Do beekeepers get stung very often?

I have heard that some beekeepers do not wear protective gear around the hives, even when they are taking honey from the hive. If true, do they ever get stung? I understand that they use smoke to tranquilize the bees. What wood is burned to make the smoke? Finally, is colony collapse disorder under control yet, or is it still a problem?

The article below says beekeepers get stung an average of 58 times per year (or once per week(ish)). Of course, that is an average so it could be more or less depending on many factors but it certainly seems a hazard for that job and to be expected.

I speak as a former Midwest beekeeper (as a hobby during my youth).

Yes, we get stung, but at least in my case, it didn’t provoke a severe reaction. I didn’t use protective gear sometimes, as it was quite a hassle, and sometimes, the risk is minimal.

There are ways to reduce the effects of the poison (scrape off the stinger ASAP, don’t pinch it). As the stinger keeps pumping poison even after detaching (and killing) the bee, this is important. Pinching the stinger sac would be the worst thing to do, injecting more poison. We carry a hive tool that easily scrapes off anything.

Since I’ve been out of the market recently, I can’t speak to the colony collapse disorder question.

RE: smoking bees

I used a smoker fueled with cardboard or old burlap. Oily rags are not advised.

Supposedly the bees think that the smoke is an oncoming forest fire threat, and fill their bellies with food for flight. A distended bee belly makes it difficult to sting (or so I have heard). I’m pretty sure the smoke doesn’t harm the bees, although you can hear they are getting upset (the buzzing increases).

I was going to point that out, but via Squirrel Girl.

BTW, long before I was born, my grandmother used to keep bees, and wasn’t bothered by beestings, until suddenly she wasn’t. One day her body decided that it was allergic to bees now and a sting put her in the hospital and near death. Needless to say she had to become a bee abandoner.

That just relates to honeybees. Wild bee populations also face multiple problems.

My understanding is that the smoke from some materials mimics one of the controlling pheromones emitted by a queen and acts to calm the bees. This is why not all smoke works.

Beekeepers I know get stung. Even through bee suits. But there are some keepers that seem to manage happily without suits. Understanding the behaviour of a hive, bee whispering, really seems to be a thing.

Occasionally one hears of a beekeeper that has had to give up the pursuit because they have developed an anaphylatic reaction to stings.

Some hives are naturally passive, and easy to manage. Others can be quite aggressive. The queen has a lot to do with this. An aggressive can be calmed by a bit of regicide and installing a new queen.

The problem with varroa destructor is big. It seems that after a time (a decade odd) bees evolve to tolerate infestation. But only tolerate. One strain of evolved bees engages in obsessive cleaning behaviour, reducing the number of mites attached. It isn’t great, but the hives don’t fail like they did. Using chemical controls has a use by, as varroa develop a tolerance, becoming essentially immune in less than five years.

Native bees and solitary bees are going to have a really hard time of it.

Varroa reached Australia last year. The beekeepers are still in shock. It really isn’t good.

I’ve never noticed any difference in wood sources. Per the Wikipedia article on smokers:

The fact that smoke calms bees has been known since ancient times; however, the scientific explanation was unknown until the 20th century and is still not fully understood. Smoke masks alarm pheromones[6] which include various chemicals, e.g., isopentyl acetate[7] that are released by guard bees or bees that are injured during a beekeeper’s inspection. The smoke creates an opportunity for the beekeeper to open the beehive and work while the colony’s defensive response is interrupted. In addition, smoke initiates a feeding response in anticipation of possible hive abandonment due to fire.[8][9][10]

That makes sense. OTOH, there are so many theories I have seen, it is hard to know which one to pick. I have read at least one paper on pheromone chemistry which suggested there were calming effects as well, but it is possible there was a bit of pheromone chemistry bias there. The beekeepers I know locally are a bit picky about what they use in their smokers, but confirmation bias creeps in everywhere.

I’m slightly encouraged by the news about colony collapse disorder. But only slightly.