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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
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    Johnson County, NE USA
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    Default What constitutes a hot hive?

    The bees we had last year were so gentle, I miss them already! I lost my nervousness very quickly, stopped wearing the bee suit and by midsummer decided that the smoker I could never keep lit was more annoying than a possible sting and I never got stung all year.

    We installed bees yesterday and I thought that was when they were supposed to be at their least aggressive. I got headbutted constantly, several pulled my hair and I finally got stung when one got tangled in my hair. My eldest daughter got stung through the bee suit and my 6yo got stung while standing 30 feet away and watching. Today, I got stung again just watching them. I was close to the hive at about a 45 degree angle trying to see if they were bringing in any pollen when one came in from behind and stung me on the back of the arm.

    Is it possible they will calm down as they get settled in or will they only get worse once they have brood and honey to defend?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
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    OKC, OK USA
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    2,869

    Default Re: What constitutes a hot hive?

    I take it you are talking about package bees? Package bees are not the same as a swarm and a swarm is when bees are thier least aggressive. Package bees where removed from a functioning colony and put in a box. My advice, give them some time to calm down and start using your smoker. I usually work my bees in gym shorts and a black work shirt and I have very few problems because I always use smoke.
    Mike Forbes
    Red Dirt Apiaries

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
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    Johnson County, NE USA
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    52

    Default Re: What constitutes a hot hive?

    Yes, they were a package of bees. Happy to hear they may calm down. I'm better at the smoker now, but I'd rather not suit up every time I go over to watch them, either.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    OKC, OK USA
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    Default Re: What constitutes a hot hive?

    I understand, I dislike suiting up as well.
    Mike Forbes
    Red Dirt Apiaries

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Brainerd, MN
    Posts
    533

    Default Re: What constitutes a hot hive?

    Keep in mind that the bees that came with the package will have no relation to the current queen. It's likely that they are cranky because of their situation. Even if they are hot bees, once the bees from the queen start to emerge the attitude of the hive will change.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Madison, WI, USA
    Posts
    175

    Default Re: What constitutes a hot hive?

    The bees that came with the package will die off over a period of weeks and will be replaced by the "real" bees for this hive, which will all be descendants of the queen. Then you will see the real temperament of this hive. I had the opposite happen last year where the original package was very gentle but as the package bees were replaced with the queen's descendants they grew hotter and hotter. They also produced honey like their hair was on fire! This year I moved this hive to a location away from people and animals where they can only be irritated with the beekeeper (me). I will split this hive tomorrow (walk-away split) and leave them alone for another 4 weeks.
    life is finite while knowledge is infinite. - Zhuang Zi

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Ohio
    Posts
    2

    Default Re: What constitutes a hot hive?

    What is a walk away split ? I'm also not familiar with the term, "hot hive". However, the reason I came here is because someone gave me a couple active hives. They are FULL of bees ! One was fine; calm, and easy to work. The second one was CRAZY mean, and somehow got in my jacket and stung me in the face and head several times. Must have forgot to zip up totally - who knows. Anyway, I wonder if I got into them way too soon after a very treacherous one hour transport to their new location. Could that be it ? I really need to see what's going on, but a little timid about opening them up again ! I also think there are two queens since there is tons of brood above the queen excluder. I'm just dying to get in there, but of course now we're expecting snow !

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Danbury, CT
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    2,837

    Default Re: What constitutes a hot hive?

    I don't wear a suit when installing packages... Package bees are usually pretty mellow if treated right.... mist them with sugar water prior to opening the package... they will be too busy cleaning off to be cranky. Adding a drop of lemon grass oil to the sugar water helps too.
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Windsor, Maine, USA
    Posts
    53

    Default Re: What constitutes a hot hive?

