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Thread: Aggressive Bees

  1. #1
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    Default Aggressive Bees

    I've been keeping bees about 5 years with varied success. This past year the bees have seemed more aggressive than in the past. 5 times this spring bees have gotten in mine or a childs hair and stung us on the head. They seem to chase us if we get near the hive but that might just be them toying with us when they smell our fear. When I get in the hives the bees seem so loud and aggressive, stinging me through my gloves and swarming all around me, it makes me want to give up keeping bees all together. I'm wondering...

    Could my hives have been re-queened with a more aggressive type of bee? Should I re-queen? Is it too late for that this year?

    Thanks in advance for the advice.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Aggressive Bees

    It's not too late to re-queen where I am, so you should have no problem. I always re-queen hot hives if the behavior continues. I'd check for mites, treat if needed, and order queens. You'll be better setup for spring with young queens.
    Dan Boylan, At it since 2007 in Pa Zone 6B, 13 hives, 7 nucs, treat when needed.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Aggressive Bees

    Do you know for sure that their is a queen in your aggressive ones?

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Aggressive Bees

    Quote Originally Posted by queenbee3074 View Post
    Do you know for sure that there is a queen in your aggressive ones?
    I'm not a great beekeeper. I figured I'd get more comfortable and confident as time passed but that hasn't been the case. In the 6 years of keeping bees I've never seen a queen. I do however see brood in the most aggressive hive. There was some in a couple of my supers when I went in to get my honey. I had to leave those behind.

    A couple things to note:
    - I have 2 hives. Both seem aggressive but one seems super aggressive. It is the hive I've had for going on 6 years. My second hive is a swarm I caught last year from my own hive. I caught 3 swarms and had 5 hives totaled in the fall. 2 were weak so I combined them. 2 died over the winter.
    - I just moved this past week so I had to move the bees to the new home 20 miles away. This has made them crazy. There's been a swarm in front of them for 24 hours and I was stung in the leg just walking 20 ft. or so from the hive.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Aggressive Bees

    Quote Originally Posted by KYBEEs View Post
    Could my hives have been re-queened with a more aggressive type of bee? Should I re-queen? Is it too late for that this year?
    Not trying to talk you out of requeening your hives, but how long have they been aggressive? It is not uncommon for bees to get more defensive in the summer. Most years we are in a dearth now.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Aggressive Bees

    Quote Originally Posted by tsmullins View Post
    Not trying to talk you out of requeening your hives, but how long have they been aggressive? It is not uncommon for bees to get more defensive in the summer. Most years we are in a dearth now.
    I guess since spring. It seems like all year they've been after us. The hives were pretty close to the house before and made us not want to be in the yard this year where as in past years that's where we lived. At my new house they are far off but I'd still like them to chill out.

    I figure it cant hurt anything to requeen... the big problem is that I don't think I can find the queen. I have a hard enough time finding it at the fair in the observation hive with someone pointing to it.
    _____________________________________
    Keeping since 2008 | 2 Hives | USDA Zone 6a

  7. #7
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    Washington County, Maine
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    Default Re: Aggressive Bees

    First of all, welcome to BeeSource!

    There was a big meeting for Kentucky Beekeepers last weekend - did you attend? Your state association seems like it has its act together so if you are not part of them, by all means check them out. Open hives are a great way to learn and best of all there is no pressure - every one is there to learn on someone else's bees!

    One thing I would like you to think about is the difference between aggressive and highly defensive bees. While the difference may not seem huge to you, it makes a big PR difference. What you describe is defensive behavior.

    Are these hives that you've had going for a couple of years? If they swarmed your new queen would have 50% genetics from her mother and 50% from one of the drones that mated with mom. Likewise 50% of the genetics of current brood would be from whatever drones are in your area. If you started off with a fancy queen sometimes offspring can be a bit "hot."

    In any event once you rule out that the bees are being bothered by something (nocturnal skunk visits as an example) by all means requeen. No hobbyist should tolerate bees like you are describing. By purchasing a mated queen you'll only have a few days interruption in your brood production - not enough to worry about. Get a marked queen if you can - it will make learning how to spot queens easier!

