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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
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    Greater Hartford area, CT
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    317

    Default I wish someone could define "aggressive bees"

    I often hear/read about aggressive bees, but I have never been able to find a definition of the types of behavior that are included in this term. Even a chart like the pain charts at the hospital would be helpful. (You know -- where you pick the face that shows how you feel.) It just seems that the term "aggressive" is kind of subjective, and as a new beekeeper, I'm having a hard time separating aggressive behavior from "normal" (another subjective term) behavior.

    For instance, yesterday, I brought my first (and poorly constructed) nuc home, and some of the bees had gotten out in the car. After 90 minutes of bumping along in the car, my husband opened the door and a couple of bees chased him. I was inclined to dismiss this as crabbiness induced by travel. My children get the same thing. Also, my husband is kind of big, hairy, sweaty guy. Maybe they thought he was a bear or something.

    However, this morning, I was standing by the hive, not doing anything except watching. I was not in the flight path. It was morning & I wasn't sweaty. I was standing on the west side of the hive, so I wasn't casting a shadow on it. I was wearing a light colored shirt. I wasn't touching or working in the hive. But a bee attacked and chased me at least 60 feet. If my kids had done this, timeout would have been the very least of their consequences.

    I'm really interested to hear what other people think. Does this sound aggressive to you? How do your nice hives behave?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Johnson County, Indiana, USA
    Posts
    93

    Default Re: I wish someone could define "aggressive bees"

    In my opinion, it's all a matter of what you're willing to tolerate. Bees do tend to be 'moody', that is to say that their disposition can be different at times. Poor weather, nightfall, etc., tend to make them testy. Still, some colonies tend to be much calmer and more peaceful than others. They can be a pleasure to work with. However, I just bought a hive from a person who hadn't worked it for a couple of years - when I opened it up, they were immediately all over me. No amount of smoke, no amount of protective gear could keep them off of me. I got 8 stings in a matter of three minutes through a complete bee suit. This hive is agressive and they're getting a new queen just as soon as I can double suit and find that old queen!
    Once the bee is inside, Mr. Veil is no longer your friend.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Location
    Reno, NV
    Posts
    3,169

    Default Re: I wish someone could define "aggressive bees"

    Agressive is subjective. So you can never really get around that. I have seen one test for aggresivnes that actualy measures a colonies response to a stimulus. still there is opinion involved so yo are nto free of the subjective element. but it is a meter.

    I cannot find the place I saw it but basically they waved a black net near the target hive and then counted how many guard bees ended up in the net. There is more to it than that simple explanation. but they had a set number of bees captured that then eliminated that colony as a prospective breeding colony.

    I have also seen another unit of measure that says bees head bumping are a level 1 a single singe is a level 2 and two or more stings are a level 3. level 3 in intolerable. Number of responses are counted during a routine inspection. I don't agree with either method myself. antagonize bees and then not tolerate there defensive response. Don't want to get stung keep moths.
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Manning, SC
    Posts
    2,379

    Default Re: I wish someone could define "aggressive bees"

    Unfortunately you can't give your bees a "time out!" You just brought them home and they were testy not aggressive. Aggressive in my opinion is when you can't get anywhere near that hive w/o them (lots of them) coming after you. Bees are finicky. Sometimes gentle, sometimes not so gentle, sometimes just downright mean.
    Most of my hives are gentle.... most of the time. That's what counts to me. If they were mean/aggressive all the time, they would get a new queen, pronto. You should not tolerate aggressive bees (esp near your home.)

    Give your nuc a couple of days to settle down....I think you'll be ok. Just don't think of them as pets.
    http://OxaVap.com Your source for the Varrox OA Vaporizer,
    "One of the highest ranked" by R. Oliver

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Big Stone Gap, VA
    Posts
    988

    Default Re: I wish someone could define "aggressive bees"

    Quote Originally Posted by fruitveggirl View Post
    However, this morning, I was standing by the hive, not doing anything except watching. I was not in the flight path. It was morning & I wasn't sweaty. I was standing on the west side of the hive, so I wasn't casting a shadow on it. I was wearing a light colored shirt. I wasn't touching or working in the hive. But a bee attacked and chased me at least 60 feet. If my kids had done this, timeout would have been the very least of their consequences.

    I'm really interested to hear what other people think. Does this sound aggressive to you? How do your nice hives behave?
    Given the the move yesterday, I would not label this aggressive.

