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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Centennial, CO
    Posts
    19

    Default New Bee keeper, no "mentor", I have questions!

    I live in Denver, it's been around 100 degrees this week and pretty warm leading up to. My bees are SUPER aggressive lately. I have a mix of Italian and Carolinian bees, but they have been raised here in CO for years, by a guy who's been doing it for a long time. Awesome bees. Anyway, I installed my pac in early May, my brood box was full the brim, all drawn out and dripping with bees a few weeks ago, I added the second deep box. I'm still feeding my bees because they are still taking it. Here are a few things I do.

    A) I work my bees without smoke, it's not been an issue
    B) I wear a veil and a hoodie with gloves but normally wear shorts because it's so hot and the last time I had on pants they crawled up despite the band and stung my knee, which took me longer to get the stinger out anyway
    C) I just vented my top a few days ago because I noticed my bees are bearding
    D) I've done 2 full inspections
    E) I've only been stung 8 times total, only 1x each go round at the bees, never more than 1 at a time
    F) Each sting has been getting progressively worse in the reaction, 2 stings ago, I had a welt the size of my hand and it was HOT! NOTHING helped! Thankfully the last 2 stings haven't been as bad, I did get stung last night, so we'll see if it gets as bad, no breathing issues etc... though.

    Here is what I've noticed, recently when the bees are out of food (they are doing a 1:1 ratio syrup) they fill the feeder box (front feeder) and become VERY aggressive when I try to remove the jar to fill it, they have been buzzing my head, stinging unprovoked any exposed skin. I try not to feed heat of the day, but it was so hot last night when I got back from a 2 day trip to the lake, they were super mad and got me on the arm. Normally I can just walk up to the hive and pull the feeder without too much hassle and I usually am not wearing anything special to feed them. Last night I put on my veil because last week I got stung in the face (lesson learned!) because the box was FULL and they were not happy at the jar being empty. It was the middle of the day and it was hot, but I felt I had to because the jar was empty. This is a strong hive already, the second deep is already all drawn out and they are multiplying at a rapid rate! I am thinking I am going to need to inspect the hive this week, do some clean up and maybe even add a super. At this point I'm going with med supers I can't lift a full deep, and am having surgery in a couple weeks. I'm the only one that works the hive, my husband is allergic and he keeps away, we do have an epi pen.
    Now, mind you I have a large garden, it's my whole back yard. I also have huge berry bushes. I often sit by the hive on a bench I've installed and quietly watch the bees. Just a loose count, 8 out of 10 come back with full pollen sacks on their legs. I can't imagine they are starving, since well, I feed them daily (normally....I felt they'd be OK for a day when I was out of town this weekend).

    Sorry for the length, but I'm curious if this behavior is normal, and why it seems that the bees have decided they "hate" me, they even have been following me when I change the food. I'm worried about the fact I changed my hair shampoo, I don't use commercial deodorant , I use baby powder. (no I don't smell, I just don't need it, lucky me hu?)
    I just don't have anyone to ask, I am getting a smoker, even though I didn't want to, today when I feed them, I will use a spray bottle of sugar water to keep them at bay until my smoker gets here and I can do my next inspection, which I plan on doing at either early AM or dusk, I prefer dusk, I'm not a morning person.

    One more thing, I've also noticed that we have a lot of bees IN the house recently, I put this down to the fact that well, we have a lot more bees now.

    Thanks for any and all advice.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Rader, Greene County, Tennessee, USA
    Posts
    6,710

    Default Re: New Bee keeper, no "mentor", I have questions!

    "Normal" behavior is difficult to quantify, since most beeks will use smoke. If you choose not to use smoke, there will be a much smaller pool of beeks to comment on whether your experience is "normal" or not.

    Michael Bush has some comments on this issue:
    They won’t smoke at all because they think it upsets the bees.

    Of course this is backwards. What upsets the bees is when you open a hive with no smoke or far too much or far too hot of smoke. The right amount of smoke is a proven thing since man first started to work with bees. Contrary to popular belief, I do not think it makes them think their house is on fire. It simply interferes with their sense of smell. If it really made them think their house were on fire, then you would be able to get them to abandon their home because of it. I have never been able to produce enough smoke to make them abandon their home. I have, however been able to make enough to asphyxiate them. Of course that is hundreds of times more smoke than needed to calm them.

    http://www.bushfarms.com/beestopbarhives.htm
    The quote above is from a page on Top Bar hives, but it applies regardless of the hive type.

