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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Is it normal for a hive to become more aggressive the stronger it gets? My strongest hive which has 15-17 deep frames of bees in it, put me out of their hive this afternoon. I do not wear leather gloves when working my bees. I am too fumble fingered with them on. I don't like wearing gloves at all but I generally wear a pair of thin, latex like nitrile gloves which typically last without a hole in them for a good 2-3 minutes.....

I started the inspection of my strongest hive, which was the fourth hive of the afternoon, around 5:30 CDT. I inspected the upper box which contained lots of nectar, pollen and 4-5 frames of capped brood. I then removed the top deep and got one frame about halfway unstuck from the box when the lower deep really got upset. My 11 year old son helps me with the hive inspections and mans the smoker. I got stung on my right palm right where the glove had torn during hive #1 inspection. I guess that bee released an alarm pheremone because the bees were covering my hand. I got my son to smoke me but it did little to help. There were 100's of mad bees bumping my face screen, so I decided to close the box and call off the inspections for the day.

When my smoker lighting set the pasture on fire on Tuesday, one of the fence posts that surround my bee yard burned in two at ground level. I took my son to the house and went to replace the fence post so I could get the electric fence back up around my hives. As soon as I got back to the bee yard, now without my bee jacket on, two or three guard bees met me. I retreated back and decided to try it again. The guard bee met me at the fence post hole, stinger first, right in the forehead. I took off running that time. That was when I decided to go get my bee jacket and that also when I made a bad decision to run to my 4 wheeler and retrieve it to save time from walking 1/2 mile back to my house. I jumped on the 4 wheeler and took two stings to the shoulder as I retreated.

On a positive note, the hive that I reversed brood boxes on 2 weeks ago has now nearly filled the upper deep with nectar and pollen. I'm estimating that there's now 40 lbs of nectar in the deep which had nothing but empty comb 2 weeks ago. I only saw one hive beetle during the inspection of the 3 1/2 hives. The bees have reworked comb in all hives checked and now there is quite a bit of drone brood in each hive. Most of it is capped. They had also made bridge comb between the boxes which was filled with drone brood. I saw no mites on any drone larvae that were exposed when I separated the boxes. No queen cells with eggs were seen in any of the hives. One hive had one queen cup made and the 2nd strongest hives had 3 queen cups made, but like I said, no eggs in any of them. I saw drones walking the frames in each hive but not a significant number. I'm not sure how long it takes drones to hatch after they are capped but our weather for next week looks very cool so I won't be making any splits until that passes. The dogwoods should be in full bloom by the first part of next week, just in time for the cold weather. I guess we will have a dogwood winter this year, just like nearly every other year that I can remember. Next will be blackberry winter then the cold will be over.
 

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Those gloves are not what you need. I have Nitrile gloves that last for weeks and I run 500 hives. So they get used. Get yourself some better gloves.

It's nice to have your 11 year old helping, but you need to have control of the smoker and put it to better use. Seems to me you weren't smoking enough. Smoking should be done before a problem occurs.

Instead of getting more aggressive the older they get, maybe their aggressiveness has more to do w/ the time of day you worked them. Later in the day the more bees will be in the hive, coming home from a hard days work. More bees means more guards.
 

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Instead of getting more aggressive the older they get, maybe their aggressiveness has more to do w/ the time of day you worked them. Later in the day the more bees will be in the hive, coming home from a hard days work. More bees means more guards.
Definately all of the above, in addition they seem to be a little more testy this time or year, not sure about alabama, but they become nicer middle end of april and may. Then perhaps meaner when things get dry and hot July/August.

This spring I've had racoon problems, neighbors set out food for the feral cats which I think keeps the racoons around...they tore tore up a inspection board, bite marks everywhere on one hive, they are testy. If I knock on the box and a ball comes out.
 

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I've used several types of nitril gloves...it wasn't until I got the 15 mil, that they were thick enough to withstand a sting...also, nitril is more durable than the same mil. latex..
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I will look for the better quality nitrile gloves. Are you guys using a tight fitting glove or something like dishwashing gloves? If you could post a link to what you use, I would appreciate it. My normal smoking routine is to smoke the entrance with a couple of puffs then smoke the bees down into the frames as we work down into the hive. Maybe I'm not doing that right.

I do think the time of day had more to do with it. I would have waited until I had time mid day Saturday but the weather isn't looking good here for then.
 

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When you have time to work your bees, work your bees. But you have to adapt your procedures the way the bees tell you. You one day will be able to handle the situation you found yourself in and finish the job. It's a matter of experience and putting up w/ some stings.

Stings are gonna happen. Scrape them off and keep on working. Having them bouncing off of your veil sounds to me like maybe you should have smoked the entrance again as well as the box you had off of the hive and the top bars of the box still on the stand.

Was that box above another box? Did you break the bond between the two boxes? Before I start prying frames out of a box above another I always break the two boxes apart. When you don't, chances are, some bottom bars are glued to top bars below, making it hard to get that frame out. That agitates bees too.

