Have a chat with your bees

There are benefits to talking with your bees

Farming Small Areas How To
EASY DOES IT: Quietly, slowly and gently is the rule for beekeepers undertaking hive manipulation.

EASY DOES IT: Quietly, slowly and gently is the rule for beekeepers undertaking hive manipulation.

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While there is research suggesting bees talk to each other, there is also a belief bees benefit from a beekeeper talking to them.

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Thanks to researchers Maeterlinck and Karl von Frisch we know that bees 'talk' to each other.

Returning scouts convey detailed information about floral sources of nectar and pollen they have found, giving direction, distance and quality.

They do this by complex dances accompanied by buzzing and giving their recruits a taste of the nectar they have brought back.

Within the hive they also communicate silently by smell; by exuding powerful chemical pheromones.

But do they have any form of communication or interaction with us, with beekeepers? Some beekeepers claim that their bees 'know' them and respond to gentle manipulation of their hive.

Given the sensitivity of bees to smells and the role played by olfactory senses in all their activities, this is entirely possible.

Beekeepers avoid using deodorants, after-shave or handling petrol before approaching their bees.

Beginners are taught the rule is 'slow and gentle' for manipulation of bee hives.

Rough handling, squashing and killing bees is likely to produce the response it deserves.

Much is talked and written about 'natural beekeeping'.

Well, to be completely natural we would have to keep our bees in hollow logs or holes in trees where they have happily thrived for millions of years, long before mankind entered their world and created beehives.

As a senior professional beekeeper, writer and educator loves to teach - the bee 'hive' is for the convenience of the beekeeper, not the bees.

But natural beekeeping involves disrupting the bees in their habitat as little as possible in contrast to the practices of some commercial operations, particularly evident in huge American operations.

Can thoughtful amateur beekeepers get to know their bees? And can their bees get to recognise them?

Bees, like humans, have personalities - some cranky and aggressive, some gentle and docile.

The personality of all the members of the swarm, some 60,000 of them, reflects that of one member - the queen.

If beekeepers murmur quietly to the bees as they work the hive they are more likely to follow the rule of 'quietly, slowly and gently'.

I wonder if Dr Dolittle spoke bee?

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