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Frequently Asked Questions about bees

Frequently Asked Questions about bees

There are a lot of facts and titbits the public do not know about bees. Most of the time, the only instance when someone comes across honey bees it involves being stung accidentally. This happens and always will. Little known is the fact that without bees, there would be very little sources of food on the planet.

Whenever we go on a bee removal or talk to people about bees there are a set of questions that generally get asked. Here are most of them... If you have any more questions not listed here email me and I will try to answer it.

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Questions & Answers

What Do I Do If I Get Stung

Bees will not generally sting if unprovoked usually the bee has been trapped in hair or crushed. When close to a bee hive avoid flapping your arms and moving rapidly, if the bees are antagonised, walk away through undergrowth or trees if possible. If stung remove the sting quickly as the sting still pumps venom for some time after the bee has left. 

Bee in process of stinging

The record number of sustained stings one person has had, and survived to count them is 2,243. Ouch!

What Do I Do If I See A Swarm Of Bees

Wild Swarm

Don’t Panic, bees in a swarm are universally in a good mood. They cannot easily sting even if antagonised as they have gorged themselves with honey and cannot get their bodies into the best position to sting. If the swarm is not causing a nuisance then leave it, gradually the bees will cluster in a bush or tree and remain there for up to 3 days. During that time scouts will be sent out to look for a new home, the only problem may be they will choose your chimney so put your fire/ heating on low and enjoy their visit. If the swarm is a nuisance then the police usually keep a list of local beekeepers that can help.  

Apart From Honey Are Bees Useful

Yes very, the pollination benefit of bees is calculated to help the economy by millions of pounds per annum.  Certain crops yield up to 25-40% more if efficiently pollinated and farmers in some areas of the world and in South Africa, pay beekeepers to put hives into their fields and orchards.  In the USA alone bees pollinate about ten billion dollars worth of crops per year (1997).  In addition to pollination, bees produce wax for candles and Royal Jelly.  During the middle Ages one of the most important jobs in an Abbey was the Beekeeper, as a huge quantity of wax was constantly required for the ceremonial candles.

Is Beekeeping Hard Work

In terms of time… about ½ an hour per hive per week from mid September - February. In addition honey is extracted twice a year.

The first record of people keeping bees was in Spain about 6000BC

How Much Will It Cost Me To Keep Bees

For the clothing and tools about R4250 and a hive with queen excluder about R1090.

Will I Get Stung If I Keep Bees

Yes. A few people are allergic, but most will swell for a short time and then gradually become more immune. Make sure you carry anti-histamine tablets with you (R80 for 20).

A Beekeeper Uses Smoke To ‘Calm’ The Bees, How Does This Work

Bees are woodland insects and evolution has taught them to fear fire more than anything else. When smoke enters a hive the bees are immediately diverted to eat as much honey as possible as there may be a need to abandon the hive at a moment’s notice. This diverts them whilst the beekeeper takes their home apart.

I Have Honey Bees inside a Wall/Roof How Can I Remove them Humanely

This is a question that comes up from time to time and here is a typical reply that I have given.

The bees cannot* be removed without gaining physical access to them and making them swarm (even if you could) would not get rid of them only reduce their numbers transiently.  They will swarm anyway most years, between September-February.  Swarms are not normally dangerous only dramatic.

You have three choices:

1) Remove the floor/ceiling and get a good beekeeper to assist.  The amount of hassle does not justify the gain of bees so expect to be charged at least R700 for the assistance of a beekeeper.

2) Live with them they will make good neighbours, so long as the entrance is +2m above ground and the floor and ceiling are good i.e. they cannot bleed into the house.   They are not likely to be aggressive if undisturbed by significant vibration and they will keep all their honey well sealed so you will not get natural leakage.

The gardner however may end up being a target when moving the lawn. So take precaution here.

3) Kill them; that would be a shame. This is a resort when bees become too large for space they are inhabiting and the hot summer heat in SA aggrevates them. They will react to grass and trees being cut at this time. If you or the beekeeper decides to exterminate the bees, ensure that there is no escape into the house.

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Got the Penthouse or Hive?

Start with a brood chamber, 10 frames with wax foundation, a base and a lid. One can go the whole hog and get the full deal. The complete assembled hive. REMEMBER! This does not include the queen excluder - SOLD SEPARATELY. You can expect to have foundation sheets in both chambers, 10 frames per chamber.

You can use creosote to treat your hives. You can also use Silver Enamel paint. Or do both. Be sure to use the correct creosote as some do contain contaminants. Also leave your hives to dry and air properly before transferring a colony into it.

Frames usually come standard. You can make your own. Do not treat these. You can and iit is recommended that you put wax foundation sheets on the frames. You can also use Pollen traps and feeders with your hives. Feeders are used while wintering your colonies. It is also important that your frames have wire. These offer support to the wax comb when fully built and assists when inspecting hives to stabilise comb.

A queen excluder is necessary as it prevents the queen from moving between the brood and super chambers. Thus you have brood in the bottom chamber and surplus honey in the super chamber. Workers can move easily between the metal wire. The Jackson hive utilises a different approach when it comes to managing the brood and honey storage. The Jackson hive has shown up to 30% more yield however when compared to Langstroth hives. Check the two photos below to see the different styles.

What do they cost ?

For a fully assembled Langstroth hive (incl. queen excluder) R990 each

Langstroth Bee hive

Brood frames with wax foundation sheets and wire

Feeders for wintering or during dearth periods

Place your order for 'THE' book on beekeeping also known as the Blue Book titled Beekeeping in South Africa. Click on order for more info.


A Jackson hive (out of production)

Queen Excluder - aluminium type - from R100 each

Super frames with wax foundation and wire

Get the beekeeping equipment. Essential equipment is available from our office in Centurion. Hives, hive tool, protective clothing & smoker make up the need-to-have list. Click here

Wax foundation sheets for brood frames R26-00 each

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