    If you don't like getting stung on your legs, wear long pants. I understand that its hot, but after the inspection you can go back to shorts.

    What kind of feeder are you using? And what progress, if any, have they made towards drawing comb in the second box?
    Graham
    USDA Zone 7A Elevation 1400 ft

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Fort Wayne, IN
    Posts
    996

    Default Re: New Bee keeper, no "mentor", I have questions!

    Yes this is most likely "normal", bees sting when their home is under attack. New beekeepers get overly confident working new / smaller hives. As a hive gets more populous and they have more resources (brood, honey) to defend they take their job seriously. Add to the fact that they are hot and possibly hungry they will be a little testy. I would always wear a veil. A little smoke causes the bees no harm and will save you a lot of hassle. If you don't want to fire up the smoker a small spray bottle with some dilute sugar water will keep them busy for a quick inspection. It is a lot more enjoyable working them when not worrying about how many stings you are going to take. You might also want to invest in a hive top feeder that you can refill without being exposed to the bees. If the second deep is drawn out you need to stop feeding them! Your next box will be your honey super and you do not want sugar syrup honey. It is time for the girls to take care of themselves,

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Denver, Colorado
    Posts
    5,113

    Default Re: New Bee keeper, no "mentor", I have questions!

    I would say quit feeding them. It's not necessary.

    I'd estimate they're mean because of the heat. Mine are mean right now too. They're much better early in the morning.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Washington County, Maine
    Posts
    2,963

    Default Re: New Bee keeper, no "mentor", I have questions!

    Welcome to the unpredictable world of beekeeping.

    Based on your post it sounds like your bees are doing just fine and that their behavior is "normal." Bees don't like excessive heat any more than you or I do and they can develop a pretty good attitude when it gets hot.

    It is great that you have been able to work your bees without smoke - and I'm glad to hear you've got a smoker on order. A cardinal rule for most beekeepers is to have a smoker nearby and ready to go every time you work your bees. There will be times that you don't need it, but when you do you need it right away. The bees aren't going to say to themselves "let's take 5 gals while the smoker gets lit." 'Nough said.

    Are you aware of what the flow is like there and what natural resources are available to your bees? You should see a slow down of syrup consumption if you've got a big flow going on. I tend to keep my colonies supplied with syrup until the 2nd deep is drawn. But I'm watching to see what the bees are doing with the syrup too. There is no point feeding them if they are storing it away and not drawing out new comb. By all means let them have a reserves for a week or two of rain (wishful thinking in your part of the country, I know.)

    As for the bees in the house, the house should be your refuge not the bees. Presuming that the bees are not getting in on your clothes, you should find out how they are getting in and block it.

    Hope this helps - I expect you'll get other responses with suggestions about joining clubs, reading books and magazines. Those will be good suggestions and you should certainly consider what will work in your situation.
    Master Beekeeper (EAS) and Master Gardener (U Maine CE) www.beeberrywoods.com

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Lander, WY
    Posts
    261

    Default Re: New Bee keeper, no "mentor", I have questions!

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Dewey View Post
    Hope this helps - I expect you'll get other responses with suggestions about joining clubs, reading books and magazines. Those will be good suggestions and you should certainly consider what will work in your situation.
    There are many clubs and resources in your area, you would be well served to seek them out.

    http://www.bees-on-the-net.com/color...ng-clubs.html#

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Westminster, SC, USA
    Posts
    36

    Default Re: New Bee keeper, no "mentor", I have questions!

    Hi Wickedlees,
    I am fairly new to beekeeping too. Although I don't have a mentor either I did join a local association. They advised I always use smoke but just a little to calm them some. Some where protection and some don't but they always say to try to work the bees during the mid day when a lot of them are out foraging.

    My experience has been that if I wear dark clothing they will sting me. If I don't wear a veil they get caught in my hair and they will sting me. If they are crawling on me and my clothing rubs them they sting me. I try to always wear a veil at the very least. Some people say the dark clothing means nothing but IMHO it does make a difference.

