New Keeper, unfriendly bees
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2016
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    Waynesburg, Pennsylvania
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    129

    Default New Keeper, unfriendly bees

    So I am in my second year of beekeeping. I live in southwestern Pennsylvania. I went into winter with four hives and into spring with 1. My hive that survived was from a swarm I had got last summer and they built up pretty quickly and were strong all of last year. This spring, they started strong so I started making some splits (walk-away splits) I now have three hives that are doing well and one that is just taking off. All from the same line of my overwintered queen. I have noticed a couple of the newer hives seem to have bees that are much more easily irritated and quicker to sting my gloves than ever before. Unless I smoke them really heavily, they get really stirred up and don't seem to settle back down until about 30 minutes after I close the hive (I've sat in my car and watched them). We have a garden about 50 yds away and they never used to bother us while in the garden, even if we did see them there occasionally. Now they're more likely to come and sting you.

    I've done hive inspections with other beekeepers and a few other swarms I got last year and none of them behaved this way at anytime. My thoughts have been to maybe try to requeen a few of the hives and see if that helps. I know I won't end up with all Italians, or all Carnolians, etc... but maybe mated queens can introduce some more gentle genetics? I'm sure as time goes on, and offspring mate with local bees, I may end up back where I started, but these bees just aren't fun.

    I've read where I should just pinch the current queens, wait a few days and introduce a new queen, or I've also read to just let the whole hive die out and start over (this seems like a much more aggressive approach, and one I hate to lose a lot of investment in).

    I needs some thoughts/suggestions/advice...

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
    Location
    yorkville, il
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    43

    Default Re: New Keeper, unfriendly bees

    i would pinch off the old queen and install a new one. the different genetics may be the ticket. i would hate to let the colony die off and start from scratch.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Bonn, Germany
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    Default Re: New Keeper, unfriendly bees

    Quote Originally Posted by LittleTreeGuy View Post
    ... and one I hate to lose a lot of investment ...
    Do you expect nectar flows? It would be much easier and less risky to replace the queens then.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Lamar Co. Alabama, USA
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    4,128

    Default Re: New Keeper, unfriendly bees

    If no nectar flow, feed them while re-queening. Your hives may be getting disturbed at night by skunks or raccoons. That would make them more aggressive too.

    Re-queening aggressive hives usually solves the problem quickly. You can pinch the old queen and put the queen cage with the new queen in the hive an hour or so later. By then the hive will know it doesn't have a queen. If you wait a couple of days, the hive will build queen cells as they try to replace the queen. If you don't destroy all those queen cells, the virgin that emerges or the hive (knowing it has raised a queen and she has emerged) will kill your bought queen.

    Good luck with your re-queening efforts.
    "Sometimes the best action, with bees, is no action at all."

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    Location
    Spring, Texas
    Posts
    272

    Default Re: New Keeper, unfriendly bees

    Those bees sound just like my old wife of 41 years. The older she gets the more agitated she gets and the longer it lasts.

    I thought about requeening but I doubt that I can find a new dosile one.

    Seriously
    Can you get some mated/ laying queens from someone up around your part of the world?

    I would requeen with a laying queen from out of your area for different and hopefully better genetics depending on what breed of queen you want to get and the big plus is you save 4-6 weeks to get a new queen up and going and if the problem is some of the drones in your area you could easily have the same problem.

    Is there some breed of bees up there that you like or will do better in your area to try or a good price on?
    Last edited by JimD; 07-24-2018 at 03:27 PM.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Fenton, MI
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    403

    Default Re: New Keeper, unfriendly bees

    I have a stand with three hives on it. Nothing out of the ordinary - until today. I was chased, kamikaze'd, and stung several times today (and I wasn't even messing with the bees!) It seemed that any activity within 10 yards of them caused a few of them to break away and wreck havoc.

    It was a rainy, then sunny, then rainy, then sunny day today. I was into the hives yesterday, without smoke, and they were docile.

    If this continues I must do something! I have no idea just which hive was the pissy one though.

    Thoughts?

    Edit: If this behavior persists, what about adding a little honey be healthy to their diet? Might that calm them?
    The question is what to do, and the answer, as always, is complicated by a muddle of reason, emotion, and doubt.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    Location
    Spring, Texas
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    272

    Default Re: New Keeper, unfriendly bees

    That is an easy answer: Remember that you are dealing with a bunch of females and it usually does not matter the species most are "aggressive and unpredictable" or is it " unpredictable and aggressive".

    Was it a Weed eater by chance? The only time I have been attacked was a weeder abut 3 yards from the hive and I have been buzzed, bumped and stung at a few times but I had 100+ bees dive off the landing board in a all attack and sting mode.

    They were all over with many of the face screen and all with stinger out and trying to kick my butt.

    Try your bees again to see if it continues. If not requeen now while it is still time to get a laying queen installed before the fall flow.

    I will find out today if my split and queen install took or not.

