Iíve read any number of posts with theories about how and why bees can get mean, whether through heat or hunger, overcrowding or bad genetics. I wanted to ask yíall the opposite question, how or why might bees become less aggressive?
Iíve seen my fair share of mean bees. All the bees I manage are from feral stock, and here in SoCal, that inevitably means an admixture of African genetics. I donít treat, which for me is the reason to put up with the occasional hive I have to kill. I once even had an apiary where the bad genetics took over, and that was unpleasant.
Anyhow, the back yard apiary in question is in the city, so almost certainly not a genetic island. None of the hives there have died from disease in a long time, and none were introduced this year. If a hive loses a queen and empties out, I will change out the boxes and find them occupied again in a few months. Itís a beautiful time of year here, and good to be a bee: plenty of nectar, pollen and sunshine. The worst they have to contend with are the birds that have learned what a good place the yard is to find bees to eat. They perch by the hives.
I was doing a hive inspection this weekend, going through all the honey supers looking to see which I would be taking next month. I smoked them all good, and took my time, as I usually do. About three quarters of the way through, I realized I was working a bunch of bees who could have cared less that I was there. I could have done the entire inspection, every hive, without gloves or veil. Not a single bee even looked at me, at least, none I saw.
Now as I say, Iíve been working with feral stock for long enough to be acutely aware of the greater spectrum of aggressiveness that Africanized bees exhibit. To anyone who says to me, these are not your grandfatherís bees, I would be the first to agree. Iíd tell them that Iíve taken the lids off boxes of bees that marched out in unison with their sole intent to kill me. (Rare but terrifying!)
Anyone care to speculate how come, in this particular apiary, the bees have become so gentle?