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Bee vrs bee fight

Placed a new nuc in a hive on Monday, today is Wednesday. On Tuesday morning some of the nuc had left home and occupied a vacant hive about four meters away. On Tuesday afternoon an amazing altercation had started with a serious war raging between the defectors in the entrance to the vacant hive. All was peaceful and serene in the original hive.

I watched in fascination as the serious battle continued until dark. On Wednesday morning there are about twenty or more dead bees on the ground below the vacant hive entrance. I suspect that there are more bodies inside the hive but the remainder are making it quite clear that are NOT receiving human visitors. Can anyone offer a possible reason for the altercation please. Also how are bees able to kill each other?

Hi John,

Interesting observation. Here’s my opinion:

A bees purpose is to live for the colony (under the service of the queen) and it will defend it at all cost - even if it means using it’s stinger - failing biting, tearing, kicking, licking…

I note that you have 2 colonies in your apiary - one a swarm capture and the other an newly introduced nuc.

A variation in species of bees could cause altercations, as they would give off different scents. I suspect this is why newpaper method is used when combining colonies, to allow the bees to get used to the scent of the other colony.

Was the empty hive left over from the nuc transfer or swarm lure? The reason I ask, is maybe the bees have been confused and have left their new hive for their old hive (due to the familiar scent).

Compounding to the issue is that the bees are now defending an empty (queenless) hive that lacks stores and food, it will make them more aggressive than normal - even to their bee keeper.


Thank you very much for replying, Fred. I think you have probably nailed it. The first swarm we caught was probably not involved as this is a community project and that swarm is a about 80m away on the other side of a road. Having said that there is no doubt bees from that more distant hive have spent some time in my nectar filled garden.

As I write the war seems to have just about played itself out. More dead than there are still flying now. Probably less than fourty still wandering about. I will probably be able to look inside tomorrow and view the total carnage. I need to get rid of corpses before ants find them. I shall report back.

Cheers, Mac

Any signs of fighting usually means robbing and the entrance needs to be reduced and or fitting a robbing screen.
Bees can sting other insects including their own species. They will do near anything for the benefit of their own colony.