Keep on keepin' on.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
The box that got upset did have another box on top of it. I didn't break the bond between the two boxes while inspecting the upper deep and there was quite a bit of bridge comb with larvae between the two boxes.

I don't mind the stings and I don't really mind the aggressive bees, but I didn't want my son to get stung multiple times if I could prevent it. I don't even wear a jacket or veil when the flow is on. I know my son will get stung but he is getting more accustomed to the bees each time we check them and I don't want him to get eaten up and get discouraged from helping me. It's gonna happen for him, but maybe it will be one or two stings and not 10-20. Yesterday I could see that situation turning into a sting fest if we had stayed in the hive. He didn't express any interest in helping me until late in the year last year so this is only the 3rd or 4th time he has helped me check them. He couldn't wait to tell "momma" last night how he was getting more use to the bees and stood right up next to the hives this time. Two weeks ago when I checked them he stood about 10 feet from the boxes puffing the smoker like an old freight train. LOL
 

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The box that got upset did have another box on top of it. I didn't break the bond between the two boxes while inspecting the upper deep and there was quite a bit of bridge comb with larvae between the two boxes.

I don't mind the stings and I don't really mind the aggressive bees, but I didn't want my son to get stung multiple times if I could prevent it. I don't even wear a jacket or veil when the flow is on. I know my son will get stung but he is getting more accustomed to the bees each time we check them and I don't want him to get eaten up and get discouraged from helping me. It's gonna happen for him, but maybe it will be one or two stings and not 10-20. Yesterday I could see that situation turning into a sting fest if we had stayed in the hive. He didn't express any interest in helping me until late in the year last year so this is only the 3rd or 4th time he has helped me check them. He couldn't wait to tell "momma" last night how he was getting more use to the bees and stood right up next to the hives this time. Two weeks ago when I checked them he stood about 10 feet from the boxes puffing the smoker like an old freight train. LOL
I had similiar issues with my largest hive too..

I posted a while back about aggressive hives and very similiar experiences .... The main response was that I was either crushing bees when I worked or they were cranky pre honey flow. I slowed down and the bees have been foraging like mad the last month and I have had no issues... I have been visiting my 3 hives about once a week and no issues and very pleasurable...

So yesterday I was working my strongest hive and the one that tends to get moody. It was early morning around 9 but it was in the 50's... I wanted to pull a couple of frames from the deep to start another nuc. Everything was going fine until I went into the deeps. I pulled 1 frame and I could tell they weren't happy I pulled another and then came the sweet banana smell and the who hive erupted. Bees poured out of the hive and I was covered it was shocking but I never got stung through suit. I rushed to put the hive back together and they kept coming I am not talking 100's but 1000's and it was going to rain later song had to finish up.... I got the hive back together mostly and got the heck out.... I cam back 4 hours later in the pouring rain to try and straighten the hive so no water could get in and they still attacked.... It's crazy they don't mind if I work the shallows but every time I go into deeps it gets crazy....

I have had to go to my shed which is next to the hives in my yard and no issues with guard bees though so maybe just bad day?
 

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I will look for the better quality nitrile gloves. Are you guys using a tight fitting glove or something like dishwashing gloves? If you could post a link to what you use, I would appreciate it. My normal smoking routine is to smoke the entrance with a couple of puffs then smoke the bees down into the frames as we work down into the hive. Maybe I'm not doing that right.

I do think the time of day had more to do with it. I would have waited until I had time mid day Saturday but the weather isn't looking good here for then.
I was looking at these gloves.

http://www.betterbee.com/Products/Gloves/Reusable-Nitrile-Gloves

I think this is what was talked about.
 

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Some hives react negatively to "too much" smoke. I'm not sure what you meant by "smoke them down", but certain colonies only need a couple puffs across the top bars and that's all it takes. Over smoking the same bees might actually make them very upset. You have to play it by ear with the smoker.

Also, be sure to allow some time to go by after smoking before you start digging into frames. I like to smoke the entrance, pop one end of the top or inner cover up, give them a couple shots of smoke across the top bars, set the lid down, and wait for about 30 seconds or so before removing the top. That seems to give the bees time to scatter and reduces the number of guard bees when you do pull the top off. I do the same thing when removing each box. Pry one end of the box up, a shot of smoke across the top bars of the box underneath, set it back down and wait a little while before removing the box.

Any additional smoking is dictated by the mood of the colony, weather conditions, or time of year. Sometimes that's all the smoke you need for the full inspection.

You are probably already aware of these things, so this is for the benefit of new beekeepers who may be reading this thread and experiencing similar situations.



I use Harbor Freight 5 mil nitrile gloves and they work good for me. I can usually get through a yard of 5-8 colonies without a tear. They also sell a 7 mil industrial nitrile glove which might hold up better if you are having a problem with tearing. After inspection my hands are completely sweaty so they are not reused. They are cheap and keep all the propolis off my hands. The bees can sting through them but it rarely happens.
http://www.harborfreight.com/5-mil-nitrile-x-large-powder-free-gloves-100-pc-68498.html
 
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