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