I have been checking on my hives regularly b/c I enjoy watching them work, and seeing how they are doing. Since it has warmed up I have been getting stung quite a bit, even if I don't try to look into their hive. My question is, is this normal, and how do you get gentler bees? Should I always smoke them before going into their hive? I have never used smoke before, but I know now that if I am going to remove the top of the hive, I had better have my body covered.
I am also wondering about mites. My hives have been neglected for close to 10 yrs. now, and are still alive (with bad hive bodies, and no bottom boards, and mice problems). They were weak when I first started messing with them, but still doing okay, and I now have new hives for them. I was wondering if I should use chemicals with them to control the mites. I would prefer not to, and think that if they have lasted unassisted for so long, they should be able to last w/o now. I now know that Dadant's offers 4.9 cells to help, but I already had foundation so used the stuff I already had.
Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.
Oscar: Hived a swarm three weeks ago directly onto 4.9mm foundation. They immediately began drawing it out and I have measured all but the two outside frames and it is a perfect 4.9mm. I used an open screened bottom hive and fed vegetable shorting patties. Look at >http://www.aces.edu/department/ipm/trachealmites.htm - Have been watching four feral bee trees in town and know two have been there for three years and the other two for about five years. These bees feed at the dumpsters behind resturants and I believe they carry a lot of cooking oils back to the nests. Apparently there is not a mite problem. About the meanness - try rubbing a little liquid smoke - grocery store item - on your hands, arms and face. I have had the bees fly up light on my arms and immediately fly off. May just have wanted a smell of the sweet wsmoke. Roy
Requeening would help with the aggressiveness, but you would then lose the genetic material. Those could be mite resistant bees so you'd be far better to live with it for a bit, try to raise queens from the best tempered stocks, and see how they do. I was looking at a feral colony yesterday; apparently it's been there for several years, and thrown several swarms, though I was told that by a non-beekeeper who lived abroad for part of the time, so he could be wrong. I got an approximate measurement of the comb I could see; dead on ten cells to two inches, or 5.1mm. That may not be completely accurate but the size is definitely smaller than commercial foundation which seems to support the idea that it's an old colony. I've made a tentative arrangement to remove it in a few weeks so hopefully I'll find out more in time.
Thanks guys, I appreciate the information. I have tried measuring some of this hives old comb, and it varies between 5.1 and 5.5 or so. Really hard to tell.