As a relatively new beekeeper, I have not yet developed a great way to light a smoker consistently and keep it lit during my inspections. The FatBeeMan provides a great video showing how he lights a smoker and keeps it puffing nice white, cool smoke in this video:


Keeping calm while keeping bees. A small play on words. I thought I’d whip up this poster as a spin off the original Keep Calm and Carry On poster. Feel free to share it if you’d like. I’ve provided the full size image on Flickr.

Last week’s inspection went very well. My ladies were busy at work and had almost completely filled the first hive body with drawn comb, brood and honey. We added a second box to the hive to give the bees more room, essentially doubling their current living space.

During the inspection, Geoff easily spotted my queen. I captured a very short video of her with my iPhone. Without further ado, I introduce to you, her majesty, my queen:



Some graffiti of a stenciled bee with stinger

Image used under Creative Commons license. Provided by Manuel Faisco.

My cousin asked me recently if bees die when they sting. I had a short and a long answer for her. (People who know me realize this is often the case).

The short answer: Yes, a typical honeybee will die when she stings you. A worker bee’s stinger is barbed, similar to a fish hook, and when she stings, it  remains in her victim’s skin. When she pulls away, her venom sac and part of her abdomen are ripped out of her tiny body. This, in turn, causes her to die.

The much longer answer: Well the above fact is true for all female worker honeybees, I must clarify the statement because not all bees die when they sting. In fact, not all bees can even sting.

Only female bees can sting. Male honeybees (drones) have no stinger at all. This is because a bee’s stinger and venom sac are associated with the female bee’s reproductive system. Drones do not have this same anatomy and are missing their stingers altogether.

Secondly, even though a female worker bee’s stinger is barbed, I should note that her barbs will only stick in skin that is fairly thick and rubbery, like a mammal’s. If she stings through a much more delicate surface, she may be able to pull her stinger out without damaging her own body. This is a case where she can sting but not die.

Lastly — and far more interestingly — the female queen honeybee does not die after stinging. She is obviously a female bee, and therefore has a stinger, however it is not barbed like the other females in the hive. The queen’s stinger is smooth and can sting and be retracted from a victim without doing any harm to herself. There are several theories as to why she has evolved this way. One plausible explanation is that she must be able to defend herself against rival queens repeatedly, and that it’s her last line of defence against an intruder who has made it into the hive.

I will finish by mentioning that honeybees are the only types of bees/wasps/hornets etc. that have strongly barbed stingers. Therefore they are the only insects in the order hymenoptera that die when they sting. All other types of bees, wasps and hornets that you encounter will likely be able to sting repeatedly without committing suicide. This applies to bumble bees and yellowjackets as well. If they’re not a honeybee, they can sting you as much as they want.

I thought that today’s Penny Arcade comic, entitled “Anthrophila”, should be shared here. Click the image to see the comic on

A comic from Anthrophila.