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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    San Diego, California USA
    Posts
    7

    Default Guard bees keeping me a prisoner in my house

    5 top bar hives. Mostly new since 2013; all feral, rescued swarms or cut-outs. Oldest hive growing fast and showing frenetic activity coming/going and above hive; checkerboarded some empty bars within brood nest; saw drone cells, two 4" square patches. Bees busy but not aggressive. Enlarged entrance (now a 2" round diameter opening on low side of hive toward front). Ten days after checkerboarding, hive showing even more frenetic activity. Went back in, removed 3 bars of good pattern brood to alleve crowding. Removed one full bar of honey. Re-grouped brood nest - moved drone comb to back of brood nest, Gave a weak/new hive the bars of brood and honey.

    Bees from frenetic hive very aggressive - most aggressive ever experienced (although beekeeping only one year). Dive bombed me consistently. I'm always gentle and work to not squish but felt best action was to close hive as quickly as possible. I tried my best, but many bees squished. They kept coming up through the bars and at me - even with smoke.

    I live in a suburban area - could not escape from my back yard or worry neighbors. Moved far as possible from hive (30 feet?); bees kept trying to get through suit, divebombing, ankle stings. Finally 30 minutes later, they had dissipated enough so I could get inside. For 2 days now I cannot go in my backyard without being divebombed. They guard my back door - need to wear veil to go outside. However, my gardener was not affected (I warned him and told him not to use motors around hives).

    Please help - this once docile hive is now overly aggressive. I think the bees are crowded in hive (all bars are drawn or mostly). Don't know what to do - cannot have more hives. I'm very worried the bees will begin to attack neighbors or pets. Thank you for your insight and help.
    - Jarvis

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Casper, Wyoming
    Posts
    148

    Default Re: Guard bees keeping me a prisoner in my house

    Requeen?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Calhoun Co, Texas, USA
    Posts
    1,310

    Default Re: Guard bees keeping me a prisoner in my house

    Unfortunately, you have a VERY small area for keeping bees....but there are some things to be done:

    #1 Contact your local Apiary Inspector about having a sample of bees from each hive tested for AHB ... you and I are both in HIGHLY AHB-invaded areas & believe me, with nowhere to get more than 30' from the hives, AHB will be nightmare bees for you, as some of my "suspect AHB" hives would attack anyone who approached from less than 100'+away ... if any hive's DNA test comes back positive, requeen, requeen again 8 weeks later; and DO NOT keep any queen from any other hive that mates before the 2nd requeening of the AHB hive.

    #2 Try diverting your bees' flight paths "up and over" by building a fence or "wall" of some sort around the hives, forcing the bees to fly up at least 7' before leaving the immediate vicinity of the hives; this will help reduce the likelihood of humans accidentally getting into the "flightpath" the bees are using to get to water, or forage.

    #3 Hang some windchimes, or a flag, or maybe some colorful streamers near the bees; supposedly the motion of something near their hives blowing in the wind reduces their threat reaction to other things that move in the vicinity, such as you, or your neighbors' pets.

    #4 (can be pricey) Research calmer strains of bees, then requeen your entire apiary with queens of an exceptionally calm strain. This method costs the most $$$, but there are some strains that are reputed to be so docile that they can be handled with no protective equipment AND no stings...if nothing else works, that'd be your best "last resort" option, IMHO (well, short of giving up the hobby, at least)

    Side Note: From your post, it sounds to me like your TBH boxes are a little small; it might pay to run a calculation to figure out how many square inches of comb space your bees will have in a "fully drawn" hive. If the total is less than for 2 Lang Deeps, then it's definitely too small (2 deeps = brood chamber), and if it's less than that of 2 deeps plus 1 medium, then your honey harvest will still be negatively impacted due to lack of space (as a reference, my 2'x19"x11.5" inside-dimension KTBH boxes are about equal to 2 deeps...kinda tricky to manage; anything smaller I'd call a "nuc").

