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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Within the last few weeks my (only) hive, which I thought to be an extremely non-aggressive hive, has gotten more aggressive. In reality, it may simply be a more curious hive, I'm not sure of the threshold for average vs non-aggressive with bees. There have been no new stinging incidents since the change, there were two beforehand, both my fault. Now, however whenever I come within a few feet of the hive I arouse some interest from the bees and will have three or four loudly (perhapses aggressively) buzzing around my head. No head butting, just circling and occasional landing on my shoulders, in fact one unfortunately got caught in my hair and had to be swatted as I'm sure it would have resulted in a sting. Am I just being paranoid when all I have is a gentile hive going normal, or is this just a precursor to trouble that I should re-queen asap?

I'm not yet intimidated by the hive with its new behavior, as it has not resulted in stings, but I don't want it getting any worse. Also I'd rather let nature have its way with the genetics of the queen if possible, but I'm not dead set on it (no AFB in Albuquerque).

Some background on the hive, it had a new blue-Russian queen last year (when I started it from a nuc). They are being fed a 1:1 syrup, and have been fed off and on with 2:1 during the winter. They have been bringing a good amount of pollen as of late. There are no other hives near by that I am aware of, so I don't think robbing is a problem. I don't know if they are queen rite at the moment, and likely won't have the time (or someone to watch my back if they are indeed aggressive) to open the hive for a week or two to inspect. I've spotted 2 v-mites on the screened bottom on last inspection. All and all the hive appears from the outside to be a strong 2 deep lang hive. I don't know if it means anything by the 'curious' bees always seem to come from the bottom entrance where as the bees from the top can seem to care less.
 

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How's the weather? That's the one most controlling aspect of their temper I have ever observed. There are many things which iritate them enough to give them PMS, such as queenless, dearth, ETC., but the weather will do it quicker and to a greater degree than anything else.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Just when I thought I said everything that I thought I could say I had to forget something.
The weather has been nice, upper 60s low 70s during the day upper 30s and 40s at night for the last week or two. We also had our first rain in a long time last night, it was light and we needed it and more. Its been good flying weather for a good while.
 

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What do they do when you pop the top? Are you smoking them? I would guess you're in a dearth. Bored bees pay more attention. The real question is do they come after you and follow you. If so, then I'd be planning for a new queen.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Right now I have my hive configured as two deeps topped by an inner cover with a frame-less medium on top of the inner cover, with a garden cover on top. On the inner cover I have some old fondant (extra from cake decorating, the bees did not need it and have thus ignored it), a wintergreen oil grease patty (also ignored), and a coffee can with bur comb for the bees to remove honey / wax from to fit their need (not ignored). When I remove the garden cover (not the inner cover) without smoke, besides changing their buzz tone (not aggressive tone just different), they completely ignore me. I have not removed the inner cover since Nov 30th (see Topic: mouse evictions during cool temperatures). The only bees to take notice of me are the ones at the main entrance.

I don't think they followed me more than a few paces from the hive (other than the one caught in my hair), but they will follow me if I walk around the hive. They show intent, I do see them, apparently, specifically leave the hive to follow me.
 

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These are the Russians from Bosque, right?

You're not getting any nectar of any sort yet are you? The pollen is probably from the junipers and other evergreen bushes. I've got some frames of honey set out so mine are pretty much ignoring me when I'm around them.

I think these Russians are a bit more active than the Italians I've had, and there was a serious problem with the queens that came with those nucs. Lots of supercedure and outright loss of queens. Perhaps you've got a new queen? Santa Fe county has reported AHB. Or you could have a strain from Mosquero.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
These are the Russians from Bosque, right?
Yep, the original nuc and queen came from Ken Hays place.

I don't think any significant source of nectar is coming in, I've only seen a few flowers around town.

If I recall properly my original queen was still in the hive during my last November inspection. Hard to say for sure now without opening it up.
 

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not an expert at all here, but let me guess: they have a memory and as long as that generation of workers lives they will remember you and turn the others on to you. the weather is warm, they have used up some of their stores, and they think you are there to do what humans have always done - steal their honey.
 

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It has come as a big shock to me to recieve a colony recently that can be manipulated without smoke, they are calm and do'nt sting. My new Italians are very quiet but sting sometimes, the rest of my hives are all ferals and ALWAYS sting me.