    Shane

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Manning, SC
    Posts
    2,379

    Default Re: I wish someone could define "aggressive bees"

    One more thing. Hang out on this website and read, read and read some more!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    adair county, kentucky, usa
    Posts
    461

    Default Re: I wish someone could define "aggressive bees"

    I have 23 hives and I don't have a single aggressive hive. However I do have one very defensive hive. I obtained this hive as a cutout this spring and I hate to requeen it, since it has survived in the walls of an old abandoned house for 5 years. These are real survivor bees and I'm going to try and tolerate them at least through this year. They never bother you until you open the hive then OH-BOY look out. I had them open 2 days ago, and I got 5 stings and was fully suited. I always dread opening them, but if you don't touch the hive they leave you alone. They don't even bother me when mowing around them.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Baytown, TX., USA.
    Posts
    651

    Default Re: I wish someone could define "aggressive bees"

    Children and run challenged folk should not be around bee hives. ALWAYS have an escape plan if not fully suited.

    If you can drive 90 Min. with an open Nuc in your car you DO NOT have aggressive bees.

    There will ALWAYS bee one bee.

    Here are some 7-8 scale bees (0-10 pain scale). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmmtjFgdqz8
    Julysun elevation 23 feet. 4 Hives, 2 years.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Midland, MI
    Posts
    595

    Default Re: I wish someone could define "aggressive bees"

    As mentioned above, bees seem to be moody. It might be temperature dependant, barrometric pressure, rain, light levels...etc. Most of my hives are VERY gentle. I have one hive that always gets a bit stingy when i open it up, but has yet to be even edffensive if just standing near the hive.

    I'm on the fence with a recent swarm that found me. They were gentle when inspecting...suprisingly so, but while all of my other hives tollerate a diesel tractor 3' away from the hive, this one was somewhat less tollerant. I started getting head bumps about 30' away and was taking stings before i could get turned around. I'll have to try a few other things and see if they are aggressive towards them before i decide to requeen. If it's just defensive, then NBD, but if they seek out an attack on "an every day person" then it's soemthing to deal with.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Knox, Pa. USA
    Posts
    1,271

    Default Re: I wish someone could define "aggressive bees"

    In my humble Opinion it goes something like this. I have hives I can open, and remove the inner cover. and the bees could care less These are my gold star hives. (complete non aggressive)I at times open them with no gear whatsoever. They show no real reaction to having the frames removed, just go about their business. I have hives that are easy to work but one or two bees will be buzzing around your head once you begin moving frames. these I consider normal hives. not aggressive but the guards are keeping you in check. I consider any hive where the bees begin to head bump upon opening the hive aggressive. when there are a bunch of bees that do so I consider it to be a moderately aggressive hive, and when they try to find a way under your veil I consider then very aggressive, those that sting through the gear are extremely aggressive. any hive moderately aggressive or above gets requeened with a queen grown by a gold star hive. unless I can sit them down and make them understand that aggressive behavior is unacceptable.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
    Posts
    28,067

    Default Re: I wish someone could define "aggressive bees"

    Quote Originally Posted by fruitveggirl View Post
    )
    I'm really interested to hear what other people think. Does this sound aggressive to you? How do your nice hives behave?
    Nope, doesn't sound like aggressive behavior to me at all. You should be here when the semi arrives and we take off the net.

    Get two hives and you will see what aggressive and not so aggressive or more aggressive are like. Degrees of aggressive behavior (you do understand that the bees are just defending themselves the best they know how, right?) is difficult to describe. Some of it has to do w/ what you are used to and how the colony acts. KInda like dogs. Some folks might see a dog that jumps up on you as aggressive or just playful.

    undefensive
    less defensive
    defensive
    more defensive
    ass kickers
    Mark Berninghausen
    Squeak Creek Apiaries



  12. #12
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Yuba City, CA, USA
    Posts
    64

    Default Re: I wish someone could define "aggressive bees"

    One of the Backward Beekeeper (Los Angeles) folks created this HEAT chart of bee aggressiveness. I think this is more or less what you had in mind.

    https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/...at%20Scale.jpg

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Cookeville, TN, USA
    Posts
    4,141

    Default Re: I wish someone could define "aggressive bees"

    It's like obscenity - it's hard to define, but you know it when you see it. If you aren't sure if your hive is aggressive or not it probably is not. You'll know.

    Also, really gentle hives are easy to work pretty much all the time unless something is wrong. Other hives are much more moody - gentle one week, nasty the next.