    I installed a package on April 15, and they were kind of aggressive. I got them into the hive OK, but some of them made it clear that they did NOT want me around. Good thing I was wearing my hardhat and veil!
    I had misted them with some sugar water, but not really very much. When I opened up the package, I noticed that the feeder can was completely empty. I put a hive top feeder on and put in some 1:1 sugar water syrup. Then I got away from the hive. More accurately, I got chased away from the hive!
    Three days later I went back, armed with a smoker billowing clouds of smoke, to see if the Queen had been released. It was like a totally different colony. I only hit them with one puff of smoke. They were perfectly calm and totally ignored me. I got the Queen cage out, checked to see if they were building any comb, put in more feed, closed back up, and sat on the ground watching them for a while. They were just as calm as any bees I'd ever seen.
    My guess is that when I installed the package they were hungry, since the feeder can was bone dry for who knows how long, and that is what caused their bad attitude.
    I checked them again yesterday. I inspected all of the frames, etc. and it was like I wasn't even there. They didn't bother me a bit. I sat on the ground and watched them fly around, got right in their flight path and they just flew around me.
    I hope that yours calm down like mine did. To answer your question, yes they probably will calm down.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Danbury, CT
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    2,837

    Default Re: What constitutes a hot hive?

    Where are these cranky packages coming from? Not who you bought them from, but who produced them... Just out of curiosity.
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Chickamauga, Walker County, Georgia
    Posts
    285

    Default Re: What constitutes a hot hive?

    If the feeder was empty... "a hungry hive is an angry hive." (Wouldn't you be cranky, too?)

    I took the packages home, mixed up a solution of confectioner's sugar and water, and painted it onto the outside of the cage several times until they stopped taking it up. Then I waited a bit and installed the packages. They more-or-less ignored me completely. Dry confectioner's sugar, lightly dampened, was the only food I provided aside from the leftover cans perched on two shim boards outside.

    Edit: Notice that I didn't spray the bees with sugar. My deterrent spray contains no sugar.

    I wear a hat and veil because I don't want to get my face and "what hair I have left" involved in the day's activities. (And yet, I still had one bee find its way inside, so I stepped away, removed it, and sent her on her way.)

    I took care not to crush bees. A soft bee-brush is a terrific tool: keep it in your hand or at your hand all the time. Look before you put your hand anywhere; gently brush or push bees aside before slowly easing anything in-place, "first one side (look brush brush), then the other (look brush brush again). Where your first instinct is to use your hand, use your brush. The mere act of landing on you isn't an aggressive move. Don't blow them aside with your carbon dioxide laden breath (which doesn't work anyway).

    A spray bottle containing water with peppermint oil ... no sugar ... is the only deterrent I use. I prefer not to make a hive think that the forest is on fire.

    ---
    Edit: A later post notes that many "confectioner's" sugar products contain indigestible starch. (My choice didn't.) For this reason, granulated white sugar might be a safer choice.
    Last edited by mrobinson; 04-23-2012 at 08:18 PM.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Washington County, Maine
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    2,443

    Default Re: What constitutes a hot hive?

    Cranky bees can take some time to diagnose.

    Things to consider:

    Has there been an event (like transportation or installation) that hasn't been perfectly smooth?
    Is the weather nice for bees to be flying?
    Is there a "flow" on - are the foragers returning with nectar and/or pollen?
    Is a pest (like skunks) bothering the hive?
    Is the bees source an area known or likely to have Africanized bees?

    After dismissing any "excuses" the bees may have for being ornery one can certainly conclude that the bees are genetically programed to be ill tempered. If the bees are too hot for you to work comfortably or to have on your property, Requeening may be in order. Keep in mind that some of the more testy hives are the most productive.

    I had a colony started from a package last year that by June was just too much headache to allow them to continue. So that one colony ended up as the basis for three nucs and a requeened main hive. If I had not wanted to increase my hive count I needn't have separated out the nucs, but I wanted to increase the odds that the new queen would be accepted.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    OKC, OK USA
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    Default Re: What constitutes a hot hive?

    You really should not be feeding confectioner's sugar to your bees as most contains corn starch which they cannot digest.
    Mike Forbes
    Red Dirt Apiaries

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Poplar Bluff, Missouri, USA
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    Default Re: What constitutes a hot hive?

