I'm a bee magnet!
October 13, 2017 10:16 AM   Subscribe

There are bees that fly around outside my school's cafeteria. They flock to me. Nearly every single day at least one follows me for a good distance. How do I make myself less attractive to bees? And what's the best way to get them to leave you alone?

This is right outside the cafe, so I imagine I must smell delicious. I'm usually carrying an energy drink or iced coffee so I'm sure that only sweetens the deal. Caffeine is a sacrifice I'm not willing to make, though.

I'm not, like, hugely afraid of bees, but I'd prefer not to get stung, particularly not in the face. I usually just casually walk away, trying not to make any sudden movements. I figure they don't like to stray too far from wherever their nest is because they give up after a minute or two.

I don't generally wear bright colors, by the way.
posted by blackzinfandel to Pets & Animals (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
How about smells? Sweetish or flowery soaps/shampoos, laundry detergent, or perfume would be good things to check.
posted by easily confused at 10:21 AM on October 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Are you sure they are bees? (And not yellowjackets or some other wasp). If so, can you tell what kind? Honey bees and bumble bees and sweat bees are attracted to different things.

Anyway, without any other detail: it's probably not your food or your coffee. It's more likely your perfume (or shampoos or conditioner or soap) and any colorful clothes or accessories that is pulling them in.

Also: honey bees are incredibly nonaggressive. You can (carefully) catch them in your bare hands and not get stung.
posted by SaltySalticid at 10:23 AM on October 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Bees are attracted to floral scents, and also to floral prints.
posted by tel3path at 10:24 AM on October 13, 2017

Yeah I was going to ask if you are wearing bright colors. That attracts them, they think you're a delicious bunch of flowers.
posted by JenMarie at 10:29 AM on October 13, 2017

They seem to be either honey bees or sweat bees. I use a citrus smelling shampoo, but they're not attracted to my hair. They usually fly around, and sometimes land on, my hand that is carrying the coffee/energy drink. I am a sweaty person depending on the weather, so that could be drawing them in, too. (Didn't know sweat bees were a thing before today!)
posted by blackzinfandel at 10:33 AM on October 13, 2017

I have noticed that some shampoos and conditioners now smell _delicious_. Fruity and delicious. It might be worthwhile to try an unscented shampoo.

Self-interest note: I wish more people used unscented hair products so that they'd be easier to buy.
posted by amtho at 10:36 AM on October 13, 2017

I'm thinking it's the coffee/drink. It's a sweet liquid substance, and you say they hover around your hand.

Walking purposefully away is probably a good move if it works for you. (I mean, personally I run when I see a bee hanging around me, but I have an unusually strong local reaction to stings and so fuck you bees, I'm outta there.) I don't think you have to go very far for them to give up - I was at volunteer type of thing this summer and was originally stationed near a tree that I then noticed was Bee-palooza, so I just asked to be switched to cleanup patrol instead; we were in a smallish area, and within just a few feet from that tree I wasn't being bothered at all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:43 AM on October 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Do they still flock to you if you're not carrying a coffee or energy drink? If not, then there's your answer.
posted by erst at 10:43 AM on October 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

I mean the energy drink is a possible attractant but if bees were commonly attracted to coffee, we'd all know it, and they'd be a hassle outside of every coffee shop in the world.

Could be multiple attractants too. Bees use different cues at different ranges, OP may inadvertently be using many of them.
posted by SaltySalticid at 10:45 AM on October 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sometimes they will abandon you if you move into deep shade.
posted by Botanizer at 10:47 AM on October 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Can you try getting a sealing drink container (e.g. contigo autoseal) and putting the coffee or energy drink in there? And then don't have it open/drink out of it until you're past the danger zone.
posted by brainmouse at 11:08 AM on October 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Bees are also attracted to yellow. Doesn't have to be bright yellow either.
posted by HotToddy at 11:37 AM on October 13, 2017

If you think it's about color, you could try wearing reds.
posted by aniola at 12:04 PM on October 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

In my experience around our hives of 10 years, honeybees - and specifically the guard bees (specialized duty of some bees near the entrance to the hive) get hinky about dark colored clothing (maybe they think we're bears?).
So don't wear dark. I can tell when it's a guard bee and she doesn't like me, the buzz she makes is very different from the noises coming from the other bees whizzing back and forth to/fro the hives.
Going into a shaded area usually works well, unless of course the hive is also in the shade...
posted by dbmcd at 12:06 PM on October 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Have you talked to the custodial staff about finding/relocating the hive? If it’s a school of any size, there’s probably at least one allergic person on campus; better to move the bees than end up with someone in anaphylactic shock!
posted by epj at 4:04 PM on October 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Bee keepers who prefer to avoid the use of smokers sometimes use a plant mister filled with water and a few drops of peppermint oil instead - you could try spraying your hands with that?

(The theory is that, amongst other things, the peppermint oil disrupts their ability to smell, especially the alarm pheromone, while it's also, as far as anyone has been able to tell, non-toxic for bees or humans at that concentration)
posted by doop at 4:12 PM on October 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

I got a bright yellow coat last year and the local bees now follow me around because they think I'm a suspiciously mobile flower. So if you are wearing yellow I would recommend you stop.

Really, though, if you ignore them and don't flail at them they won't sting. The most I ever really have to do is gently wave them away from my face and I haven't been stung since I was a small child, even by wasps.
posted by HypotheticalWoman at 10:58 PM on October 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Maybe they are carpenter bees? They look like honey bees on first glance and the males tend to get super close to anyone who is near their nest. They are fairly “aggressive” but only the smaller females sting and they don’t get out much. If the cafeteria has untreated wood lying around there wouldn’t be much you could do as an individual.
posted by donut_princess at 6:33 AM on October 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

How sweet is your energy drink/iced coffee? One way to help out struggling colonies is by giving them access to sugar water and I’m betting that your drink just registers as a whole cup of nectar to them.
posted by lydhre at 6:35 AM on October 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

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