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
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    West Jordan, UT, USA
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    1,119

    Default Re: New Keeper, unfriendly bees

    Quote Originally Posted by Jackam View Post
    I have a stand with three hives on it. Nothing out of the ordinary - until today. I was chased, kamikaze'd, and stung several times today (and I wasn't even messing with the bees!) It seemed that any activity within 10 yards of them caused a few of them to break away and wreck havoc.

    It was a rainy, then sunny, then rainy, then sunny day today. I was into the hives yesterday, without smoke, and they were docile.

    If this continues I must do something! I have no idea just which hive was the pissy one though.

    Thoughts?

    Edit: If this behavior persists, what about adding a little honey be healthy to their diet? Might that calm them?
    Stormy day is part of the problem. Working them without smoke is part of the problem. Might just be a 'mood' thing and changed tomorrow. Or... have you seen any sign of robbing?
    HBH is a nutritional supplement and feeding stimulant. I've never heard of it used as a sedative. Why are you feeding your bees? Are you in a dearth?
    I wouldn't use HBH or any other feeding stimulant or odorous essential oil in a dearth. It could lead to robbing.
    Never ask a barber it he thinks you need a haircut.

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
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    Fenton, MI
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    Default Re: New Keeper, unfriendly bees

    Quote Originally Posted by Hops Brewster View Post
    Working them without smoke is part of the problem.
    That was 24 hours prior to the moody day. They must really hold a grudge!

    Quote Originally Posted by Hops Brewster View Post
    HBH is a nutritional supplement and feeding stimulant. I've never heard of it used as a sedative.
    I was reading about HBH from an article that the originators wrote and they said that it calms the bees. Was just a thought!

    Quote Originally Posted by Hops Brewster View Post
    Why are you feeding your bees? Are you in a dearth?
    No Dearth and not feeding. I hope today is a new day and they are back to normal.
    The question is what to do, and the answer, as always, is complicated by a muddle of reason, emotion, and doubt.

  11. #10
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    Jun 2013
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    Fenton, MI
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    Default Re: New Keeper, unfriendly bees

    Quote Originally Posted by JimD View Post
    Was it a Weed eater by chance?
    No, but I was THINKING of mowing! My bees are mind readers!
    The question is what to do, and the answer, as always, is complicated by a muddle of reason, emotion, and doubt.

  12. #11
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    Jun 2013
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    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
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    Default Re: New Keeper, unfriendly bees

    Hey guys, please lay-off the sexist remarks about females' moods - they are way off-base. You should try putting up with stubborn, know-it-all, won't ask-for-directions males.

    And now back to queens: I wouldn't assume that you need to make a queen change if the behavior is relatively recent. A colony's temperament naturally changes over the course of a summer due to many factors. And quite frankly one of those natural factors is their keepers. Work your colony without smoke, as point of pride (see above for a possibly sex-based explanation for that) and they will be cranky afterward. Not just the next day, but as long as those guard bees retain their memory of the experience.

    Among the natural factors that can make a hive a bit more tetchy is a slow down in nectar production, not just an all-out dearth. What you probably aren't seeing are bees from nearby hives probing the defenses of your colonies to check out whether they might be good targets for robbing. You can't see this, but for sure your bees are aware of it. (Indeed, your foragers maybe occupied checking out other people's hives for the same reason.) So a colony in the north from mid-summer onward is on a heightened sense of alert against all perils (you and your hive tool being just one of them.)

    And by now, they probably have some awareness of the changing seasons (day length, for one) and they may appreciate that what stores they have are the difference between life and death over the winter, so they are naturally protective of that resource.

    I work my bees barehanded, most of the year, but from about mid-July to Labor Day, they often require the use of nitrile gloves.

    So decrease the frequency of your inspections for a bit, use smoke more effectively, go easier on them, and you and they will have fewer occasions for conflict.

    Up here in NY we are having periods of hot, dry weather, then periods of hot, humid and stormy weather. None of these make good days for poking around in the bees' space unless urgently needed. And you might also consider adding robbing screens to all entrances, which in my experience go a long way to keeping a calm, secure yard. If you absolutely have to work a grumpy colony, do it last and then get out of Dodge immediately afterward.


    Nancy

  13. #12
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    Jun 2013
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    Fenton, MI
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    Default Re: New Keeper, unfriendly bees

    Those hives seemed back to normal today. In 5 years I haven't experienced that sorta thing.
    It was probably a combo of no smoke (ego/laziness) and the weather.

    There's been some great info in this thread.

    I hope the OP has learned as much as I think I did!
    The question is what to do, and the answer, as always, is complicated by a muddle of reason, emotion, and doubt.

