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Discussion Starter #1
Is there a accepted standardized scale from 1-10 regarding gentleness? How do you measure gentleness?

Something like....

1 Can be worked in non-white T-Shirt and shorts without veil. During normal frame manipulation for at least 30 minutes no head butting. Require little to no smoke to stay calm.

2 Can be worked in white T-shirt and shorts, occasional head butting requires veil. Becomes more defensive within first 15 minutes. Single bees will only sting when many bees are crushed during handling. Smoke recommended to keep bees calm.

3 Requires veil. Can be worked in white T-shirt and white pants, smoke required to distract bees when opening telescoping cover. Single bees may sting when there is a sudden movement or noise while handling frames

4. Requires pollinator outfit on most days. Multiple bees are headbutting. 0 - 1 unprovoked stinging incident per year.

5. Requires smoke to open inner cover without defensive action. Gloves recommended when removing frames. Not suitable for suburban or urban beekeeping in close proximity to neighbors.

6. Defensively agressive when removing frames. Several guard bees attack readily. Gloves required. One or more unprovoked stinging incidents per year

7. Full body protection required when opening hive and removing frames. Almost immediate multiple head butting when standing within 5ft of the hive. May sting at slightest provocation within 5ft of hive. Requires smoke to remove telescoping cover without immediate defensive behavior. Multiple stinging incidents per year.

8. Full body protection required when opening inner cover of hive. May sting unprovoked within 5ft of the hive.
When provoked single bees may pursue for over 30 feet

9. Full body protection required when opening tescoping cover. May sting unprovoked within 10ft of hive. When provoked may pursue in mass for over 30 feet

10. Full body protection required when approaching hive. May sting unprovoked within 30ft of hive. Working bees requires no unprotected bystanders or animals. When provoked may pursue in mass for over 100 feet
 

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The scale varies, depending upon the beekeeper.
When I work hives during nasty weather, I
expect to get stung, and the bees never
disappoint me.


When I work them in good weather, I rarely
get stung. Moreso during a flow.

With 5 to 6 hives, as opposed to 56 hives,
I'd submit that you should be requeening
anything that you can't work in a tee-shirt
and shorts in good weather.

Life's too short, etc, etc.
 

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Shoefly, you are looking for a system like the Beaufort Wind Scale. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaufort_scale As far as I know there is not any comparable scale for gentleness and I have read a lot of vintage bee books.

I personally agree that such a scale would be very useful. I recently posted a poll, which originally defined 8 bees head butting the veil as defensive. I was quickly notified this number was too low. Well I consider that number to be defensive but someone in Mexico would not.

Some sort of scale like you suggested would be very useful. Maybe you should send a letter to the bee journals proposing one.

[ July 17, 2006, 09:44 PM: Message edited by: magnet-man ]
 

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Is it also possible to do a scale on the different strains of bees, so newer beekeepers might be able to see which strains are more docile and which are not? Thanks.
 

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I think Michael Bush has his own sort of scale for gentleness that I like. I would also like it defined better so when I produce queens I could convey their expected behavior to potential buyers in a way that buyers could identify with and understand. As it stands now you can only say a hive is either gentle or hot because there is no middle ground defined. I’ve heard the word ‘warm’ used before but what does that really mean? As a mostly hobby beekeeper I feel comfortable with bees up to about level three by your definition. Most of my hives don’t head butt much at all but a few will jump at your hands and fingers if you move them too quickly thus requiring gloves. I think I must agree with others that due to the subjectiveness of the beekeeper and the variability in individual hives with various environmental conditions it would be really hard to come up with a reliable gentleness scale.
 

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various environmental conditions it would be really hard to come up with a reliable gentleness scale.
I think it could be done. The assumption is that the rating is done on a sunny and low breeze day. There could be two rating columns, one for nectar flow and one for dearth.

It would take a considerable amount of time, to get the ratings between flow and dearth comparable. If you have years to develop a true scale and the statistical background you could make beekeeping history. Just think it would be known as the Shoefly Gentleness Scale. ;)

[ July 17, 2006, 07:44 PM: Message edited by: magnet-man ]
 

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Nice idea but I don't see how you could do it. there are to many variables, Weather, time of day, flow or dearth, skunk activity, machinery etc. Then you have all the beekeeper issues like use enough smoke, move fast, degree of manipulation, left open to long, bump or drop things. I can see it now " you said that queen you sold me was #2 on the scale and today they were a #4 what can you do about it?"
 