    Recently I just gave in and bought a ventilated bee suit and haven't had a sting since. And I work my hives with much more confidence too. It was worth it to me.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Utica, NY
    Posts
    10,145

    Default Re: New Bee keeper, no "mentor", I have questions!

    Maybe you don't need to feed but just supply water. There are times when I don't use smoke or have protective clothing but that is not when I am removing something from the hive. You put the feeder in the hive. Now it is theirs and you are taking it away. They are not smart enough to know that you are going to fill it. Try grabbing a bone out of a dogs mouth. Very dangerous activity.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Garland County, AR
    Posts
    1,076

    Default Re: New Bee keeper, no "mentor", I have questions!

    W, I too started beekeeping without a mentor. None to be found. I do belong to our local club. I made a lot of phone calls trying to find someone who could answer some of my emergent questions - usually delivered frantically via cell while in front of hive having no clue what I was looking at. I eliminated several people as "not reliable" but have a few I can call in those emergency moments. Sometimes waiting for an online answer proves to be inadequate in its timing. Besides, where else you gonna find a bunch of folks who absolutely LOVE these bugs!

    P.s. If someone recommended no smoke and no protection, that is someone I would file in my "not reliable" folder.
    Zone 7b ~ Central Arkansas
    8fr medium equipment

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Denver, Colorado
    Posts
    5,113

    Default Re: New Bee keeper, no "mentor", I have questions!

    I have gone my entire beekeeping career with no mentor other than those readily available online via this forum. Only once has a beekeeper more experienced than myself visited my apiary, and none has seen inside any of my hives.

    Persistence, ambition, and ravenous appetite for knowledge will do one well. It's really more up to you than anything else.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    DFW area, TX, USA
    Posts
    1,134

    Thumbs Up Re: New Bee keeper, no "mentor", I have questions!

    Quote Originally Posted by Wickedlees View Post
    ....snip.... Here are a few things I do.

    A) I work my bees without smoke, it's not been an issue
    ...snip...
    F) Each sting has been getting progressively worse in the reaction, 2 stings ago, I had a welt the size of my hand and it was HOT! NOTHING helped! Thankfully the last 2 stings haven't been as bad, I did get stung last night, so we'll see if it gets as bad, no breathing issues etc... though.
    Two things:
    1) When your colony has some honey to protect, they will no longer be docile....Smoke is your friend, learn to use it so that when you really need it, you aren't low on the learning curve.

    2) Increasing intolerance to stings can end in full anaphylactic shock. So use smoke and protection, and see your primary care provider or immunologist for an epi-pen in case you have difficulty breathing after a sting.
    LeeB
    I try to learn from my mistakes, and from yours when you give me a heads up :)

  12. #12
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    roswell, georgia, USA
    Posts
    720

    Default Re: New Bee keeper, no "mentor", I have questions!

    Quote Originally Posted by Lburou View Post
    Two things:
    1) When your colony has some honey to protect, they will no longer be docile....Smoke is your friend, learn to use it so that when you really need it, you aren't low on the learning curve.

    2) Increasing intolerance to stings can end in full anaphylactic shock. So use smoke and protection, and see your primary care provider or immunologist for an epi-pen in case you have difficulty breathing after a sting.
    Quote Originally Posted by Lburou View Post
    Two things:
    1) When your colony has some honey to protect, they will no longer be docile....Smoke is your friend, learn to use it so that when you really need it, you aren't low on the learning curve.

    2) Increasing intolerance to stings can end in full anaphylactic shock. So use smoke and protection, and see your primary care provider or immunologist for an epi-pen in case you have difficulty breathing after a sting.
    Amen. Intolerance can build up over time, leading to trouble. Usually with allergies, the dose vs reaction is a moot point. Even with a small dose, the person is in trouble. If your reactions ebb and flow - most likely it is how much was injected. I have no life-threatening reactions, but varying degrees of discomfort, but have witnessed those that do and it was fortunate that they survived. Epi-pen & benadryl handy.

