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Discussion Starter #1
My backyard urban top bar hive has held a thriving colony of Buckfast bees for about 2 1/2 years, but over a warm fall and "winter" in Tucson has suddenly become quite aggressive. No one can go within 15-20 feet without getting bonked by scouts, and if they don't skedaddle quick they get stung with no provocation. At first I assumed they had made a new queen and hybridized, but the ground under the hive is so littered with dead bees I wonder if the hive has been taken over by robbers? Is this even possible?

Given my urban setting, and the 1-year-old baby that lives in my house, I cannot afford an aggressive hive, especially when the weather warms up and things really get flowing. If I could requeen right now I might risk it, but the first queens available are probably 12 weeks off, and I cannot sit with this for 3 months and hope no one but me gets stung.

Ideas? Is it ethical to advertise the hive for sale or trade when I don't really know what is going on in there?
 

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Buckfasts are hybrids to begin with. In your area, I would be wondering about Africanization. Not that it's actually happening, but I would wonder.You certainly don't want everyone getting stung. I would re-queen as soon as possible. It will be difficult to find any this time of year. Next option to me would be moving them out of the area.
Have you checked to see if you have an infestation of beetles or wax moths? They can sometimes get testy during infestations.
 

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I think it's ethical to sell it with full disclosure, I occasionally see ads for "hot hive to experienced beekeeper only" on clist. I'd speculate that it's become africanized but it really doesn't matter, if it's too mean for your backyard and requeening or relocating isn't an option then getting rid of it seems the obvious choice.

If you want to continue having bees, you might see if someone wants to pull the frames and bees out - order a package and start over with the old hive in the spring.

The "hot hives" I've seen advertised were (in my opinion) overpriced as the owners wanted nearly the same price as a hive with a young gentle queen.
 

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It's tough to tell this time of year if they've become aggressive because of genetic issues or if they're being harassed. Colder weather and lack of forage can make them flat mean.

Considering all the dead bees on the ground, they might be getting robbed. A hive defending itself can get very aggressive to anything that comes close to it. Try to observe them someday and see what's going on in front of the hive. Reduce the entrance if you have to.
 

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Try putting a robbing screen across the entrance.
If they are short of food, put on a feeder.
Find the queen and pinch her head off, throw the body back in the hive. They will know she is gone within 15 minutes and start building queen cells.
 

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How much stores are left, when weather is hot and dry they can become testy. Not always genetics.

My hives in early spring last year wern't the nicest, once the flow hit they were jolly little girls.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Buckfasts are hybrids to begin with. In your area, I would be wondering about Africanization. Not that it's actually happening, but I would wonder.You certainly don't want everyone getting stung. I would re-queen as soon as possible. It will be difficult to find any this time of year. Next option to me would be moving them out of the area.
Have you checked to see if you have an infestation of beetles or wax moths? They can sometimes get testy during infestations.
Actuallly, Africanized bees are a big concern in southern Arizona. That's what I'm worried about. I will try looking at them this weekend and see if there are signs of infestation of some kind-- I've had trouble with wax moths before in a different hive. What is the best treatment for wax moths?
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I appreciate all the ideas-- after an inspection this weekend maybe I can come to a more informed conclusion. I really don't want to lose the hive, so hopefully I will find a problem I can try to correct. Thanks!
 

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Pinching of the queen because one suspect her of producing aggressive offspring, Then allowing her offspring to raise one of her offspring to be their new breeder is sort of senseless. If the hive has become aggressive through genetics, it is most likely because the queen has been superseded, the resulting queen has bred with aggressive possibly Africanized drones. To use those offspring and allow them to breed in a possible Africanized environment would escalate the problem.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I appreciate all the ideas and suggestions. On inspecting the hive earlier today I found only a few beetles and evidence of wax moths but it looked old, no active larvae or moths. There is some brood, but not enough, and I did see some eggs, but very little honey and lots of empty comb. So I removed some empty bars and put in a reducer to make the box about 30% smaller, put on some food, and fashioned a quick robber screen. Even though it is late January, the palo verde could be in full bloom within 4-6 weeks. I would like to re-queen as soon as possible, so I'm hunting around on the internet to see if I can get on a list for April. Can't seem to find any in Tucson. Thanks for the help!

Almost forgot- they were not any more difficult to deal with and did not behave aggressively during my inspection, so it does appear to be the stress that has them being territorial.
 

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Africanized bees have the so-called usurpation swarms where they try to take over a colony they perceive as weaker. The fighting could be an indication of that. They will usually cluster under the bottom board or on the back of the hive for several days while they evaluate the hive and the queen. If this is the case, you will find a queen in that cluster (outside of the hive). Dispatching her will solve the problem.
 
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