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Well you need to do a composite score. To classify bees as hygienic you need to test a number of times from nectar flow to dearth.

You need to define in detail how the test is to be carried out. Time of day, weather condition, manipulation, number of frames of brood, etc, so everyone is testing under the same condition. If you don’t meet the testing conditions your test results are not valid and can not be used.

The object of the rating is to compare colonies and races using the same criteria and conditions.

My NWC are a 1 at noon on a sunny day in dearth and flow.
My Minnesota Hygienic colony is a 7 on a sunny day in a flow. Well she was. She lost her head the other week.
My Cordovan Italians are between a 3 and a 4.

It would be better than nothing, which is what we have now. How do you define a hot hive? How hot is it? Someone in Texas might define a hive as gentle where the same hive in Ohio would be defined as hot.

Although Shoefly’s scale is well thought out, I don’t think it is the correct one. Like I said it is a multi year project and would involve a lot of statistics. But the Shoefly Scale is a start.

[ July 17, 2006, 09:30 PM: Message edited by: magnet-man ]
 

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You have to figure weather too. We have 2-3 months of drought, heat, dearth, you name it. I'm cranky too. It was 105 today, rained an inch, and went back to 104. Can figure out how that felt about 6 pm?
 

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>I think Michael Bush has his own sort of scale for gentleness that I like.

I think I posted one off the top of my head once. I don't remember it exactly, but here's a shot at it:

Gentle. You can open the hive up with no smoke and no bees come at you. Eventually, of course, some are flying around confused because you're in the way. You can blow on the bees to move them around and they just move. They don't fly in your face and they don't start running madly in circles. You can run your hand over the top of the combs and no bees fly out at you.

Kind of gentle. You open the hive up with no smoke and a few fly at you, but if you use smoke none do.

Average. You open the hive with no smoke and they get a bit irate. But if you use smoke they usually don't unless it's cloudy, or cold, or late in the day.

Hot. You open the hive up with smoke and several promply try to sting you. More keep buzzing around your head. They follow for a ways (100 yards maybe) but eventually leave.

Very Hot. You open the hive up with smoke and a few get excited and try to sting you but they keep getting more and more angry even with some more smoke. In a short time they are starting to pour out of the hive at you.

Viscious. You approach to ten feet BEHIND the hive and they are already bouncing off your veil. You get to five feet behind the hive and they are POURING out of the hive at you. The smell of banana is in the air. They follow you forever. You finally just clap your hands on them to kill the last two or three who won't leave after twenty minutes and several hundred yards. They hunt you down two days later hundreds of yards from the hive and sting you when you're just walking out your back door. And then if you dare to actually go OPEN the hive...
 

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Any scale or rating that uses judgement or comparison is only good for colonies graded in in the same local, under the same conditions etc. In addition any judgemental, non measurable trait, should all be performed by the same person. What is agressive to me may well be considered gentle to someone else. Also, you cant compare my honey yield to yours if your location isnt equally abundant in nectar. Personally, I feel some breeders are focusing only on the hygenic, grooming and smr behaviors and are ignoring the other valuable traits. "Varroa Tolerant" is becoming a "buzz word" with little or no meaning. BUT, thats not to say we dont need varroa resistance. Attention should be been given to the remaining genetic make up of the bees. Thats why I admire the accompolishments of the New World Carnolian Project. Big accompolishments will be made through small steps.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Beesurv et al, these were good points. There are quantitative measures that are fairly non-subjective, repeatable, standardized and measurable.
In the absence of a "sting metering device" or "head-butt metering device" the current gentleness scale comes down to something similar to a wine quality scale. Yes, there are all kinds of variables that cannot be held constant but somehow we generally still agree on what is considered an excellent, good, mediocre, cooking wine or undrinkable wine with only minimal input from an analytical chemistry lab report.

To make a gentleness scale more quantitative I liked the suggestion of the "handwaving test". What about using a 8 by 8 inch black felt covered wooden board moving it at a speed of 3ft/sec at 1 inch distance from the frame 1 minute after opening the hive at 12 noon on a sunny day? You could repeatedly count the bees that "attacked" the board and could come up with a "square inch or square foot attack rate". Has anybody tried something similar?
 

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I know that some researchers have used a similar method when studying AHB. It is usually used for demostration purposes.