    Stings vary during the year, but everytime I don't use smoke, or not enough (depending on the task) I get nailed more than once or so. Use it within reason until you feel comfortable - they get over it. Bees have short memories, but not that short. I try to space out messing with them at least a week apart, unless I'm robbing honey - then it is combat mode.
    EAS Georgia Certified. "Tradition - Even if you have done it the same way for years doesn't mean that it is not stupid."

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Brookshire, Texas
    Posts
    114

    Default Re: New Bee keeper, no "mentor", I have questions!

    I wait until it warms up to get into my hive when most of the forager bees are out in the field. Thinking it best to open up a hive late at night or early in the morning does not work for me. Having 50% or more of the hive out collecting pollen means a lot less to deal with right at the hive.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Sacramento, CA, USA
    Posts
    3,044

    Default Re: New Bee keeper, no "mentor", I have questions!

    Look up the fatbeeman hive top feeder. You fill it, the bees are still contained and you don't open the hive to do it. Other hivetops are similar. Pollen is not nectar, if your bees have no nectar they're going to be hungry. What do your bee's stores look like? Any stored nectar, capped/uncapped honey? Why not use smoke? All it would take is a single puff to pull that feeder and I doubt any bees would bother you. Don't even need a smoker, just light a strip of cardboard on fire, blow it out and waft it in front of the entrance for a second. My bees are very gentle and calm but once u mess with anything in the entrance, bees get mad. Bees don't live that long... smoking every now and then isn't going to make any difference.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Centennial, CO
    Posts
    19

    Default Re: New Bee keeper, no "mentor", I have questions!

    THANK YOU ALL who took a moment to reply! I DID call the fellow who I bought my bees from, and got a wealth of info! AND I am all in for the smoker after re-reading the 4 bee books I already have, as well as many of the posts here. I am feeling like a fumbling idiot but I really am loving my bees so much. I can not tell you! As for the club, I will likely give that a try there are a few but not close to me and it's a long story but I rolled my jeep while out fishing and so we are a one car fam right now, so transpo is an issue This has been invaluable for me. I used a spray bottle of sugar water today to add food to the front feeder, but am very seriously thinking the top feeder may be the way to go, since we do have cold winters sometimes here in Denver and therefore I think that maybe a better way to go. THANK YOU!

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Rader, Greene County, Tennessee, USA
    Posts
    6,710

    Default Re: New Bee keeper, no "mentor", I have questions!

    Quote Originally Posted by Wickedlees View Post
    I used a spray bottle of sugar water today to add food to the front feeder, but am very seriously thinking the top feeder may be the way to go, since we do have cold winters sometimes here in Denver and therefore I think that maybe a better way to go.
    A top feeder is a better idea than a "front" boardman style feeder, but until you switch to the top feeder, make sure not to stand directly in front of the hive when retrieving or placing the jar. Stand to one side of the hive so that you are not directly in front of the entrance. You will likely annoy less bees if you keep out of their direct flight path.
    Graham
    USDA Zone 7A Elevation 1400 ft

  17. #17
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Lander, WY
    Posts
    261

    Default Re: New Bee keeper, no "mentor", I have questions!

    "but am very seriously thinking the top feeder may be the way to go,"
    Front or boardman feeders invite yellow jackets and robbing, I only use them in the spring and not very much then.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Centennial, CO
    Posts
    19

    Default Re: New Bee keeper, no "mentor", I have questions!

    http://leesandherbees.blogspot.com/2...or-gadget.html

    I hope it's OK, this is what I did so instead of rewriting it I put my blog addy here

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Brighton, CO USA
    Posts
    19

    Default Re: New Bee keeper, no "mentor", I have questions!

    Check the Colorado Beekeepers Assn. website for a list of clubs. There may be one close to you.
    http://coloradobeekeepers.org/
    Keep coming back to this forum--there are some very wise beeks here, who will always answer your questions.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Location
    Greenville, TX, USA
    Posts
    4,416

    Default Re: New Bee keeper, no "mentor", I have questions!

    Bees are more aggressive when it's hot
    Bees are more aggressive when they aren't on a flow
    Bees are more aggressive when the hives are larger (usually later in the season)

    So, late summer, hot, bigger hives, no flow......yep, they aren't going to like being messed with. It definitely won't be like earlier when you had a great flow going and nice cool weather.

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