Beekeeping & Apiculture Forum

Help Support Beekeeping & Apiculture Forum:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.
Medication can exude chemicals which makes bees defensive.

Smoking won't affect bees, but any perfume will do so as everything a human uses contains chemical perfumes, so make a list of what you put on and what you use to wash yourself & your clothes, and change those that are perfumed.

I use unscented shower gel, nothing else that may be perfumed, and wash my bee suits in washing soda only.

Do you drink alcohol? A by-product of manufacture is isoamyl acetate, also released when peeling a banana and is the pear taste in pear drops; it's made in a factory and added to perfumes and a multitude of other products sold to make humans feel successful and desirable.

Do you work with horses? Bees dislike animals for obvious reasons and will take against you.

Deodorant: don't, strong or otherwise. Of course, you may sweat and smell and trouble the bees that way, but try without deodorant for a week.
I don't find the smell of horses to be a factor in my beekeeping and I'm in regular, frequent contact with ours. Of course some horse sprays, grooming aids, polishes etc could contain various scents.
My OH used to think it was odd that I don’t shower the day before or the morning of a hive inspection - happily I’m not a particularly sweaty or whiffy person (or so OH says). I don’t use any strongly perfumed shower gels, shampoo or deodorant (which my ex colleagues in the perfume & cosmetic industry are quite bemused by!)
My suit gets washed after every inspection day but only in a non perfumed biological powder & with washing soda & definitely no fabric softener.
Disposable or washable nitrate gloves only.

Maybe I’ve been really lucky but my bees have been mostly calm and not particularly defensive so far. Only had one occasion of a tetchy hive that started stinging my gloves the minute the crownboard came off, so closed them up and checked the following week when they were fine. Figured 40,000 bees all got out the wrong side of bed that morning!
I was due to be outside all day last week in ~30deg heat after collecting a super for extraction. To save time I slathered on sunscreen before collection. 5 stings later I realised what id done and abandoned the apiary!. It felt like a scene from a horror film but valuable lesson learnt. Suit and body suitably washed before next inspection; I admit I was a bit nervous but the bees were ok.
I have sometimes wondered if the bees have some sort of negative reaction to chlorine. I try to swim three or four times a week and it gets to the stage where I can smell the chlorine when I shower at home even when I've already showered at the pool. Spend enough time swimming in it and it just doesn't seem to go away.

You get to questioning all sorts of things given time though. I had an SBI inspecting a colony a few years back and they were good as gold for her. She asked if I could assist and as soon as I stepped forward they were all over me. I was stung several times within a few seconds and walked away whilst she carried on quite happily working her way through the hive. Perhaps I just trigger some species memory of what a big scary bear coming to steal honey looks like :D (This may not be utterly implausible. Many of my daughter's friends' initial description on meeting me is "scary". I'm not sure why. I'm quite a laid back person. It's entirely possible that I look like someone who could rip your arm off and beat you to death with the soggy end though.)

I swim every day in my own pool, no reaction from bees . The bees drink from my neighbours pool much to their annoyance!
The Yorkshire Ouse and the Humber carry so much suspended sediment it's like an opaque brown soup. No way I'd wish to swim in that. ☹️
They were alway like that - I used to fish in the Ouse near York, Nether Poppleton in the 1960's - it was brown and murky in those days - but took a few good Bream out of that stretch on a couple of occasions. You could never tell what you had on the line until you had it in the landing net. On the other hand, the River Don at that time was nothing more than a chemical sewer - as it ran through the steelworks, the pits and the Yorkshire tar distillers and connected to the canal, the River Don Navigation, it was oily, brown, fumes rose from it and it would not even support plants at the edge let alone any life in i. The local joke at the time was that nobody ever drowned in the River Don - they dissolved before they got the chance !

Apparently, its been cleaned up so much now there are even trout in it !
Thank you for all the replies. Seems to be a multitude of scents that may cause the bees to kick off.
I usually shower at night using Radox shower gel but would have thought this would have worm off by the next afternoon when I do my inspections but it will be the first thing I change. Don't use hair gel or anything like that but do wear leather gloves.
Going to be a long process of elimination!!
Radox shower gel
Forget using that! Smell lingers and carries even to my human nose.

leather gloves
Forget using them! Apart from bees' objection to the smell of animal, leather gloves will lead to insensitive or clumsy hive work, which will in turn increase bees' defensiveness.
I have sometimes wondered if the bees have some sort of negative reaction to chlorine. I try to swim three or four times a week and it gets to the stage where I can smell the chlorine when I shower at home even when I've already showered at the pool. Spend enough time swimming in it and it just doesn't seem to go away.
Before I retired I ran a swimming pool business so I usually gave off the 'Aroma du Chlor'. I sometimes would go and watch the hive (s) when I came home from work. Never had a problem with annoyed bees.

However, over the years I have come to the conclusion that, just like humans most other living, walking, breathing things have varying temperaments, likes and dislikes. Perhaps I was just lucky.

As an 'aside', the swimming pool 'Chlorine smell' is in fact the gas produced as a result of organic debris being oxidised by the chlorine. The stronger the smell, the more organic debris in the water - dead skin, sweat, urine, etc.

Malcolm B.
I deffo agree with the advice against clumsy gloves, I find nothing puts a hive's back up quicker than fudging your way through a hive with thick gloves!

As far as scent .. ...I have definitely found that after doing a bunch of hive inspections if I sit in the garden afterwards I often get bee interest....and when I do....they always want to land on my face for some reason 🤷‍♀️🤷‍♀️ doesn't always go after a shower either.....the next day they usually ignore me.

Latest posts