What do you think about this location?

by Andrew

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I was finally able to get a photo of where I'd like to set up my apiary. What do you think (see pic)? As you can see, I don’t really have to worry about lawn mowers!

Oh, I was curious, what if a family member accidentally swats, injures, or kills one of my honey bees, will it call a swarm of bees to attack him/her?

Thanks, and once again, I appreciate your advice!


Hi Andrew,

Looks like a nice location. And the bit about not mowing is good, because bees and lawnmowers don't always get along real harmoniously :)

The only point I'd make about your location is that it doesn't appear that the fence will have a great deal of influence upon the flight path of the bees, since it's not a solid fence. But you may not be intending that the fence serve that purpose anyway.

Your second question is a good one - one that I'm sure many people wonder about. And the answer to it is actually one of those yes/no kind of answers.

When a bee stings, she releases an alarm pheromone. Any bees that detect that pheromone will know that something is up. Other bees don't rush to the defense of that particular bee, but they do go to DEFCON 1, so to speak. They go to high alert, ready to defend the colony.

And when a bee is crushed, that same pheromone is released. So in theory, squashing a bee - whether intentional or not - could prompt a response from other bees.

(As an aside, that's why beekeepers should try, as much as possible, not to crush any bees in the process of working their hives. Along with the fact that most beekeepers prefer not to kill bees!

And if you get stung while working your bees, that's why it's a good idea to puff smoke on the spot of the sting - to mask the alarm pheromone.)

That said, a lone bee being crushed or stinging someone out in the yard, away from the hives, is not going to provoke an attack from the hives. It has to be close enough to the hives for the other bees to detect the alarm pheromone (within a few feet, I would guess.)

Now if someone happened to have several bees checking out their perfume or brightly-colored shirt, and one of the bees is swatted and crushed, the other bees flying around them would probably become more defensive, even though they aren't close to the hive. (Be sure that everyone understands that swatting at a bee is NEVER a good idea!)

One final point: This doesn't mean that if you're working your hive, and you get 1 sting, or accidentally crush 1 bee, that you'll suddenly be attacked by a vengeful swarm. Unless you have Africanized bees, which is a whole different ballgame. (And happily, I don't think you have to worry about that in Michigan - at least not yet!)

But if you do get a sting, that increases your chances of another, and then the second sting further increases the chances of more stings, and so on. And this applies, of course, whether the stings are actually getting to you or not. A sting in your glove will release the same pheromone as a sting in your hand.

It can snowball, so if you're working a hive, and there's been a sting or two, and the bees seem to be getting more and more aggressive, and the smoke is no longer having an effect - close it up and come back another time to finish what you were doing. Both you and the bees will be better off.

Good question!

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Mar 15, 2011
by: Andrew

Thanks a lot, that's exactly what I hoped to hear. Knowing that about bee stings and their pheromones makes me feel more relieved about having bees in my backyard.

I was offered to have my apiary at someone's 4 acre apple orchard, do you think that's more suitable than my own backyard? The orchard's neighbor also has bees of their own, would this cause a problem between my bees and theirs?


There could be both advantages and disadvantages to the apple orchard as an apiary location.

If your bees will be located out of the way of equipment and people working in the orchard, it could be a good situation. And your bees will certainly earn their keep by pollinating the apple crop!

But you'll have to be alert to the risk of pesticides poisoning your bees. That's one of the great hazards of keeping bees in an agricultural area.

Even if the owner of the orchard you'd be using doesn't spray pesticides, there may be neighboring farms/orchards within foraging range of your bees that do use pesticides.

No need to worry about your bees vs. the neighbor's bees. Unlike humans, bees don't have turf wars!

Bees from different colonies will forage peacefully side by side. (It's a different story, of course, if a bee tries to enter a colony that is not her own. That action will provoke a defensive response from the guard bees.)

It is possible for enough of a concentration of bees in a given area to exceed the ability of the area to support the bee population. In other words, there's not enough bee forage to go around to allow each colony to produce honey to its maximum capability.

But for that to be the case, an area has to either be very poor in terms of bee forage, and/or there has to be a really large number of colonies concentrated in the area.

I doubt very much that either would be the case in your situation.

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