    Amen to Naselsponge! Confectioner's sugar can also cause dysentery. Use granulated cane sugar, mix it 1:1.
    Regards,
    Steven
    "If all you have is a hammer, the whole world is a nail." - A.H. Maslow

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Johnson County, NE USA
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    Default Re: What constitutes a hot hive?

    Feeling so much better now!

    We had sprayed them with sugar syrup prior to installing, but that didn't seem to help a whole lot. I was really nervous about releasing the queen today, but we went down with the smoker and they were fine. No stings, no aggression . . . the sound of their hum never even changed.

    I don't know what their deal was when we released them, but I'm glad they're calmer now. Hoping the queen's babies are as calm as our bees last year. I really loved taking the children down with me and having them like the whole experience so much!

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
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    OKC, OK USA
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    Default Re: What constitutes a hot hive?

    Great to hear!! Glad they calmed down for you!
    Mike Forbes
    Red Dirt Apiaries

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Chickamauga, Walker County, Georgia
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    285

    Default Re: What constitutes a hot hive?

    Quote Originally Posted by StevenG View Post
    Amen to Naselsponge! Confectioner's sugar can also cause dysentery. Use granulated cane sugar, mix it 1:1.
    Regards,
    Steven
    Good point: this particular product is nothing but powdered white sugar; no starch. (I checked.) However, granulated sugar might be simpler and easier to get reliably.
    Last edited by mrobinson; 04-23-2012 at 08:18 PM.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Johnson County, NE USA
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    52

    Default Re: What constitutes a hot hive?

    Now I'm wondering if maybe I tried to release them too soon after the ride home in the trunk so they were shaken from the vibration? I don't know, but so long as I can work them and walk near them, it doesn't really matter now!

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Windsor, Maine, USA
    Posts
    53

    Default Re: What constitutes a hot hive?

    I'm glad your bees calmed down like mine did. I'm pretty sure mine were very hungry which caused them to be agitated and unfriendly.
    Did yours have plenty of feed when you put them in?
    Next time, I'll spray them with syrup until they don't want it anymore, then spray then some more before I dump them in. (For what it's worth, I was told to always use a sprayer to apply syrup to a package. If you brush it on, you run the risk of injuring the bee's feet where they're clinging to the screen.)
    It' s great that your kids are interested and can be part of the experience. I'm hoping I can get my grandson interested. I really enjoy watching them fly in and out of the hive and seeing the different kinds of pollen they bring home.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Johnson County, NE USA
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    52

    Default Re: What constitutes a hot hive?

    Quote Originally Posted by Albatross View Post
    I'm glad your bees calmed down like mine did. I'm pretty sure mine were very hungry which caused them to be agitated and unfriendly.
    Did yours have plenty of feed when you put them in?
    Next time, I'll spray them with syrup until they don't want it anymore, then spray then some more before I dump them in. (For what it's worth, I was told to always use a sprayer to apply syrup to a package. If you brush it on, you run the risk of injuring the bee's feet where they're clinging to the screen.)
    It' s great that your kids are interested and can be part of the experience. I'm hoping I can get my grandson interested. I really enjoy watching them fly in and out of the hive and seeing the different kinds of pollen they bring home.
    Their canisters were almost full. In fact, I set them up on boards outside the hive and they finally emptied them today, but I may not have sprayed enough syrup. I'm trying to compare last year to this year. Last year I was afraid of them, and I think we sprayed a lot of syrup on them for that reason. This year I wasn't that worried about it so I might not have sprayed as much. It just surprised me.

    And then to get stung again the next day just standing there made me worry that these guys were just aggressive, but they were easy to work today. I don't think I've ever been able to get in and out of a hive so fast. Probably experience, but last year it took so long to get the top bars back in without squishing any bees. This time, they just moved out of the way with a little smoke and a gentle nudge.

    I love how fascinated my kids are with them. We have two hives in the garage that have a glass side covered by a little flap. Both are too small for the bees to build up enough stores for winter, but I want to attach them together to make one long hive so that the kids can peek inside again. I think that was when they really got interested last year, but then I learned they were too small and we had to move them. (We have top bar hives.)

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