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Beekeeper’s Notes: Knowing Bees are Sentient Changes How We Must Treat Them

Published on: 1 Jun, 2023
Updated on: 27 May, 2023

Hugh Coakley keeps bees in Worplesdon

People generally fear bees. There is a horror of being stung or, to use the current emotive word, swarmed by angry bees.

Perfection of flora and fauna, a bee feasting on the mayflower. Click on the image to get a closer look if you want.

If you ask what will happen if you take the lid off a beehive, the response will be that the insects will rush out to defend themselves by attacking you. But that is not what happens at all.

Most managed colonies, those looked after by beekeepers, will more or less ignore an intrusion. But only up to a point. If you keep it open too long, or if you bang about, they will get tetchy, and too long depends on the temper and temperament of the hive.

Landing gear preparing to land.

But it isn’t just about bad bees. These sentient creatures, acting as a super organism, are affected by the beekeeper’s mood and actions as well. An article in Bee Craft, the beekeeper’s monthly magazine, says the bees can detect a nervous handler.

Clumsily handled, left uncovered for too long, heavily smoked, the bees can justifably perceive a beekeeper’s inspection as an invasion and mount a defence.But the opposite is the case as well. Being slow, gentle and not dawdling and looking at every frame for interest’s sake is likely to get a better reaction from the wondrous creatures.

The recognition, widely accepted now, that bees are sentient and not just automatons on a predetermined mission, changes how we must treat them.

We love their surplus honey, thank you bees, but we must treat them with respect.

Good news for the colony, a queen has emerged out of the bottom of this queen cell.

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Responses to Beekeeper’s Notes: Knowing Bees are Sentient Changes How We Must Treat Them

  1. Ben Paton Reply

    June 2, 2023 at 11:12 pm

    I have a colony of bees living in the wall of my house. This is the second year they have been there. Last year they swarmed – a massive cloud of about 7m in diameter. But they did not leave and they show no sign of going anywhere. Some of them lose their way and end up inside the house. How do I encourage them to leave? Any suggestions?

    Reply by Hugh Coakley: Now they have established, it is likely they will stay unfortunately. It is probably a job for the professionals who can generally remnove the bee colony without killing it.

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