his feet and then in his mouth and knew that something wasn’t quite right so decided to head towards the local A&E department. On the way there he started to feel worse so rang to let them know that he was heading in and they recommended that he stop and wait for an ambulance to pick him up. On arrival at the A&E the paramedics produced a wheelchair, possibly a little bit overkill but he went with it anyway – the next thing he knew he was coming round on a bed having medication administered after having passed out after arrival at the hospital, maybe that wheelchair was a good idea after all!

This was not anaphylactic shock but an anaphylactic reaction to the venom – it is serious but not as life threatening as full shock. Puritan is taken as anti-histamine and he has now been issued with an epipen in case of a repeat event.

We decided it was time to move the bees out of the Forest Garden and away from the main areas of daily use but remembering the old beekeepers rule of moving hives ‘3 foot or 3 miles but no-where in-between’ we needed to find a new ‘holiday’ location for the next few weeks and move the hives there as soon as possible. Luckily another friend was able to offer me the use of his orchard about 6 1/2 miles away from the original apiary  location – that was fantastic news but how do you move a full hive with 1 1/2 brood boxes and 3 full honey supers …… with great difficulty is the answer!

There were two approaches – one is to clear the honey supers with a clearer board and bee escapes but this will take at least 24 hours so we went for the ratchet strap approach, binding the hive boxes together then carry them on poles – rather like a sedan chair. Due to the weight at this time of year this definitely requires two people and my helper was the same friend who had had the reaction to the sting the previous day … you can see where this is leading? We carried the two lighter hives over the rough ground without to much problem but the third hive, being the heaviest was slightly more problematic – the poles used were new broom handles – one snapped under the load so was replaced with a piece of 2″x2″ timber and the other side doubled up – this also snapped under the load which gives some indication of the weights involved!

We managed to get the bees loaded up but unfortunately my friend was stung again on the ankle during this process, he had his epi-pen to hand so we headed off to unload the hives as fast as possible. A follow-up trip to A&E to make sure he was okay was made but on this occasion there was no adverse reaction to the sting at all, which may suggest that it was the wasp sting or the effect of combined venom that caused the previous days reaction.


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