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Beware Of The Bee Club Killers

Posted by Beelieve on November 9, 2012 at 1:10 AM

Beware Of The Bee Club Killers

 by Chappie McChesney, Alachua, FL

Originally published in the American Bee Journal, November 2010

We who live in the South have seen the headlines screaming in the papers and on our local newscasts: “Beware the Killer Bees, Beware the Killer Bees!!!”


Newscasters and newsprint publishers like sensationalism and get as much coverage as they can to boost their ratings and sell their product. They will search out anyone who has been stung by a bee and try to tie it into the Africanized Bees, referred to as “AHB” by most folks in the bee world and “Killer Bees” by the public. Sometimes they report AHB stings in areas where there are no AHB. You can go on any search engine and type in, “AHB locations in US,” and you will find maps, charts and lots of information on the AHB.


Are they dangerous? Of course, they are just as dangerous as any stinging insect is dangerous if you have a bad encounter with them. The problem with AHB is that they are more aggressive than the European honey bees or Apis mellifera. They don’t just chase you away from their nest or hive, but continue to aggressively chase you for a half mile or more.


The AHB have caused some long-time beekeepers to leave the business due to the extra cost of insurance, extra gear needed to work AHB, and of course the cost of hiring people dedicated enough to put up with the extra work needed to make a living with AHB. Since AHB swarm more than the European bees that beekeepers have been keeping for years, it takes much more time and effort to work them, but it can be done and is being done in parts of the world where the AHB have taken over the area.


They are a problem that can be dealt with, but we have a bigger problem facing beekeepers around the world and it may happen in your local area as well, even if you are not in an area where the AHB are located.


What I am referring to are the folks who are not into beekeeping for the right reasons. They seem so eager to get into beekeeping, coming to the meetings of your local bee club, asking a million questions and appearing to be willing to become a great asset to the club.


The problem arises usually after a year or two when they get to the point that they now “know everything” and want to be the person in charge. I call these folks “Bee Killers”. They are dangerous and need to be watched for.


Did they put in their time learning under a mentor and working with the bees for years out in the rain, heat, cold, and taking the thousands of stings that happen when a forklift flips over or a truck gets into an accident and the millions of bees are aggravated and in a stinging mood? Have they ever gotten their veil caught on something and had it pulled off just as the bees attacked? Ouch! Have they lost entire out yards to vandals, fire or diseases like foulbrood? Or worse, did they lose hives and equipment to the thieves that are becoming more prevalent now that the price of honey is going up and the demand for pollination goes higher?


Many old-time beekeepers will not join a bee club because of all the problems they have faced over the years with these Bee Killers. I stopped attending meetings myself back in the 1980’s because of this very thing. Now after retiring, I am trying to do my part to help our bees and other pollinators by starting new bee clubs and mentoring new beekeepers.


Beekeepers are a kind lot and welcome with open arms anyone who likes honey, wants to learn the correct ways of keeping bees, or just wants to help save the bees from all the harmful chemicals and bee pests in the world today. But who wants to attend a meeting where one side is antagonistic to the others?


State and even national bee organizations need to stress the importance that all organizations should strive to be efficiently run and have some type of support system in place to help the local bee clubs. Many folks ask why they should join a state or national organization: “Why spend money on an organization that is just building up their mailing list so they can ask you for more money constantly?”


A good club should strive for 100% participation.


If you want to be a beekeeper, you should stop and ask yourself the following questions:


* Am I trying to learn all I can about bees and the proper way to keep them?

* Am I supporting the club leaders and offering my time and talents to make the club better?

* Am I willing to make changes in the way I keep my bees if someone shows me a better way?

* Am I willing to support someone even if I disagree with what they are doing until a better solution comes along?

* Am I willing to step up and do what is best for the club?

* Am I willing to ask questions if I don’t understand what is being said, instead of just complaining about how the “clique” only cares about itself?


We have folks who hate commercial beekeepers. One told me she hates them because they adulterate their honey, use chemicals that are not good for humans to eat, and keep the small beekeepers down so that they can’t make any money. When asked for proof, you get the same answer: “Well, that’s what I heard.” That is a Bee Killer attitude.


Think about what you are saying. Have you ever been a commercial beekeeper with the unbelievable costs and problems that go with it? If you haven’t been there, give it a rest and be thankful for the ones who spend so much time away from family and friends to make sure we have honey in the stores, not to mention all the other products they provide.


What about the commercial beekeepers who won’t help the small beekeeper? I have heard commercial beekeepers complain that “hobbyists” (I hate that word) are ruining beekeeping because they don’t know what they are doing and they are helping to spread bee diseases, etc.


Wait a minute. Did you start with the 1000 hives you have, or did you work your way up by increasing each year? Did an old timer help you learn what you know now, or did someone loan you the money to buy the equipment you have? Did someone help you along? Don’t be a Bee Killer by discouraging the new beekeeper who may replace you some day.






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Reply Larry
10:43 AM on October 23, 2013 
Just for the record: the "Larry" that posted the first comment is not the same "Larry" that just signed up as a member of the site (Oct 23,2013) and enrolled in the 2014 beginners class. Hopefully, one day I'll have adequate experience to compose a considered response to this post, but that time has not yet come.
Reply Larry
10:22 AM on November 23, 2012 
I was going to post a longer comment on this post before realizing I'm just a newbee "know everything." Seems the author participates in some of the same behavior he/she decries.
10:15 PM on November 21, 2012 
This is a good post. I have previously seen it in ABJ archives. Thanks for posting.