I will be very interested in the results of your tests. Be sure to post them, including the method used (DNA vs morpometric).
I have done a couple hundred removals all over South and SE Texas. I have read and heard several pretty well documented stories about bees in some of the same counties attacking by the hundreds when you get within 50 ft of the colony and chasing folks long distances. I have yet to personally come across anything even remotely that aggressive. I had one person call me to remove some bees from a steel drum who said that after they tried to "burn them out" they could not get within about 20-30 ft without them coming after them, it sounded to me like they just got them stirred up but I was tied up at the time and unable to go and see for myself. I have done several removals where 10 to 20 bees would jump on your glove when waved within a few inches of the comb, but in every case once I got the colony completely exposed they ceased to display much of this behavior (they tend to switch more to departure preparations like gorging on honey and collecting together in clumps once they realize their attempt to defend this particular home has become futile).
I have also noticed that fall removals are always significantly more aggressive particularly if the colony is large. Mostly I think its because there is less forage and more of the older, meaner bees are home. I did a fall relocation of a colony about a month after Ike came through where these folks were cutting up an uprooted tree and cut right through the top 2 feet of a colony that occupied about 6 foot of the trees hollow trunk. Needless to say the bees were not happy. When I got there a week later I was surprise to find that they had not absconded. They were really aggressive when we started screening them in, but we got them closed up and both sections of the tree loaded into the truck (one section was about 2-1/2 feet long and the other about 6', total was about 8 foot of 12" diameter hollow with 6' completely filled with comb and bees). We did this at dark so when we got back to the yard we unloaded them, went to bed and waited till daylight to remove the screen, boy they really came after us. As soon as we got the two pieces within 4 inches of each other, they immediately settled down and retreated back into the log and we were able to secure it back together. From that point on I could walk right up and peer into their entrance with little to no reaction. I will attempt to get them to move into a standard hive in the spring if they survive the winter.
Don't get me wrong, I am not denying the existence of AHB, but so far when I remove a colony that displays more unexplainable aggression than I like, I have been very successful at taming them down by splitting them up into nucs headed by gentle queens. If I am able to capture their original queen, I put her in one of the nucs as well. In almost every case they seem to blame the disruption on her and immediately supersede. If I remove a colony like this in the fall, I keep them in one colony and if they make it through the winter, split them up into nucs in the spring if they continue to show too much aggression. To date, all of the resulting colonies have been very manageable (I wear a veil, t-shirt and no gloves when working my bees). If, in the future, I do run across a colony that won't let me near them when I get within 50 ft, then I certainly will recommend to the client that they be destroyed (don't think that I would do it myself), but from the sound of it, the bees you described only became aggressive when you started tearing into their home which is not really that unexpected, especially in the fall. Just saying that in my opinion, with a little extra effort you possibly could have avoided destroying them if you were so inclined.
By the way, we got close to 3" of snow in my area and it was pretty surreal. I got some photos of my hives with a pretty good "cap" of snow on top of them. Its been 40 years since that happened in my area, so if I stay here for the duration (which is my plan at this point) I may not see it again in my lifetime.
Last edited by Gene Weitzel; 12-11-2008 at 05:47 PM.
"The UNKNOWN, huh? That would be SNORBERT ZANGOX over in Waycross."