I have had umpteen questions about this - finally it's time I wrote a page!
I suspect that this question has become more common since the profile of bees has been somewhat raised. On the one hand, people appear to be taking more notice of bees. On the other, they may also therefore be noticing behaviours they may not have otherwise observed.
The common questions are along the following lines:
You can guess from the list above that some people are simply curious about the behaviours of bees, others seek reassurance or want advice.
If your question is similar, I hope this page helps.
I received an email a while ago from a lady who was curious about what she thought was a bumble bee hanging around her patio whenever she went to sit outside. It turned out that the bee was not a bumble bee at all, but a large male carpenter bee. A similar scenario is described on this page.
With these particular types of bees, the role of the male is to defend the nest. If there is a vibratory disturbance nearby (through movement or sound), then the male will come out to investigate.
These carpenter bees can be quite large, so this may seem intimidating, however, males cannot sting at all! In other words, it's bravado!
In fact, male bee species generally - whether they be honey bees, carpenter bees or bumble bees, are unable to sting, only the females can, but female bees of many species are largely docile, as is the case with female carpenter bees.
If you suspect you are being 'investigated' by a carpenter bee, you may find there is a bee nest nearby.
I get queries from the US about this. Certain types of bees known as halictid bees, are attracted to salty human sweat, and may land on arms or around the under arms in a bid to get at it!
This can of course be disconcerting. However, if this is the case for you, your options could include:
If you disturb a honey bee nest or swarm (for example, by throwing items at the nest) don't be surprised if you get stung! A threatening disturbance of a colony such as this could provoke a reaction that is not about 'following' you as such, but is defensive and may end in pain! In such scenarios, you'll see lots of bees, not merely a single bee close by.
It's best not to disturb swarms of honey bees, but preferably leave them alone or call a beekeeper if absolutely necessary.
Personally, I have never been bothered by bees approaching me. If they are indeed attracted by my clothes or perfume and even if they land on me, I find they will quickly move on once they discover nothing is to be gained. I have never been stung in such scenarios.
If you are worried, again, use a suitable repellent.
I find most people are reasonable and wish the bees no harm.
The key is to keep calm, let the bees alone, and you are unlikely to be stung because bees are not generally out to sting you unless they feel severely threatened as described above.
I have been up close to bees for many years and have never been stung once, and believe my calmness, love and respect for these wonderful creatures is the reason.
Still, if you are concerned, or you have a severe allergy to bee stings, use a deet-free repellent, such as:
- and carry an Epi-pen - see your medical practitioner for this.
I wish you well.
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