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tinyfaery's avatar

Gardeners: how close is too close?

Asked by tinyfaery (36329 points ) April 28th, 2012 from iPhone

I am scared of flying, stinging insects, like bees.

I have recently become the gardener of my own back/side yard. I really enjoy everything about it…almost. I have made peace with bees. Well, it’s a truce, at least.

I’m okay with bees being 4–6 feet away from me just going about there busines.
Today, two bees were lingering around my dwarf Meyer lemon tree and I realized I was abrupt and not careful at all when lifting out dead leaves and such. It’s not that the bees didn’t worry me, I was just too busy to care. One of those things could have easily gotten pissed with me and stung me, but neither of them did.

So I ask, are my docile honey bees ever going to sting me? Do we just learn to coexist? Should I be more careful or just go on merry way, gardening with no fear?

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35 Answers

lillycoyote's avatar

I wouldn’t worry too much about bees. Gardeners need bees. I’ve never had any problem with bees, I don’t kill bees . You don’t bother them, they don’t bother you. Except carpenter bees. I don’t kill them, but they buzz around my head when I am outside, in my little plastic chair and get on my nerves. Wasps? What do I do about them? I would and will slaughter the whole fucking lot of them, without blinking an eye, in an instant.

Bellatrix's avatar

I had bees make a hive in one of my walls a few years back. I had an old bee-keeper (must have been in his 90s) come and put a one-way hive on the wall and every day I had to go out and see if bees were still coming out of the wall. Lots of them were buzzing around my head and flying all around me. The old man said while you can get aggressive hives and bees from such hives will sting you, under normal circumstances if you don’t waft at them and wave them out of the way, they won’t sting you. I didn’t get stung at all over the two weeks or so where I had to watch the bees.

A few months later I was ironing in the laundry and heard a buzzing near my ear. I thought it was a fly and wafted it away and I got stung by a bee. So, it sort of proved his point.

As @lillycoyote said, wasps are a whole different thing but bees, bees are the good guys. They are beautiful creatures.

rooeytoo's avatar

I think it depends on their mood. If someone around the corner pissed them off, they could take it out on you. I am always very wary and careful around bees. I have been stung many times. Although never in Australia, only in USA before I came here.

lillycoyote's avatar

@Bellatrix I edited a little bit but it’s generally the same: bees good, I leave them alone. Wasps bad: I pretty much have a “scorched earth” policy when it comes to wasps. Except for the time some kind of wasps built a hive the size of football up in one of my trees. I decided just to leave them alone. I would have had to call in someone, in a cherry picker, or something, to get rid of them, to get them out of the tree so I just let them be. The “wasp condo” eventually came down in a storm and that was the end of it. Here it mostly “yellow jackets” when it comes to wasps. I don’t know if you have them in Australia or what you might call them. German wasps maybe, they might be called? We, like many others, are all forever blaming other countries for our diseases and pestilence but here I think they might also be known as German wasps. I seem to remember something like that.

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Aethelflaed's avatar

I have a hive of honey bees in my backyard. They even come to my doorstep to die. Not one of them has ever stung me, or made a move like they were going to sting me.

amujinx's avatar

I’ve been a landscaper for 6 years now, and have never been stung in all that time. In fact, just Friday I accidentally unearthed a ground bee while cleaning under some boxwoods. It must have been young, since it wasn’t able to fly no matter how hard it tried. I moved it to a rock away from where we were doing work. When working, I completely ignore bees and they ignore me, and I always do all the work near bees since I work with my brother, and he is allergic to bee stings.

To be fair, I’m surprised as hell that I never got stung the one time that was kicking a cable box trying to get the bent cover on correctly and there was a wasp nest inside.

Kraigmo's avatar

I’ve been stung twice as a kid swatting at bees. But as an adult, i’ve never been stung, and that includes routinely walking an areas where there are small swarms of them. I can walk right thru the swarm and all is fine. I think most bees in America are fairly docile despite their capabilities. Even the Africanized ones in Southern California don’t seem to be overly aggressive.

flutherother's avatar

I like bees as they are content to get on busily with their own lives and they are reluctant to sting. Wasps are different. They are attracted to people for some reason and not in a good way. My philosophy with wasps is to get them before they get me. Bees I always leave alone, and if one is trapped in the house I always let it out.

JLeslie's avatar

I get stung. They come right up to me and sting me. I hate being anywhere near bees, I pulled out all the flowers near my house, but yet still bees are around. I have read that some people attract the bees more than others, I don’t know if there is anything scientifically proven about it. They have done some science with people who get bitten by mosquitos, which I am one.

Having said that bees generally are supposed to be fairly docile, unless they are killer bees, and wasps can be aggressive to. As much as I say they just come up and sting me, of courseI am outside with a bee flying near me at times and I am not stung. But, I have been stung several times over the years doing nothing. Just standing, or laying down, doing nothing to really antagonize.

But, your question is a good one, how far away do I need to be that the bee does not even perceive me? I’d love to know that.

amujinx's avatar

@flutherother Wasps like soda, beer and meat, so they like being close to humans because they like stealing our food.

@JLeslie Is there a certain time of the year that bees/wasps tend to sting you more? I know that they get kind of crazy in late summer and sometimes will sting for no reason then.

ccrow's avatar

Bees are less aggressive than wasps; generally if you leave them alone, they will return the favor. @JLeslie I am also one of those people- yellowjackets go out of their way to come and bother me… I wish I knew what they find so interesting about me, so I could change it!