Alex King (K142)
 

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The words normal and hive are mutually exclusive. Every thing depends on the stock, weather, time of year, amount of stores, any recent predation problem from skunks or bears, your method of handling, and any unusual odors you may have picked up on the way to the bee yard.(ie stopping to pet the landowners dog on the say in).
 

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I have two Russian hives. One is more docile than the other. It has always been like this with these two hives.I have been stung by the less docile of the two a couple of different times.I find this happens when it is windy.
 

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My Italians are so gentle it is a wonder. I can open the hive, and basically do anything I want and they don't resond to me at all. I have only had one do the head but thing and I ignored it and that was it, nothing more.

But I have had ferals that were bad right here in Iowa. Some of them are gentle but I find the ferals to be a little hotter as a rule. Could be just my location but we are far from AHB.
 

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Like JP I also have two hives with one very docile the other "less passive" with me. I have finally learned that they will reliably be very docile only AFTER I lightly smoke them. Otherwise, sometimes I can elicit a sting as I poke around under the inner cover.
 

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I have a wild collected Italian phenotype hive of bees that I can manipulate without smoke or veil and no stings.

Alex King (K142)
 

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Of my hives most are NWC and couple of Italian/Carniolan mutts. I had one hive last summer that was extremely defensive even in a 5-frame medium nuc. Going into the winter it was still very defensive but I chalked it up to very little nectar availability. (My other hives were nowhere close to this aggressive even under the same conditions.)

This spring the hive has continued to be defensive. I was walking by the hive the last weekend and noticed that when I got to within 5 feet 10 or more bees started coming out of the 3/4" drilled hole in the upper part of the hive. The stayed on the hive but followed my movements with quick jerking motions. I backed up to 10 feet away to see what they would do. ( I had a veil on) I waved one of my arms for about 2 secs. Within 1 second I had 15 bees trying to sting me and the hole was covered in bees enmass attempting to block the entrance.

I thought maybe they were short food, or queenless, or pests bothering them.

I suited up and got plenty of smoke. They had plenty of honey and I found the queen. There where no signs of skunks or anything else bothering them.

I decided to dispatch the hive. I wanted no such hive in my area producing drones this spring before I could requeen. Not to mention the fact that they were miserable to deal with.

That was one of the most aggressive hives I have ever dealt with.

What is normal? That kind of hive might be normal somewhere but not in my apiaries. Almost all of my colonies are extremely gentle.
 

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<no AFB in Albuquerque>

Not so sure of this. They hit your state sometime last year.

<the threshold for average vs non-aggressive with bees.>

This might reactivate this thread, but, Have you seen the German videotapes listed somewhere on this thread? They make a statement that riles me. They say most hobby beekeepers don't have a quality queen to raise queens from.

But then I see her working the bees in shorts, no veil and short sleeves. Maybe we should all reevaluate the definition of normal vs. aggressive. I do know that aggressiveness only exists because we allow it.

Hawk
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
<no AFB in Albuquerque>
Not so sure of this. They hit your state sometime last year.
There have been confirmed reports of AFB in Las Cruces (~225 mi from Albuquerque), and a single reliable unconfirmed sighting in Santa Fe (~70 mi from Albuquerque), but as of yet I have heard nothing about them being in Albuquerque. The beekeepers association seems to think that Albuquerque's altitude is too great for AFB to get a good hold, but I know nothing of their altitude requirements.

The good news is that it appears that now that things are in bloom they have settled down and once again have no interest in me. Though It saddens me a bit that I don't see a one of 'em working my apricot tree which is in full bloom, guess they found something more interesting. We are looking to get a cold snap soon that may kill of part of the local bloom, I guess I'll wait and see if they change there attitude again.
 

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I do not think that you are being paranoid at all. For Italians, I think that it is normal to be able to remove at least one frame of brood, without a veil and not get stung. For my russian hybrids and SMR hybrids a little smoke is required, but stings are still very rare.

Hawk,

It is thought that the "monticola" variety of bee in Africa exists separately from scut, primarily because of altititude tolerance. In South America, there are contradictory reports of AHb surviving at very high altitudes in the Andes. I'm geussing that AHb can compete anywhere with relatively constant annual temperatures or at least "pick up" these traits from european drones.
 
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