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Discussion Starter #1
Hi everyone. This is my 10th year in beekeeping and have bought new spring packages maybe 5 of those springs to replace winter losses. I have never had a problem with package bees being aggressive. In fact I never wore any protection as I never got stung and enjoyed being in the middle of the process. ( I have even scooped up balls of wayward bees with no gloves to help a bit). I hived 3 packages today and even as I opened the top and began shaking them into the hive I was covered in stinging bees. More than surprised to say the least. Not a couple of unhappy bees, but an organized defensive move by the package. (counting at least 12 to 16 welts). As you know you cannot outrun a bee and all the way to the shed to get my protective gear, they were intense. Came back to hive the other 2 packages and the response was the same from one, but the last package was a bit more docile. The only difference in this and all the other years is it was 70 degrees out(6pm) and most years it is upper 40's to mid 60's. Cannot find any similar experience like this on line. Any ideas or sharing similar experiences would be most appreciated. thanks. Sara
 

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what? Banana? No banana. I realize there is nothing to be done about it now, but when I encounter something that does not make any sense, I would like to know. No hive, brood or honey to protect, I should have not been an issue with them. Thoughts? Sara
 

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Most commercial packages, the bees are not related to the queen that came with them, so you can probably wait it out and things will improve.

However if you have always installed packages with no protective gear you have possibly been a bit lucky / spoiled. Me, i wouldn't chance it, you don't know what's in there till it's too late. Probably every commercial beekeeper has the odd extra aggressive hive, they would not be bred from, but at package making time those bees go into the packages along with the others.
 

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I've had an aggressive package from time to time. It seems like they're like that from the outset. I suspect they were from an aggressive hive when they were packaged or, as mentioned, they're not particularly crazy about their new queen. The banana reference is a good one. This year, I shook a package and smelled bananas right away. They were as aggressive as I've seen even though the temps were in the mid 30's that afternoon and they weren't very active. I was careful to switch out gloves after I hived them so that the residual scent wouldn't stir up the other packages I was going to hive. A few days later when I went to check on the queens, that colony was still aggressive (although I did see the queen and she was OK) so I suspect they pretty much came from a cranky colony. Normally, the advice for dealing with an aggressive colony is to change queens. Since that is essentially what happened when this package was made up, it'll be interesting to see how these bees behave over the next few weeks.

I don't know if this helps with your situation but since it was fresh on my mind I figured I'd share.
 

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I've had a calm hive go bonkers (chase me down hill doing a chicken dance) when a stinger from a different hive was in my glove. Dropped the glove and it was like a switch, worked them without gloves and perfectly normal. Did not happen again, even with same gloves.
 

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Many hives will get defensive in a hurry if you accidentally smash bees or injure them while working them. I do not like accidentally smashing bees when I work my hives for this reason, the bees get defensive quickly. The bees are probably just hotter than you are used to as mentioned, but maybe something to think about. Good luck.
 

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Was there still syrup left in the cans, or is it possible they were empty? If they had been out of syrup for a while that might explain their crankiness.

I agree with Oldtimer, you have been fortunate with your packages over the years. I no longer purchase packages but back when I did occasionally there would be a loose cannon in the mix. I always suited up when shaking them, just in case.

In 5 or 6 weeks most of the original workers will be gone and you will know what you are working with having all new bees then from your package queen.
 

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I was also going to put forth the suggestion that they were hungry and as such were angry. Maybe next time a bit before you try to hive them spray a little syrup on the screen of the package. I hear it helps calm them down (although I haven't done it myself due to cold temps the few times I have installed packages). If they are just mean bees the queen will have them all replaced within a month or a bit longer. Good luck
 

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Discussion Starter #12
All good thoughts and the syrup cans were quite light as opposed to previous years. I also wondered about the genetics of the bees that were mixed in with the queen . The other observation I had is the size of the bees. Most years they were bigger by a lot, but the queens replacement bees end up being smaller. This year they were quite small. Went out this am and all seems much calmer and no defensive behavior. Glad to hear other similar experiences and I appreciate the responses. Sara
 

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A bee's alarm pheromone smells like bananas. If you had eaten a banana anytime that day and still had the smell on you it would have triggered an alarm response. If not a banana, then after the first sting the pheromone was released by the stinging bee, alarming the others and so on and so on, until now you have gotten numerous stings.
 

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........you have possibly been a bit lucky / spoiled. .......
This is about it.
This year the local package buyers got lots of "Russian" packages - to their surprise per what I hear (they only found out when picking up the boxes and saw "Russian" markings on them).
I am now waiting for many of those package buyers to start complaining (after so many years of Italian/Carni generic packages).
People definitely got spoiled by generic "almond bees" here and working their bees in T-shirts.
Will see what develops this summer with all the hybrids flying about (Buckfast too in the mix; gonna be something).
I am readying the traps! :)
 

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Discussion Starter #16
This is about it.
This year the local package buyers got lots of "Russian" packages - to their surprise per what I hear (they only found out when picking up the boxes and saw "Russian" markings on them).
I am now waiting for many of those package buyers to start complaining (after so many years of Italian/Carni generic packages).
People definitely got spoiled by generic "almond bees" here and working their bees in T-shirts.
Will see what develops this summer with all the hybrids flying about (Buckfast too in the mix; gonna be something).


This is about it is right! This makes total sense to me that they may be from a Russian or another more defensive line. I wondered about that as I mentioned they were much smaller than all my previous package bees and very, very dark. Even a good distance from the bee yard as I approach is nothing like I am use to. Not even a head butting warning, but straight on burrowing in my hair and have to keep my dog in the house. I to am curious to see how things change in 6 weeks time. I am so glad you offered that information
 

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If that is the case, let's hope the queens are not russian. Did you see the queens and if so what color were they?
 

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Discussion Starter #18
The queens were dark, but they look pretty much like the past carniolan queens I have received except all three were smaller for sure. Everything about these packages is different. I have received a virgin queen one time that looked like these. ( I concluded she was a virgin as she was hardly bigger than a worker and her abdomen was not enlarged as it should be. I also found her outside 4 days later on the back of the hive with a ball of bees around. I was actually expecting to see that as I assumed she would be taking her mating flights. It was April and I know there were few to no drones flying and she ended up being a very poor layer). Sorry, side story. Now I am a bit worried the line of these queens, I have always been very happy with the carniolans. Sara
 

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Visually, they are all the same - Carni or Russians.
It is the behavior differences - typical Russians will harass you (not a good backyard bee).
These talks about stressing bees by smoke - a non-sense, if you wanna keep the Russians.
Smoke them much, smoke them often.
Or don't keep em.

From my sources, the AMM keepers says the random AMM hybrids are the worst cases (the real Russians have lots of AMM blood in them - and so we could be getting the worst of the worst cases - AMM/AFB hybrids; who knows).
Should be very hardy though.
 

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Recently I had to eliminate 2 hives that were too aggressive to work with or requeen. I would have been happy to sell at a discount all those bees. I figure I could shake about 10 pounds worth.
 
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