JLeslie's avatar

@amujinx Not sure. The last sting was in Mexico on vacation. It was actually a good 10 years ago. Other stings were definitely during summer break as a kid, but which month exactly I am not sure. We had a traditional summer break early-mid June to Labor day.

I lived in southeast FL for many years and there are almost no bees there, which really made me happy, and I had a screened in backyard.

Someone told me when I was a teen that people can outrun bees, and so for many years I ran, and never was stung when I did. Now if the bee seems busy doing its thing I can be more calm, but my eye is on it, and I am not happy about it being there.

JLeslie's avatar

@ccrow Yeah, I have some fat bees near my house that have a lot of black on them, what I would call a bumble bee, and they seem to not pay attention to me as much, I am not sure if they even sting. Yellow jackets and similar (I really don’t know the variety of bees) come right at me.

JLeslie's avatar

@amujinx I just remembered the MX sting was in June. It was three of us standing on a path talking, and all of a sudden I was stung on my foot. My husband said to me “I guess it is true they do sting you.” You know, because usually I bolt, and he had thought I was ridiculous previously.

wilma's avatar

Honey bees should not bother you unless you do something to threaten them or their nest.
Bumble are usually the same.
Wasps such as Yellow Jackets are another story and can be aggressive without provocation. I have been stung by all of these creatures. Honey bees swarmed into a wall of my home last year. Hundreds of them got inside of my house, none of them ever bothered us. Unfortunately we had to kill many of them in the house, but we did get a bee keeper to find the queen and move most of the swarm. (After cutting a huge hole in the side of our house.)
I was stung by a large bumble bee once when riding a motorcycle. Ouch! In the bee’s defense I ran into him, or he into me.
Yellow Jackets and other wasps can be very aggressive and I steer clear and/or try to eliminate them from my area. They are attracted to beverages, food, perfume, wood, (yes I find them chewing on my wooden clothespins, now I try to remember to check the pins before I grab one.)
If you have honey bees around you are lucky, they are good for your garden.
If you have a lot of Yellow jackets, you might want to buy or make a trap.

Trillian's avatar

I’ve been stung a couple times as a kid by bees, and once on the underside of my toe and once on the ankle BONE by a yellow jacket. A wasp got me three times under the back of my shirt when I was a kid at a track & field meet. THAT hurt.
I can understand your aversion. Stinging is bad enough, but when you throw in the advantage of flight it seems immensely unfair.
You do stand a chance of being stung at some point. As long as you aren’t allergic, it won’t be as bad as what you’ve built up in your mind. Remove the stinger by carefully scraping it with something like a credit card, apply a paste of baking soda & water. You probably saw the same movies I saw. That doesn’t help at all. ;-)

marinelife's avatar

I have an allergy to bee stings so I am very wary of them. Also I have been stung when I was not provoking the bee (at least not consciously).

Coloma's avatar

Bees will not flat out attack you like wasps or hornets will, but..they will sting to defend themselves if they are accidentally made contact with. A bee does not WANT to sting as stinging will cause it’s death, it is a last resort when threatened. Also honey bees are endangered due to CCD colony collapse disorder which is thought to be related to the long term effects of systemic pesticides. Sooo, please don’t kill a bee just because it frightens you and do not use hardcore pesticides in your garden.

I was on a hike yesterday and took a picture of myself under a giant yellow Forsythia bush with Bees buzzing all around my head. I literally was buried under the cascading flowers and the bees just did their thing and took no issue with me.

gailcalled's avatar

My sister and bro-inplaw have eighteen hives. My bro-in-law, in spite of his hazmat suit has been stung many times and says that his arthritis is much better.

We were actually talking about some strategically-placed bee stings to deal with my arthritic knees. Bee venom therapy. or apitherapy

I wouldn’t pay someone for the shots but may consider having my b-i_law let one or two of his bees sting me.

I am surrounded by all the stinging insects (carpenter male bees don’t have stingers) and we coexist happily.

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tinyfaery's avatar

So…how close cann I get to a bee without pissing it off?

Wasps, pesticide lectures and arthritis have nothing to do with this question. I asked in general for a purpose.

gailcalled's avatar

As long as you don’t interfere with his day job, you should be fine. If you do really have honey bees, consider yourself lucky. They are vital for everything that grows. The honey is just a side product.

I have occasionally been stung buy a yellow jacket or hornet when I stepped on one or inadvertently interfered with what it was doing. The bite is sharp but can be treated with an ice cube, which alleviates the pain.

Coloma's avatar

Yes, I’d say just do your thing but be aware. Really, bees like any other creature, including us, are highly sensitive to the vibes they receive. Be calm and don’t freak out if one gets a little too close for comfort. If you start screaming and flailing around you are going to agitate the bee.
Maybe be careful of wearing perfumes and other scents that might make you extra attractive too. Really, just be calm.

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Yetanotheruser's avatar

It’s important to realize that the bee population in the US is low, causing many farmers and nursery folks some concern. I’ve been stung by bees several times, both when I was a kid, and later as an adult. The big event I remember as an adult was when I was painting a friend’s house (returning a favor) and stupidly tried to paint over a hole that the bees were using as an entrance to their hive!. I got swarmed.

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