The Hazardous Beekeeper– Silly?

I don’t think that many people will think about beekeeping as a hazardous job or hobby – besides from the obvious bee stings of course. From a distance, it seems like a pretty peaceful occupation.

 What an illusion!

After attending a health and safety class for beekeepers I was amazed to find out how many things can go wrong. After the class I really felt that every further footstep I was going to take could lead me into a potential trap, shock, cut, amputation or other unforeseen hazard.

I would like to show you a list of Things That Can Go Wrong. Most of the things on the list are just common sense considerations, but when you see them all added up like this they form a pretty impressive overview. Don’t worry, I’m not trying to scare anyone, but I do think it is sensible to show “beginners” what they are getting themselves into. The extravagant sillyness of some of my photos are an attempt to articulate the point even better: just don’t even go there.

  1. Stock. If cows or bulls can access your hive, they can easily knock them over. (or hurt you!) Knocked over hives make angry bees. If you have your hive on your (or someone else’s) farm, make sure the hives are well fenced off. If somehow the hives do fall over, make sure you can get there quickly, especially if you don’t want to get the farmer in trouble (unless he/she is comfortable with bees). Also, think about deer, horses and sheep you can find on farms: if you come past them, they could kick you too. This can cause broken bones and serious bruising.


  1. Sun. Don’t underestimate the sun. Time flies by when you’re among bees, and on a clear summers day this can mean that you are exposed to prolonged sunshine –yes, even with a bee suit on this can be hazardous – sunburn, head stroke and dehydration are all realistic risks. Make sure you have plenty of water and sunblock.
  2.  Machinery. Especially for weed-control. It is crucial to keep vegetation down closely around the hives for optimal sunshine and reducing dampness. This could mean you need some heavy-handed tools like weed-eaters and chainsaws. Make sure you don’t use a metal blade (triblade) close to fixed objects…
  3. Vehicle. Keeping hives on rural locations often means off-road driving. Fun, but can be quite wobbly in hilly or rough landscapes. Risky when you’re transporting hives. You might get stuck in a gap or roll your vehicle. Another question you should ask yourself when you are transporting hives is: can my vehicle carry the weight? Hives are heavy, heavy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA4. Lifting. Continued on that line of thought – always ask yourself the question if YOU can handle the weight of the hive. No hive is worth breaking a back for, no matter how good the honey. The hive boxes can be a bit awkward. Make sure that when you lift it you bend your knees (not your back) and hold your hands under the box, close to you. And remember: one box at a time…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA5. Re-queening hives: precise work. Hazards include physical stress on hands, joints and back.
6. Electric fences. No comment…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA7. Terrain. As I mentioned before: when the area is rough, steep, slippery or has unexpected gaps – be careful not to slip, stumble or fall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA8. Weather. Cold and rain. Leave bees alone in these kinds of weathers. Check before you place your hive that it is not close to a river that could potentially flood…


9. Chemicals. Varroa strips or sprays: avoid skin contact or inhalation…
10. Fire. Make sure your smoker is out properly. Keep an eye on your vehicle… and then, beyond your control, there is the risk of a fire outbreak in the country…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA11. Honey extractors. They are actually pretty scary things when they rotate so fast. Imagine getting your hand stuck in there…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA12. Bee stings suddenly don’t seem that bad anymore, do they?

And the list is not even complete…. If anyone has stories: all welcome!


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