Live Stream Edit #2: Stingless Bees

This is an edit of the second live YouTube stream I recently did from the small beeyard on the side of my house. The video is recorded through a WiFi signal that I pick up on my cell phone from from outside my house, so the video quality isn’t exactly high definition. That’s always been my main reason for not doing this before. But I realise quality isn’t really an issue for videos viewed on tiny cell phone screens, so let’s give it a shot:

Here’s a basic breakdown of what happens in the video:

00:00​ — Honey bees drinking water from melting snow in the grass.

01:40​ — Honey bees scenting while out for cleansing flights.

02:40​ — Bees landing on my hand and on my head.

03:35​ — Close up of bees scenting with their butts in the air.

04:05​ — Bees warming themselves on my dark shed. There’s a lot of discussion about cleansing flights, scenting, dysentery, etc.

06:30​ — Smelling bee farts.

06:50​ — Blocking the top entrance with my finger, bees crawling all over me. Explanation of when and why the bees will sting or won’t sting.

Scroll down to the second part of this post called “Removing a Honey Bee Colony From a Backyard Shed in Texas Without a Veil or Any Protective Clothing” for my thoughts on the somewhat misleading stingless bee videos from Texas Beeworks that have become popular recently.

08:00​ — A look at a hive I didn’t put on any mouse or shrew-proofing mesh, just to show that there are no absolutes in beekeeping. While I strongly advocated using 6mm / quarter-inch mesh to keep shrews out, because it’s pretty horrible when shrews destroy wintering colonies, if there aren’t any shrews in the area, it’s not a problem. Half-inch mesh or even no mesh is fine — though I don’t know anyone who uses no mesh. Why risk it?

08:55​ — Explaining why I personally think my bees look healthy.

09:15​ — Tearing off a screen full of bees from the side of my shed.

09:45​ — Explaining how the bees sometimes get caught in the cold and die. General talk about how the sun triggers activity in the bees, etc.

Removing a Honey Bee Colony From a Backyard Shed in Texas Without a Veil or Any Protective Clothing

While this video is fun to watch, like the majority of things that go viral in the beekeeping world, I think it’s misleading because it doesn’t reflect what beekeeping is really like for most people.

But here is some info for people who want to become beekeepers after watching this video:

• I work in film and I work with honey bees, and my educated guess is that so much went on behind the scenes to produce this result, both in the film and with the bees, that it’s virtually a work of fiction.

• I don’t know anyone who would tear open a floor full of bees and expect the bees to be totally okay with it. But maybe the bees were calmed by the smoke and that was enough. I’d wear a veil, though.

• The bees in the video are most likely domesticated honey bees that escaped from a hive. Some southern breeders in the US where she lives have been able to breed what they call a “stingless bee.” The bees have stingers, but rarely sting. They’ve been bred to behave this way, if she is indeed dealing with that breed of honey bee.

• Highly defensive “Africanized” honey bees are real. Just ask certain beekeepers in Arizona. Pulling bees out of a shed like this in some places of Arizona could literally be a deadly affair. I’ve dealt with nasty bees even in Newfoundland that would fill my face with stingers if I ever tried anything like this.

• She also talks about “saving the bees,” but keep in mind she’s saving a domesticated insect, one that in not native to North America. It’s not unlike saving a herd of cows that escaped and got lost in a forest. On the other hand, native bees and pollinators, which often do a better job at pollination than the non-native honey bees, are in grave danger due to pollution and habitat loss from urban sprawl. They’re the bees that need saving.

• The vast majority of honey bees around the world, including those in Canada, will sting if they feel threatened. Even if just a handful of bees, some of them would likely exhibit defensive behaviour in this situation — flying into her face, aiming for her eyes, her nose, etc. I doubt this video is typical of what most people in Canada would experience during a cut-out. It’s another great example of what should be every beekeeper’s #1 reminder, that all beekeeping is local beekeeping. Newfoundland is not Texas. Not even close.

• And one more time with feelings: Honey bees don’t need saving. They never have. Commercial honey bee operators have lost a large number of colonies over the years, but most are able to replenish their lost colonies through importations and other means. Again, native pollinators like bumble bees and ground-nesting bees are in danger because humans keep destroying the places where they live by doing things like ploughing down wild grass fields and forests to build houses and roads and cities. An over-abundance of beekeepers won’t help “save the bees” either. I don’t think there is any scientific proof showing that non-native honey bees that compete with native pollinators do anything to help the endangered native pollinators survive. Honey bees will never go extinct, but native pollinators are disappearing every day.

So back to the Texas beekeeper’s video… If popular beekeeping videos like hers could lead people to educate themselves about these topics as well, that’d be even better. Much of what she says is well-informed — not the usual misinformation promoted by self-anointed “bee whisperers.” But I can tell you that just because it works in Texas, doesn’t mean it’ll work in Newfoundland.

In any case, the part of my live stream video that shows me sticking my fingers in my hive and having the bees crawl all over me presents what I think is a more realistic representation of what most beekeepers can experience in terms of using their bare hands to play with their bees.

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