Beekeeping without stings
The first obstacle to the further spread of beekeeping is the bees sting.
We can discuss bees for hours in any country in all classes of society. Everywhere and always we find attentive ears. Bees are friendly, but the best friends of bees avow that they do not keep bees because they fear the bees sting. This sting does indeed seem formidable. But is it really so?
The bee is often maltreated, jostled by reapers or by animals when it forages in a meadow. But it never stings them.
Try the following experiment: when your trees are in flower, examine the bees foraging on these flowers. If you like, in order to better distinguish them, throw a little wheat or rice flour on one of them and follow her. Push her aside with a finger; she goes to another flower. Push her again and she moves further off. You can continue this game as long as you wish. The bee only gets angry when she has collected her load of nectar. She never stings you.
You may have seen professional beekeepers working in the midst of their bees, without fear, with no apparent precautions, without even covering their heads with a veil.
In the first editions of my book, I reproduced numerous photographs of all the annual beekeeping activities, including driving bees from a skep, a job that ends in hitting it with sticks. Now it can be seen from these photos that there are bees in the hives in question; that the operators are wearing neither gloves nor a veil; that they have as their sole weapon a modest Bingham smoker; and finally, at the foot of each open hive, there is my dog sitting peacefully, my dear friend Polo, a cocker spaniel with long ears and long hair, i.e. it has everything needed for just one bee to create mayhem if it was dissatisfied. One of these photos is reproduced here.
Thus, bees are not bad by nature.
But bees have the job of creating a family and making it prosper, collecting nectar and preserving it. And to defend the family and the honey it has received a powerful weapon, the sting with its venom. It uses it against all enemies, real or apparent, with a speed that nobody would know how to escape from, and with a force against which neither veils, nor gloves, nor gaiters, nor the thickest clothes can give protection.
As the beekeeper, however, provides his bees with a suitable home, sufficient stores, and as he presents himself to them as a friend, he will be well accepted by the bees, and after a few moments of communion, he may without danger shake his good bees, jostle them, even brush them aside as we do frequently.
I do not know of a single other animal that one can treat so roughly as the bee.
I would say that there are two types of person who are at risk of being frequently stung by bees. They are first of all violent people, violent in their gestures and violent in their words. Then there are people who have a strong smell, whether pleasant or not. For example: people having foetid breath -as the smell comes from bad dentition, or an upset stomach or from alcoholism; or people who are dirty, or perfumed. But everyone else may keep bees with the certainty of not being stung by them, on one condition only, that they are never allowed to suspect that they are the enemies of their keeper. Now this should be an easy matter for those who wish to follow my method, each operation of which I will describe to you in a precise way, and will detail the manner of proceeding.
Despite my affirmations on the gentleness of bees, I accept that certain people are sometimes insurmountably apprehensive when it comes to approaching bees with their face uncovered. This is why, with my method, I provide for using a veil, which gives the beekeeper the assurance that they cannot be stung on the face.
Furthermore, my method reduces or eliminates the risk of stings. Driving the bees from one hive to another is done at some distance from the apiary. During this operation one cannot therefore be approached by bees from neighbouring hives or foragers of the hive being transferred. No comb is removed from the hive with the bees present. The beekeeper therefore cannot squash or irritate the bees. During the routine tasks of the year the hive is opened once, at the harvest. There is therefore no frequent chilling of the brood chamber, i.e. no cause for irritating the bees.
You may therefore carry out beekeeping without danger of being stung. I do not hesitate to say that when a beekeeper is stung by his bees he should always ask what mistake he has made.