    Always wear a veil - cause you never know, and getting stung in the eye isn't trivial.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
    Posts
    28,067

    Default Re: I wish someone could define "aggressive bees"

    There are many variables which effect how defensive a colony of bees is and how forcefully they will defend their hive. Colony temperment is one. The weather is another. Time of day, which at times mean something about what the colony is working on or not and how many bees are out working or are at home.

    There have been times in the past when I had to level off hives so they could be loaded more easily when there was 6 or 8 inches of snow on top of the hives and on the ground. Even at 25 degrees, when I took the top box(es) off of the hives bees would fly up at my face. Maybe twenty of them. That is being defensive. I expected them to do that. So I call that defensive, not aggressive. I think the difference is a matter of beekeeper attitude, knowledge, and understanding. Which I think is what vegggirl is seeking.
    Mark Berninghausen
    Squeak Creek Apiaries



  15. #15
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Santa Monica, CA, USA
    Posts
    1,537

    Default Re: I wish someone could define "aggressive bees"

    Since I am in urban environment, I deeply concern about bees "aggressive" behavior. All definitions regarding bees are arbitrary because each beehive is different. We also need to separate "outside the hive" and "inside the hive". Bees may be normal, in bad mood; exhibit protective or aggressive behavior, other. Each behavior may have many reasons: queenless, genetics- AHB, robbing, animals bother bees, no honey flow etc. Now, let see how it looks like from outside the hive:
    In order to compare, we need to establish what is normal behavior. To, me, normal bees behavior is when I could do my business and bees do their business and we do not bother each other much. My normal business - I could work in the garden within 10-20' from the beehive and when I approach bees, they mostly ignore me. "Bees in bad mood" are more sensitive to my "normal operations" around the hive, but "bad mood"is more noticeable inside the hive. "Protecting behavior" is when bees were disturbed (inspection, unwanted animal visitors, robbing etc) and sent out a few guards to patrol the territory. Guards could zig-zag in front of your face, head-bump and if you do not understand - sting... The same behavior may be because of "bad mood." Protective behavior in my opinion is normal and an indication of the strong healthy hive. Depending from the state of the hive,season etc, it may be more or less pronounced. If my bees do not exhibit protective behavior at all - I would worry.
    "Aggressive behavior" - I personally did not witness it (thanks God!) without opening the hive (different story - now we are talking about unopened hive). Based on descriptions - it is when hundreds bees meet/follow you 100' away from the hive with intention to sting without any obvious provocation from your side (somebody else could provoke them). This is not acceptable and needs to be addressed. BUT: do not make quick decision - let them bee for a week or two in peace (if possible) - may be problem will be solved by itself (by bees). With bees, you never know.

    Similarly, we could analyze bees behavior inside the hive, but I would leave it for more experienced beekeepers. But, in my definition - really aggressive behavior must be repetitive and involves hundreds of bees literally attacking you and following you long distance. Of coarse, just flying disturbed bees are not counted. I would be careful to call disturbed bees by lousy inspection "aggressive" - your lousiness made them protective, to save their home.
    Серёжа, Sergey

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Hartford, CT
    Posts
    605

    Default Re: I wish someone could define "aggressive bees"

    Aggressive would be my hive last week. Touhing the frames started them climbing on me.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Greater Hartford area, CT
    Posts
    317

    Default Re: I wish someone could define "aggressive bees"

    @ Khicks, Hmmm... I wonder why those bees hadn't been worked for a couple of years. Ouch! Hope your new queen works out much better!!!

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Greater Hartford area, CT
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    317

    Default Re: I wish someone could define "aggressive bees"

    Quote Originally Posted by julysun View Post

    Here are some 7-8 scale bees (0-10 pain scale). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmmtjFgdqz8
    Holy cow! I watched your video, and I've decided that my bees are just goats, if not exactly lambs!

  19. #19
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Concord, CA
    Posts
    4,179

    Default Re: I wish someone could define "aggressive bees"

    If you need to ask you haven't found bees that meet you're definition of aggressive yet. We all have our own limits of what we tolerate.
    Dan

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Greater Hartford area, CT
    Posts
    317

    Default Re: I wish someone could define "aggressive bees"

    Thank everyone for sharing your experiences. I went outside a few times to watch them today, and they are definitely a bit testy. Even when I'm standing 15 feet away, they sometimes head bump and chase me, but they're not stinging. However, they don't sound super aggressive like some of the stories that you've shared, so I'm thinking this is not a character trait. I'll chalk it up to the move and having their nice little home torn apart that's gotten them feeling grumpy.

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