I was working one of my hives which I had moved a comb back a bit to let any brood yet to emerge finish up before I cull the comb. Today, I concluded it was time to remove the comb.
I proceeded to get my brush to brush the bees off of the comb, and lo did they get pissed. I don't mean disturbed a little like when you knock bees off of a comb back into the hive. I mean severely pissed. When I saw their reaction I gently placed the brush down ontop of the hive and backed away a little and watched in fascination as somewhere between 5 and 10 bees were trying to sting the brush part of the brush. Keeping in mind that I don't wear protection, this was slightly unnerving to watch. I went and got a cigarette, and let the bees calm down for a few minutes, I removed the brush from the hive, then carefully while both backing away and returning carefully several times, reassembled the hive.
I think the only reason I didn't get stung was I didn't have the odor of the brush, and also the brush was black bristles which of course I don't have any black on me. These bees were intent on stinging the brush, and funnily only the black bristles of the brush, ignoring the blue handle entirely. They sting, take off in about 3 seconds to about 3 to 5 inches away and launch again at the brush. Interesting really that they don't just sting you, they prepare to sting you and hit you with the abdomen first while anchoring with their legs.
The lesson? Don't brush bees without protection.
Luckily and ONLY with luck, I didn't get stung.
I would say don't WORK bees without protection. But definitely brushing them gets them more upset. What kind of brush is it? I've never seen a black bee brush. The bristles need to be VERY soft for a bee brush. A large feather works well also. A goose feather or a turkey feather makes a pretty good brush. I'd probably just smoke them off of the comb and cut and tie it into a frame (if that's your intent).
It's gotta be the black bristles! I know my girls hate it when I wear black socks and will attack them like crazy. I also had a pair of gloves they absolutely hated (I'm sure it was the smell--they even smelled funny to me) that they would cover and attack so ferociously, the gloves would absolutely vibrate on my hands--they'd get so covered, I couldn't work. Needless to say, those gloves are history. They seem to leave my bare, baby-powdered hands alone!
I was told by a guy who is very experienced that bees simply hate brushes.
Its much better to use goosefeathers.
Also, from a hygenic and environmental point, a goosefeather is cheap and small enough to leave with one particular hive and then chuck it on the compost heap when its done and use a fresh one.
There isn't another use for them (quills are somewhat outta fashion by now so, your local gooseperson will probably be delighted to have something to barter for nice honey with...
Some of those old bee brushes with black bristles were from horse hair! I can't imagine the bee houses passing them off as 'bee brushes'. I think they were designed for draftsmen. And they aggravated every bee they touched. I tried them decades ago with the same results, even in the best situations.
The newer, softer, yellow plastic brushes work fine until they become too stiff with honey or propolis residues. Washing them will renew them.
Bees are like any other animal. Sometimes they can be brushed with impunity and at other times it can aggravate them. The weather can have a major impact.
Always fire up a smoker when working bees, even if it's just got a handful of fuel or a little smoldering cardboard in it. A few quick, timely puffs can rapidly defuse an excalating situation. But once the situation excalates, sometimes even lots of smoke won't calm them down.
It's particulary important for backyard beekeepers to know when not to trouble the hives. And to know when to close them up and try another day. You did the right thing.
Perhaps the brushing technique was the
root cause of the alarm pheromone getting
Brushing hard to "knock the bees off"
a comb can roll bees badly. Worse yet,
brushing downward, rather than upward,
can hurt bees who have their heads stuck
in a cell. Honeycomb is slanted slightly
up, so one must ALWAYS brush "up", or
turn the frame over, and make "up" point
Proper brushing technique simply strokes
the backs of the bees on the comb and
harrasses them into moving. One need not
be so gentle when brushing bees of wooden
surfaces (for example, just before putting
an inner cover back on a super).
But yeah, I've never seen a proper bee
brush with black bristles. I like the
yellow, as I often toss the brush aside
when I need both hands, so the bright
yellow comes in handy on dawn patrol
or towards sunset.
Well one of the criteria for my beekeeping excersizes is to not need protection and not need to buy specialized this or that. In fact I did just last week decide to browse the catalogues, and quite frankly I was amazed that none of the mags had anything I wanted or needed, except maybe some queen breeding tools. I do think I find myself needing protective gear though for doing bee calls. I successfully went on a beecall this week without wearing any gear and only got stung twice, but there was a lot of backing away and letting them calm down time wasted.
Perhaps I will try the feathers, or I will have to try something else. Knocking bees off of combs seems the least bothering to the bees believe it or not. Knock them into the hive and they don't seem to know what happened and there isn't any fuss about it. But considering that I am using top bar hives and don't have frames, this proves to be impossible in terms of practicality.