Every beekeeper has felt the primordial jolt of fear when they realize there’s a stinging insect too close for comfort — perhaps even caught within their clothing. For most humans, this is a hard-wired reaction. Whether the bee got in through a hole in your veil, was caught inside when you donned your jacket, or came in through an unzipped zipper, you’re suddenly forced to deal with this unexpected event. Stay calm and follow these steps to remove the straggler from your personal space.
First of all, if a bee gets into your veil or hat, don’t panic or drop the frame you’re holding! Try to keep your movements and actions calm, without sudden jerky motions. There’s still a chance of a quick and painless disengagement, but your success in pain-free bee removal depends on a calm reaction. Take a beat and follow these steps to send the errant bee on her merry way.
Take a moment to figure out whether the bee is still flying (or walking) around within the veil, or if it is already tangled in your hair or beard. If the bee is still loose and you can see it, do this quick check: Are you looking at its back, or can you see the underside? If you can only see the underside and the feet, it’s still outside of your veil — all is well, phew!
However, if all you can see is the back of the bee and its wings, well… you’ve got a little problem: it’s inside the garment with you.
If you can step away from the hive, you may be able to settle things with no harm done. Once you’re far enough away and can safely unzip the veil, take it off and gently turn it inside out. The bee may fly away all on its own. If not, you can give the veil a small shake, attempt to brush it away with your bee brush, or — as a last resort — gently reach in and see if you can capture the bee in your gloved hand and remove it.
But if these options aren’t possible, or if you’re hesitant to try to capture the bee by hand, then you may need to move on to “Plan Bee,” which is to simply smack or crush it. While this method may bring a feeling of remorse, it may help prevent a sting from a trapped, agitated bee.
If you don’t notice a stowaway bee until it’s already tangled up in your hair or beard — or if you feel a bee crawling up inside your pant leg or sleeve — you may need to put “Plan Bee” into motion right away. It’s nearly impossible to disentangle a bee or to prevent a sting in these circumstances unless you kill the bee. Afterward, use your smoker heavily on the area to disguise the alarm (or sting) scents and go back to work.
While bees may still find a way into your protective clothing and gear even if you’re wearing it correctly, follow these steps for how to properly attach a veil to a helmet, and how to put on the helmet and veil.
Tie the strings tight enough that you won’t get hung up in the bee yard, but not so tight that it’s uncomfortable. You may find that you need to wrap the strings around your body one extra time for a secure fit.
Before heading out into the bee yard, refer to our quick tips to ensure your bee veil is attached and worn correctly and will provide the best protection.
Bees can sneak into jackets, pants, and veils, but the key to coming out of the experience unscathed is to act quickly and calmly. For more safety tips for beekeepers, explore our Beginner’s Beekeeping Guide.