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Belfast, Ireland
    Posts
    393

    Default Re: Guard bees keeping me a prisoner in my house

    And to add to the good advice above re. requeening, bear in mind that an aggressive colony will only usually get worse as it gets bigger.
    If you have neighbours in target range you would be better to move these colonies away somewhere remote while you requeen them.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    El Cerrito, CA, USA
    Posts
    49

    Default Re: Guard bees keeping me a prisoner in my house

    In addition to all that wise advice, have you washed your bee suit/veil after the 'incident'? It's a bit suspicious that they are after you and not the gardener, and perhaps you've got a bunch of stingers/alarm pheromone on the suit.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    45,374

    Default Re: Guard bees keeping me a prisoner in my house

    Find a place to move them to if you can. Requeen them after that. If they get nice enough, bring them back to your yard...

    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesrequeeninghot.htm
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Richmond, VA UNITED STATES
    Posts
    163

    Default Re: Guard bees keeping me a prisoner in my house

    Quote Originally Posted by mathesonequip View Post
    put on some supers but oh no you are a top bar person.
    Little touch of sarcasm noted there? You can super a top bar if you built it right.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    San Diego, California USA
    Posts
    7

    Default Re: Guard bees keeping me a prisoner in my house

    I did not have 'supering' in mind when I built it. Actually, in my suburban setting, I don't want my hives to get big - and of course, definitely want to avoid crowding. Are there gentle methods that can be used to keep a top bar hive from growing too large? I would rather have four small hives than 2 big ones. I know this is contrary to efficient honey production; for me, mass honey production is not part of the equation. Until my locale is more rural, pollination, a little wax and a little honey are plenty. Thanks everybody for your input on my aggressive TBH. From your posts, I realize my best <only> option is to requeen.
    : ) Jarvis

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Calhoun Co, Texas, USA
    Posts
    1,310

    Default Re: Guard bees keeping me a prisoner in my house

    To be honest, I think the best way to manage the size of a colony is to give them the space they need...a colony in a too small hive is always going to be more trouble to manage as you'll constantly be either fighting to keep them from swarming, or starving...a colony in a larger box is more stable, generally speaking, as they have the room to "just be bees" ... and you don't have to keep constantly "fighting fires" with them....just my opinion.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
    Posts
    5,718

    Default Re: Guard bees keeping me a prisoner in my house

    You have 3 choices. Super, split, or let them swarm, unfortunately.

    Swarming is probably going to be a bad idea from neighbourly relations perspective. If you are wanting to preserve neighbourly peace, things may have got to the stage where you'll have to move them now, before something bad happens.

    Whether they are AHB or not, they are still too aggressive for your circumstances and should be requeened. Some of my bees could probably be kicked around the yard and still not make much effort to sting, that is the kind of bee you need.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    45,374

    Default Re: Guard bees keeping me a prisoner in my house

    > I don't want my hives to get big - and of course, definitely want to avoid crowding.

    Those are contrary purposes...

    > Are there gentle methods that can be used to keep a top bar hive from growing too large?

    A split is gentle, but makes more hives...

    > I would rather have four small hives than 2 big ones.

    That's what you'll get this year. Then next year you get eight small hives instead of four large ones...
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Santa Monica, CA, USA
    Posts
    1,464

    Default Re: Guard bees keeping me a prisoner in my house

    Jarvis, I am sorry you have a problem.
    I had pretty the same situation and got pretty the same answer - requeen. Bees patrol my backdoor for 3-7 days after every inspection - they recognized me but did not touch my wife. I neglected the advise to requeen mainly because of desire to keep local genetics. It was risky decision, because we are in the area of AHB. With time, my aggressive hive somehow evolved into more docile, manageable hive. In my case it was a learning curve how to do what needs to be done with minimal disruption to the bees. Couple of things:
    - it is never too late to requeen
    - I agree with others that bigger hive is more easy to handle and it is more stable. For urban environment, I would rather have smaller number of hives. In place, where I am living, only 2 hives is permitted.
    - it is convenient to have top bars of the same length as standard Lang's frames. It give you flexibility to manipulate hardware. I personally, do find that for small scale, interchangeable equipment is very convenient and even - essential.
    - before any radical action such as requening, I would wait a little bit to see if things changed. My "africanized" bees are within 20 feet from the house and I have morning tea within 10 feet from the beehive. From time to time, they remembered the "old days" when they patrol backdoor and forbid me in the garden for days... but it is not often, may be once in the month and usually, it is one crazy bee determined to kill herself.

    Good luck with your bees!
    Серёжа, Sergey

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