    Get some help in installing the new queen. One step that is very important will be finding the old queen and introducing her to your hive tool (euphemism for killing her) before the new queen is installed in the hive. Best of luck!

    ***
    I reread your original post - congratulations on keeping a hive going for six years!!! It would be miraculous for the original queen to still be laying up a storm so what you've got is either a swarm or a supercedure queen. What do you know about bees in your area? Are there other beekeepers keeping bees within flying distance of your hives? (Trying to figure out your drone source)
    Last edited by Andrew Dewey; 08-09-2014 at 06:22 PM. Reason: Reread initial post
    Master Beekeeper (EAS) and Master Gardener (U Maine CE) www.beeberrywoods.com

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Aggressive Bees

    Every year my hives are mean this time of year to varrying degrees. Its hot, dry, no forage. And just about everything wants to get into the hive. Come spring, during the flow they all will be nice as can be. In my experience, its rare to find a mean hive when food is plentiful and the hive is well off and queen-right. I have all ferals from this area (all open mated in Louisville), I've never purchased a southern packages, nuc or queen. Thats not too say the swarms arn't discendants of southern packages and the queens did not mate with southern package drones.

    What kind of forage do you have around right now, how much rain have you recieved in the last month. Are in farm country or is there some urban areas around. Do you see anything blooming, how dry is it. Are they hives in full sun?

    To andrew, the area has a long history of beekeeping since the 1700's. Louisville was a major port on the ohio, ships from the east going south down the mississippi. The reason this entire area was developed was because of the falls of the ohio. There are alot of hives in the area, in Southern indiana and counties surrounding Louisville. I know of several beekeepers in next door in oldham county. some with quite a few hives. A fellow sells honey to Heine Brothers Coffee in Louisville. I would get in touch with your county club.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Aggressive Bees

    Could my hives have been re-queened with a more aggressive type of bee?
    Yes, sometimes a mutt queen will have more aggressive workers depending on what drone is in your area.
    The mixed genetic of the Carnis and Italian will create more aggressive workers too.
    Should I re-queen?
    Yes, if you suspect that your bees are the aggressive type.
    Is it too late for that this year?
    No, it is never too late to requeen if they are willing to accept her.

    I will not tolerate a slight aggression by them after my first year. The Cordovan workers are much more gentle than the
    regular Italians. Now I'm replacing all my hives with the Cordovan queens. Nice color and less aggressive too.
    I luv bee source!

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Aggressive Bees

    Quote Originally Posted by KYBEEs View Post
    I figure it cant hurt anything to requeen... the big problem is that I don't think I can find the queen. I have a hard enough time finding it at the fair in the observation hive with someone pointing to it.
    Finding the queen in a strong hive is no easy task. Aggressive bees does not make the job any easier.

    Just curious, are these hives untreated?

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Aggressive Bees

    Requeening may certainly help the situation. However, if you are unable to locate your queen, how then do you plan to accomplish requeening? Locating and removing the resident queen is usually the basic first step in any requeening operation.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Aggressive Bees

    Sorry I've been slow to respond. I treated them in 2012 and intend to again this year.
    _____________________________________
    Keeping since 2008 | 2 Hives | USDA Zone 6a

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Aggressive Bees

    Requeening may certainly help the situation. However, if you are unable to locate your queen, how then do you plan to accomplish requeening? Locating and removing the resident queen is usually the basic first step in any requeening operation.


    My plan was to ask a friend for help. I wanted to find out if it was a good idea before cashing in a favor.

    edit: this was supposed to be a reply to the post above but I messed up.
    _____________________________________
    Keeping since 2008 | 2 Hives | USDA Zone 6a

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Aggressive Bees

    You haven't mentioned whether you are using smoke when you inspect your hives. It is absolutely critical to use smoke after the spring honey flow. During the flow you may or may not need it, but after things dry up colonies can get very defensive and smoke can make a huge difference. One of my out yards last weekend was crazy (all hives not just one). These colonies are normally very gentle, but this tells me that the cotton flow has dramatically reduced and any inspections at this point will require smoke.
    Horseshoe Point Honey -- http://localvahoney.com/

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Aggressive Bees

    Thanks for that. I usually use smoke but didn't always use to. I'm just now realizing the importance and always will in the future.
    _____________________________________
    Keeping since 2008 | 2 Hives | USDA Zone 6a

