This is my first year beekeeping. I bought a single package of bees in april. The bees have been slow getting started, and with only one hive, there has been little I could do to help them. Last week, a local commercial beekeeper sold me 5 8-frame established, strong hives. I immediately added supers. The brood supers are in rough shape, but I plan on building new ones. I went to do an inspection, and it is obvious that these hives havn't been inspected recently. The frames are all glued together. It is also important to note that I put all five hives right next to each other. There is almost always a lot of activity in front of the hives, but it doesn't appear to be robbing. I planned on taking a few strong frames from these new hives to help boost my original hive. Not far into the inspection of the first of the new hives, I was stung 5 or six times within a matter of minutes through my clothing. I didn't do anything unusual to provoke them. I closed up the hive and aborted. They seem to be extra aggressive. My first thought is to requeen, but I don't know how the heck I am going to find the old queens without having a sting-fest. My second thought is that the hives are too close together, and they need to be moved farther apart because it is possible that I tried to inspect during a robbing situation, even though I don't believe that was the case. These hives also seem to be trying to rob my weaker hive, which I have averted by reducing the entrance. Any suggestions on what to do? I thought I might just get some thick coveralls and use my gloves and suck it up and have a queen killing party.
Any suggestions on where to get a gentle strain of queen would be highly appreciated.
If you have the room move them away from the original area say 15 feet. Place a frame of brood with foundation on each place you had the hives with your new 'gentle queen'. Leave alone for a day or two. This will make all the field bees come to that spot where the old hives were, it will also cut down on the amount of bees you have to deal with. Then go thru the mess and remove the old queen. Place all the frames, brood, suppers etc back on to the original area. Very few bees will be left behind if you can do it in a day or two.
As far as gentle bees you can get them from any good breeder. I use New World Carniolan from www.strachanbees.com 1-800-368-3881 or from CAN-AM Apiaries 1-800-228-2516, they are gentle and nice to work with.
In my past experience there are a few things to consider. One is the weather my strong colonies that I have had in the past tended to be much more agressive when it was cloudy or overcast. (was the sun shining?)Newly started hives didn't seem to be as touchy about this. Also the use of smoke. My newly started hives I would work with no or very little smoke. Of course this lead to over confidence on my part when I would work a strong hive)Not enough smoke,lots of bees in the air, leading to stings. I have had better luck if I used enough smoke to push them down between the frames. i.e. If they are sticking their heads up watching me I give them a little puff to push them back down.
I don't tend to jump to conclusions on tempremant until I've seen them hot on a couple of occasions. All hives seem to have an occasional bad day. Make sure they are hot on a nice day and there are no skunks or other predators or robbing going on.
I like to split up a hot hive. It helps to find the queen and it calms them down in a hurry. Just set a bottom board for each box about 10 yards away and take each box from the orginal hive and put it on a bottom board with a lid. Put an empty box on the old stand. Let them all calm down and then you can search each one box hive for a queen without so many bees to face at once. I've even split those boxes up into five frame nucs to make it even easier. After you find the old queen, you may want to recombine or you may want to keep it split up some. Small hives are never as agressive as large hives.
In the deep South I think Cordovans are nice and gentle. I'm not so sure they do as well this far North.
I'm no expert, but couldn't it bee that these hives are just "revved up" from being moved to a new site? When I got my first two boxes of bees last year, the owner had warned me they were "hot." To prove it, one of them beelined out of the hive and kissed me on the forehead as I was getting out of my truck to pick them up! Anyway, drove them two hours home, set them up (got out of the way fast when I took the screens off th entrances)and left them alone! Put feeders on the next day and refilled them every other day for a week. I just watched them from a distance for the first week--they were pretty active and jumpy and would buzz me when I tried to work in my garden. After a week, I did an inspection. They checked me out really well, gave me no serious problems. Now they hardly react when I go into the hives unless I do something silly like pop the top to loud or bump a frame on the hive. I think Michael's got the right idea--give them a while and see what happens.