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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi there,

I'm a new beekeeper and installed 2 packages 4/26/14. Both were really easy to inspect with no protective gear for the first 10 days. Now now one of them is getting cranky.

Hive A - friendly, few mites, straight comb, eggs & capped brood & open brood, queen seen on last inspection about 5 days ago

Hive B - more agitated on 2nd to last inspection but no stings, 5 days later (the most recent inspection) they were stinging and chasing people (now I'll suit up for them), more varroa mites than the other on every inspection board exam (the other hive will have 1-3 mites, this hive will have 10-15 mites), fewer combs drawn out, some cross combing because I bought some starter comb from the beekeeper & his comb was wonky and it's causing the next comb over the cross comb - so I am ripping apart 1-1.5" of comb at the top of the frames for the last 2 inspections (when the hive started getting cranky) - I don't see brood in those cells, it's nectar/sugar syrup, I haven't seen the queen since the first inspection but I'm new, I am seeing eggs (& capped brood & open brood)- so I think she's there.

If I sit in the bee yard about 15 feet from the hives in a chair for a while, now a bee or two (from Hive B? - I think that's where they go back) will start buzzing in my face until I move away.

- Is it the damage to the comb that's making them cranky? So I'm causing it? So no need to requeen, it's a normal reaction & I should stop prying apart those frames?
- We have some barn swallows that live on the property & I see them swooping through the bee yard occasionally, but if they're a problem, wouldn't both hives be cranky?
- Otherwise I don't see any evidence that skunks or anything else are bothering them.

I'm thinking of giving them more time, but if Hive B stays cranky, should I requeen it? Or should I just stop pulling apart those two areas of cross combing when I do an inspection? (I was doing it to try to "normalize" it and keep the next frames out from getting even worse.)

Thanks!!

- BA Shane-Holser
 

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I'd say give them some time. Hives will often be cranky after you work them for as much as a day or two, depending on the breed and other conditions. We used to have to be careful in the yard after the bees were worked or you might get chased.

Also, factors like temperature, wind, a dearth in nectar flow, being queenless, disease, can all affect how cranky they are, in addition to genetics. So give them a little time, then careful inspection should reveal weather this is temporary, or permanent, or due to one of the other factors. If it turns out to be permanent, then consider re-queening.
 

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I'm less than 20 miles fromyou, so same weather and flowering conditions. Some of my hives have been quite uncharacteristically a bit testy this week, but I think it will settle down. I have had to be in their faces a bit more than usual recently.

Can you move the "cross-combed" frames (not sure exactly what you're describing) farther out of the center of the hive to an area where you could afford to ignore it a bit more? Obviously if it's your brood combs, you can't. I'm pretty tolerant of slightly wonkiness and expect to have some comb-to-comb adhesions which are usually not too difficult to slice apart when I want to view the frames, so I don't remove it aggressively. At this time of year I am looking at all the frames more intensively (for swarm management reasons), but my experience last summer was that I looked at them less and less as time went by. Which probably made the bees a bit calmer. Over the winter, of course, I didn't pull any frames apart and the bees got extremely docile.

With 10-15 mites (is that per 24 hours, or per 72-hour period?) you are edging up towards the spring-season treatment threshold. I note you are hoping to be TF, but do you have a (non-chemical) plan to address that? The mites aren't going to go away, nor are the bees going to be able to cure themselves of mites.

I loathe dealing with mites, and do so grudgingly and sparingly, but I know that without addressing it in some fashion that I will lose my hives. But kudos to you for being among the few new beekeepers who start out monitoring at all.

I hope your hivs give you as much fun in your first year as mine did for me last summer.

Enj.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thank you both so much for the thoughtful replies!
I'll give it some time before I make any decisions about the queen - maybe they're having a bad week, or the breeze was bothering them, etc?
I think I mean "adhesions" when I said "cross combing". The comb bridges & sticks to 2 frames at the same time so when I pull them apart, it rips the comb. It is a brood frame (frame 4), so I guess don't move it. The frame next to it (frame 3 - that it sticks to) so far has nectar & some pollen in it, FWIW frames 5 & 6 have a patch of adhesion, too. Do your bees care when you slice into the comb to get the frames apart (if no bees get hurt)?
And I see 10-15 mites in 72 hours. I was thinking about how bummed I'll be when this "not treating" decision leads to dead hives. But I was thinking maybe I can split the hive that's doing well & try to get 2 hives to survive the winter? We'll see - the best laid plans of mice and men... LOL
And I'm kinda glad to hear your hives are testy too. Maybe mine will settle down, too.
 

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Hives here in Central Arkansas will be calm on day and then the barometer starts falling the bees get meaner'n who thought it.
 

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I don't have huge experience with this, but they definitely get cranky when their capped brood get ripped open. If this happened during some of the comb separation problems it might well set them off. My experience was standing next to a fellow collecting queen cells, which required sacrifice of some surrounding brood. The bees let us know they didn't like it.
 

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Well, 10-15 (which is it, you shouldn't rely on just eyeballing, count the wretches, it's not onerous) mites in 72 hours only 3 -5/ day. That's tolerable, but not to be ignored.

I wouldn't plan on splitting your hives this year - they have a very big job in front of them to create enough comb and store enough honey to make it through the next 11 months, or so. If you were counting using brood breaks to suppress mites, that's probably too optimistic for your establishment year since that would need to happen just when they are finally getting themselves sorted out from being hived in new equipment

As for the cross comb, I just cut it where necesssary, or let it pull apart naturally and carefully re-match it when I put things back together. Once they get a couple of combs of brood drawn out, you could try moving the wonky frames gradually towards the sides until they can be pulled out and replaced.

You may also have been spoiled by your first un-protected acquaintances with them. What they are doing sounds normal for a new hive and new beekeeper. It took about eight or nine months for my bees and me to get used to each other. And as I mentioned, since I am in their business every few days now, they are getting a bit fussier in the last day or so. But the other day (after an intense day with my biggest hives the day before) I fell asleeep while sitting out watching the hives, about six feet from their fronts. I awoke to find several bees exploring around on my (gloved) hands and veil, not cross or grumpy, just curious. I think if I'd been awake their flying presence would have made me feel anxious, but because I was napping it didn't worry me. So neither bees nor my pelt were harmed by the event. You might try sitting quietly, protected in jacket and gloves, and see if they are curious or cranky when they fly out to see you.

Enj.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I thought they would be upset if the comb manipulation involved brood, so I was curious about the nectar & pollen cells I disturbed. I didn't see any brood that far up the frame. It's been between 10 & 15 mites each count, eg the last count I did 3 days ago was 13 mites, the other hive had 1 mite.
Good to know I can't split them this year. I'll let them build up & consider it next year.
And maybe I just have to suck it up & put protective gear on when I'm out there for now, at least while I'm learning & they're settling in. I've been spoiled going to other beeks' bee yards & hive inspections where I haven't had to wear any.
Thanks again for all the help & thoughts!
- BA
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
And you are right around the corner from us, Enj! :)
 
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