Being a beekeeper can be very rewarding but along with the rewards come some safety hazards. The most common of these are allergic reactions, fire hazard, lifting hazard and exposure to some toxins.
The two most important considerations to help in avoiding issues before they start are:
1) Prior planning of your excursion into the bee yard.
2) Work with a partner if possible.
Knowing what you plan to achieve while in the bee yard will give you direction and prevent haphazard activity. Discuss what you want to accomplish and what you will do if there is a problem or complication prior to your outing.
Frequently a simple hive check identifies issues that have to be addressed including issues that can cause unexpected extended time inside the hive and exertion. Working with a partner can help with that. Your partner can share in the lifting, handing you tools and keep you on track! Not to mention the benefit of another pair of eyes to help diagnose colony problems and find the queen.
Getting stung is part of keeping bees. Every beekeeper I know has a tale about an ill placed stinger. See my cover photo – that was a recent sting to my lip. It didn’t hurt too badly, but I sure looked funny! And…my fellow beekeepers still can’t stop laughing at me. Luckily by the next day the swelling was fully resolved, as is frequently the case.
Most stings give a localized reaction including pain and swelling. There are several over the counter bee sting medications including Benadryl (an antihistamine) that reduces the body’s reaction to the bee venom. We use a product of the hive that works very well; tincture of propolis. Mix propolis with Everclear to make a tincture and then put it on the sting as soon as possible. It dramatically reduces the effect of the bee venom. If you tend to have reactions, before you go into the bee yard you may want to take an over-the-counter slow-release antihistamine (Allegra, Claritin, etc.) which may minimize the effect of a bee sting.
Some beekeepers may go beyond pain and swelling – the sting creates a systemic reaction; a true allergic reaction which causes systemic swelling, especially of the airways. This is an EMERGENCY, and you should get to an ER or call 911 immediately. In the event you have an anaphylactic reaction becoming or remaining a beekeeper should be carefully considered. If you