[ July 18, 2006, 04:54 PM: Message edited by: magnet-man ]
 

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I think that you could rate a single hive at a single point in time. An "identical" hive a few feet away can't be expected to behave just the same. You are asking your bees to be more predictable than breeds of dogs, or horses, or corn. Lab results can show trends, but all bets are off in the field.

If you google " races of honeybees" you will find some really general statements. "Very Gentle" "Nervous" etc. Assigning numbers from 1 to 10 may not be realistic.

Well, except for AHB being at 11.
 

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>Someone in Texas might define a hive as gentle where the same hive in Ohio would be defined as hot.

I am not so sure I agree with that. I have worked my bees with/without gear, dark clothes/light clothes, sunny weather/cloudy weather, day/night. Just about every combination of things discussed on this thread. I have yet to receive an unprovoked sting. All stings I have received were when through my careless action I physically "roughed up" the bee that stung me. I have received a couple of stings from bees that became trapped in my clothing, but even then I could feel them in there wiggling around for 5-10 minutes before I got stung.

The only time I was chased away from a hive was when, as I squatted down in front to observe/listen, I had an unplanned, uncontrolled uh, shall we say, "release of gas". The girls reaction was instantaneous and I had to get away pretty quickly (no stings though). Somehow I don't think I can consider that "unprovoked".

My point is, I am from Texas, a newbee, but I am pretty darn sure I understand the definition of "gentle" bees. I am also pretty sure I will know the difference when I eventually experience a "hot" hive.
 

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My point is, I am from Texas, a newbee, but I am pretty darn sure I understand the definition of "gentle" bees.
----->

I don't think a bee sting feels any different in Texas than it does in Ohio.


Ocasionally, there is no need to 'experience' a hot hive. Usually, 'Hot’ bees can be identified while the the colony is developing and before the major stinging episodes begin.

I look at 3 areas that give are early indicators that the colony may develop to be aggressive.

1. Temperament- Behaving or reacting in a gentle manner, easily controlled by smoke. No jumping, stinging or following.

2. Calm Behavior- The ability to stay fast on the frames with natural calm bee movement upon comb while inspecting. The tendency of bees to fly off the combs is correlated with their tendency to run on the combs and with stinging behavior.

3. Lack of Cross Brace- Comb connecting between top bars and on crown boards is not desired. This characteristic can easily be weeded out through cross breeding in a few generations. If you wonder why I place it in the aggressiveness category. The cross brace trait can lead to hives becoming un workable due to the difficulty of removing frames without rolling squishing bees, so it’s best to weed this trait out anytime you see it.

I don't tolerate are colonies that give off a very strong smell of alarm pheromone when the hive is opened and worked, and or when several bees exit an opened hive to sting without provocation. These are two indicators impending trouble and I will make it in my records. Every colony has a bad day one in awhile, but baring ‘me to blame’ or ‘the weather‘, these get requeened if I notice it reoccurring in a colony.
 

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Exactly, Pcolar for a queen to be doomed after just one episode is a rarity. However, that is noted and the 2nd time will spell her doom as well as all of the drones in that particular hive.
But in order to do selection of a larger number of colonies, a numerical index must be used. Beng from industry and an engineer I use the Kepner-Trego method of decision analysis. Everything is given a score that is determined by its severity or favorability and then given a weight to derive the final numerical rating, Actually its basically the same thing suggested by Laidlaw and used by the NWC project.
 

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In UGa's bee breeding program, they measure defensiveness as follows:

"Defense behavior is measured by dragging a leather patch across the tops of exposed combs for a total of 60 seconds and counting the number of stings received by the patch."

This is total formula for queen selection.

SI = (cm2 brood x 0.1) + (% solidness x 0.3) - (Varroa x 0.2) + (% hygienic x 0.2) + (weight gain x 0.1) - (no. stings x 0.1)

[ July 20, 2006, 04:54 PM: Message edited by: GaSteve ]
 

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----->
Is there a accepted standardized scale from 1-10 regarding gentleness? How do you measure gentleness?
----->

Shoefly,
Considering 1 to 3 would generally be graded as gentle, 4 and 5 an annoyance but still ok (if I'm in a good mood), and anything above # 6 would require requeening. Your scale can be reduced to about 3 levels.

Simple the grading system the better, grades can get lost in the numbers ocasionally.
 
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