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Aggressive Bees

    Quote Originally Posted by beepro View Post
    Could my hives have been re-queened with a more aggressive type of bee?
    Yes, sometimes a mutt queen will have more aggressive workers depending on what drone is in your area.
    The mixed genetic of the Carnis and Italian will create more aggressive workers too.
    Beepro, I'm going to disagree with you on this one. Genetics is undoubtedly the key word here, but not necessarily consistent, even within a strain. My brother and I purchased 3 packages of Italians last year, and then split those into 6 by season end. we also purchased a couple of Carni queens and while one did not make it, the second one took. We now have mixed breed with Italian/Carni mix. The initial Italians we received from California, were extremely docile and nice. The Carni's were even more docile and nice. Now the mix is at least as nice as the original Italians that we received. So our experience contradicts your observation above.

    Having said that, however, I am very much aware that within the Italian breed, I have seen a full spectrum of attitude from very nearly African mean all the way down to my current extremely docile and nice. So my point is that a sweeping observation, even within a pure strain, may not be totally valid. Just yesterday, I had an inspection from our Utah State Dept. of Agriculture and Food Entomologist. We went through my 6 hives pretty thoroughly, and as usual, I wore only a pair of standard work gloves. In the 3 hours we spent, I finally got stung once in the last 5 minutes of the inspection, and I frequently can inspect most of my hives all the way to the bottom, without getting a single sting. I certainly understand that I am currently spoiled nearly rotten with my Italian/Carni mix, but that is really the point for this O.P.

    The other comments thus far are true. Hives will behave differently throughout the year depending on flows, temps and health, but overall, if they are largely mean, then you can certainly re-queen with nicer strains to improve your conditions. I live on an acre, but we can walk or mow or be anywhere in the yard with zero issues with my bees. My apiary is in the far corner away from neighbors, but I walk in and around it frequently and even work and inspect my bees with no protection at all, on a regular basis. We made queens this year, so I was into nucs, on many occasions twice a day, with no gloves, veil or any protection. While this really isn't that typical, it certainly is a reality, and can serve as an example of what can be achieved.
    Workingtosavetheworld1beeatatime:-)~ Researching winter loss prevention- 12 yrs, 2 recent - 10 Hives, WARMBEES.COM

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Aggressive Bees

    By the way, when a bee decides to come after you, I'm relieved when they choose my hair. It takes them a bit to get to the point of being able to sting you, and you know exactly where they are. Simply slap them like a mosquito really fast. The aggressive bee is then dispatched, and you will rarely get stung on the hand or the scalp. Also less guts in your hair than you might think. Up until they land in my hair, they are totally random, and you could get stung anywhere. Not all bees that come after you will end up stinging you. I will wave one off from my face, but pretty much anywhere else, I don't bother. Many just move on, or then choose my hair, and then I've got them. Pop! - no more aggressive bee! I win about 98% of such exchanges.

    Obviously frantic behavior provokes further attack. So swatting wildly and/or reacting wildly will increase your chances of getting stung. I was probably attacked 7 or 8 times yesterday during my 3 hour inspection, I only had to dispatch 2. The others never followed through with their attack. The one that did finally get me in the last 5 minutes, was a total hit and run on the forehead, no warning whatsoever. I had no less than 10,000 bees in the air during that last box (my strongest, and the entomologist was standing in their flight path), and I only had two or three that decided to come after me!

    I did have a brief discussion with the entomologist regarding the many beekeepers that he sees, and stings and aggression. His comment was that the most problems he runs into, when he feels the need to suit all the way up, is when people don't use smoke. Some simply don't believe in using smoke, and there is a marked difference in the behavior of the bees. The other thing that he mentioned was that some that have complained that they have mean bees, simply exercise very little finess while working their bees. They move fast and bang, slam, knock, bonk, and etc. while working their bees. I've learned that slow smooth, quiet movements provokes less anger. Basically respect the bees and try not to be a bull in a china closet, and you will have a better experience.
    Workingtosavetheworld1beeatatime:-)~ Researching winter loss prevention- 12 yrs, 2 recent - 10 Hives, WARMBEES.COM

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