  14. #13
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
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    Default Re: New Keeper, unfriendly bees

    <p>
    Quote Originally Posted by LittleTreeGuy View Post
    ... I have read where I should just pinch ...
    To ease the whole situation, to make it less painful and less risky: one can make a nuc above an excluder: with combs without bees, but with brood. No need to perform a search for the old queen.</p>
    <p>
    &nbsp;</p>

  15. #14
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    Jun 2016
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    ann arbor, mi
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    212

    Default Re: New Keeper, unfriendly bees

    Quote Originally Posted by enjambres View Post
    Hey guys, please lay-off the sexist remarks about females' moods - they are way off-base. You should try putting up with stubborn, know-it-all, won't ask-for-directions males.
    ........... hmm...


    anyways... this season I have expanded 3 fold and the bee's were so calm and wonderful more than last year with less hives, until last weeks OAV. For two days they were kamikazee and I thought it was because of the OAV, but pay very close attention to robbing. The hive that was most aggressive was actually getting robbed. For the past 3-4 days anyone outside 150ft away will get bumped aggressively. I have reached a point where I have to move them somewhere else, too many little ones running around. This is the worst I have ever seen my bee's, they bumped my kitchen window till sunset trying to get in the house.

    I love them but sometimes I want to torch them.

  16. #15
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    Mar 2015
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    Triadelphia, West Virginia
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    Default

    LTG I'm not that far away from you, Marshall County WV. End of June to 3rd week of August is our dearth and my hives are always more aggressive in July/early August. Knotweed should start in 2 or 3 weeks and goldenrod shortly after that. They will probably calm down to some degree after that.

    All of my hives originate from trapped swarms and i open breed my queens and they are on the agressive end of the spectrum compared to package Italians but I live with it because they seem hardier. They are dark and small. In July I will sometimes get stung just for opening the gate to the bee yard or even just walking nearby. Other times of the year I sit in a lawn chair in the middle of 20 hives with bees all around and have no problems at all.

    Like others have said, weather, time of year (lack of flow/dearth), and late night harassment by animals can all contribute to a hives sour disposition. See if they don't calm down at then end of August when the knotweed blooms. If not learn to live with aggressive bees or requeen.

    If you choose requeening realize that everytime the bees swarm or requeen themselves or you make a split and open breed you most likely are going to end up with the same/similar disposition bees that you have now.

  17. #16
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    Dec 2015
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    Bozeman, Montana, USA
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    Default Re: New Keeper, unfriendly bees

    Some hives are just moody. However, it seems like sometimes the more fiesty hives make more honey and seem to survive a bit better but that might not be true. Thats just my random observations.

  18. #17
    Join Date
    Jul 2018
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    Mountain Home, Arkansas
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    48

    Default Re: New Keeper, unfriendly bees

    As far as sexist remarks, it is what is said that matters. I tell folks my hives are 99% female and I can tell it as soon as I open a hive: everything is spic and span, there is no dirt, no mold, no mildew, no dust, no garbage, white glove clean they are while void of greed or jealousness. Yes they are 99 percent females that work themselves to death in a few short weeks. Yes, 99% female and all 40,000 of them get along, no arguing, no fighting, no laziness, and share and share alike. A super organism of 99% females that rival our own higher intellectual societies. Yep, 99% female, remarkable aren’t they.

    Blessings

  19. #18
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    wilmington,nc
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    49

    Default

    May want to check the mite load as this is the time of year when the bee population is dropping and the mite population is rising. It would be a shame to pinch a queen and still have the same problem 30 dollars later. You may have some unseen visitors agitating the colonies at night looking for a sweet snack. Look for chewed up bees on the ground, looks like small wads of chewing tobacco. Raccoons and skunks will do this at one of my bee yards. I would comment on the drones in the colony, but I might get flamed.

  20. #19
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    Apr 2017
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    Aylett, Virginia
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    4,141

    Default Re: New Keeper, unfriendly bees

    In keeping with the sexism, like in real life, guys often do things they are totaly unaware of that really rile up the ladies in their lives. Fact, bees get testy in July and August in my area. I work without smoke except for those two months. Imagine coming home late from work on your wife's birthday with no card or present. Yeah, its THAT bad. There are numerous threads from last year that talk about how the bees suddenly turned mean in the summer. If it is not predation, mites, or clumsiness (sp?) on the part of the beekeeper, it is just phase that most hives will get over. Just like your wife will eventually get over the birthday slight (maybe even in your lifetime).
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  21. #20
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    West Jordan, UT, USA
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    Default Re: New Keeper, unfriendly bees

    Quote Originally Posted by beenoob View Post
    ........... hmm...


    anyways... this season I have expanded 3 fold and the bee's were so calm and wonderful more than last year with less hives, until last weeks OAV. For two days they were kamikazee and I thought it was because of the OAV, but pay very close attention to robbing. The hive that was most aggressive was actually getting robbed. For the past 3-4 days anyone outside 150ft away will get bumped aggressively. I.

    I love them but sometimes I want to torch them.
    Getting robbed is what came first, now they've become more defensive.
    Applying OAV might have annoyed them a bit , too.

    In a dry, hot season, everyone gets testy. bees, wasps, ants.... Food is harder to find, everything else is trying to steal what you've got... yeah, I'd get testy, too.
    Never ask a barber it he thinks you need a haircut.

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