Bees at night and agitated bees

Good evening,

Yesterday we completed our second hive inspection about 4pm. The first time (two weeks prior), the bees seemed unconcerned and went about their business and weren’t too bothered about us but yesterday, they seemed very agitated, flying and buzzing around our faces and dashing about. Once we’d finished, we noticed they still seemed very agitated for all evening.

Today, they seemed a bit calmer but when my husband went up near the hive, we noticed an increased degree of agitation… not the usual calm flight path flying but more aggressive, Tonight, I’ve noticed a large amount of bees outside the hive… a couple of dead ones on the landing board and so many others at entrance… as though there is no room for them inside… I’ve read previous night time posts so I assume they are just cooling themselves in the night air but I’m worried about the agitation and the couple of dead ones on the landing board.

Can they get aggressive and stay that way and then calm down or could something else be upsetting them? I had trouble with the smoker yesterday and my husband thinks the smoke might have been too warm.

Thoughts anyone?

Thanks in advance,


Hi Tamara, I am a newbie as well, just a couple of hints, what was the weather like during the inspection? Was it windy, was it cold? Did you spot the queen on both the inspections? In case they are queenless they might tent to get a bit more defensive of the hive…

Is is possible that some comb has fallen out of a frame? The other thing that comes to mind is robbing. Do you see any bees wrestling/fighting?

Fight Club :wink: first rule of fight club reduce the entrance :rofl:

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Do you have a tray or coreflute you can inspect? Like @Dawn_SD , I’m also wondering if some comb broke out of a frame. That could upset the bees & make them defensive while they’re in the process of fixing things up & it would also account for a lot of bees hanging around outside. It takes about 3 days for the defensive behavior displayed during an inspection to subside.

One tip would be, between inspection, to get some practice on using your smoker & keeping it going. I believe a smoker is a beekeeper’s best friend. I try to smoke the air adjacent to the bees, not directly onto them, because bees are constantly moving air around. I always put the smoke in front of the entrance, not into it.

Are hive beetles in your area? Hive beetle activity, such as eggs, larvae & slime can upset bees, causing agitation at the entrance.

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Thanks for all the comments. We were exceptionally careful not to damage the comb and the one frame we removed was carefully placed outside the hive while we tended the others and returned to the same position. I don’t believe any comb was broken. I don’t believe we have hive beetles and yes, I have the smoker at the ready but I do need practice. It seems to lose its ‘oomph’ very quickly and then I need to add more fuel and then its too hot and then it burns out quickly again. What do you suggest I start the fire with , to keep it going longer? I usually add pine needles and straw once I have a flame

Going on what you described as well as @Doug1’s comments in your other post - I agree with him that your colony is probably getting ready to swarm. I remember thinking while looking at your pics, hm, so much capped brood…lots of honey…anywhere for queen to lay? and now looking again I see the queen cell Doug spotted.

How are you fixed for doing a split ASAP? Other than equipment and the extra pair of hands, you’ll get all the input you need here😅

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Hi Tamara, once I get a flame, I use anything I can get my hands on to create smoke, such as rolled up cardboard, sticks, leaf litter, paper bark. What I found really lasts for a while is wood shavings from an electric planer, set on thick. I found that smoker fuel burns quickly with a new smoker. Once a smoker gets a bit of ash buildup inside, the fuel lasts longer. Then after a while the buildup gets too much that the smoker wont work properly. Then it’s time to de-coke it.

Hi again, Eva - would it be ‘normal’ to need to split a hive after only 4 weeks in their new home? Instead of a split, could we just add another brood box? If we have issues re the Queen and we split the hive, we could potentially have two boxes and no queen? (if the queen is dead). Re nowhere for the queen to lay, there is an almost untouched frame which they’ve just started on, but I assume that needs to be built up for the queen to lay?

Let’s tie in from the other post so you can just read this thread. I’m sure @JeffH @Dawn_SD and @Doug1 will help too.

You might be able to preempt a swarm with some luck. Here is info -

It’s a lot of reading, but unless you have someone with experience helping you hands-on, it’s the best thing to do. Good luck!

So sorry Tamara, no need to sort thru that last post to find it this!! Thought this was what I was attaching :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Thanks so much Eva. I’ve put a call through to someone in my area… hopefully he can help me. just another question if you don’t mind… if they were going to swarm because they lost the queen, whats’ the time frame after she’s dead? a day, a week?

They will not swarm because of a dead queen. There is no point, as the swarm will die without a queen. :blush:

Hi Dawn, It has been suggested on this forum that maybe we killed the queen in our first brood inspection (which I really don’t think happened - we were so gentle) and that they might be preparing to swarm… Someone pointed out what they think might be a queen cell in the photos I posted but someone else thought it was a swarm cell… Given they’ve only been in there for 4 weeks and there is still one empty frame, I’m struggling to understand why they might be wanting to swarm in the first place…

In my first reply I think I may have inadvertently reinforced the incorrect idea that some have about swarming bees - that they are aggressive. Bees swarm in order to reproduce, so it’s completely normal to see them preparing to swarm when they have nearly finished filling the available space in a hive box. The unfinished frame is just for honey storage; so they might not be bothering to dot the i in ‘filled’ :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:. All that capped brood is set to emerge as new nurse bees, ready to take on brood rearing duties and free up the existing workers for more foraging.

The fact that your bees were ‘agitated’ and bearding (hanging outside the hive) made me think of practice swarming, or it could be that they did swarm already. It is a little intimidating the first time you see it. But - in case I misled you, swarms are NOT aggressive, just loud and purposeful. In a good nectar flow, four weeks is plenty of time if you started with a nuc.

The other possibility is that the queen died. Could have happened during install, or some other time or reason, not necessarily that you were too rough. It’s always a risk when opening up and moving frames around. If this is the case, then the bees won’t go anywhere, they’ll stay and get their new queen established.

About timing, queens take 16 days to develop. If the queen died, judging by all the capped brood and capped queen cells, I would guess emergence is imminent. Are there a lot of drones? Any open brood at all? Yes to those would be more indicative of a swarm coming on. Also, imminent.

So relieved to hear you have a connection to a local helper! No matter what happens, you’ll learn a ton.

I know it is all very confusing. Bees are like that, and it isn’t just you that finds them hard to understand. That is part of the challenge and joy of keeping bees :blush:

That is a “non-sequitur” though. Bees don’t swarm when their queen has been killed. They swarm when they are overcrowded, or they “abscond” if they decide that their home is unsuitable. However, the mass of bees will not leave without a queen. That is literally suicide for the colony, and bees don’t deliberately do that.

Me too, which is why I wondered whether a chunk of comb has dropped off a frame. That would make bees beard outside. However, it would not explain the possible queen cell. I think the best option is to inspect once again, as soon as you are able. If you can recruit an experienced beekeeper to join you, so much the better. If not, just do it anyway. If you find several queen cells with “contents” = larvae, royal jelly etc, then you may well want to split. @Eva gave you a link to an excellent publication on making splits - I believe that around page 17 is what you will most need to know. There may be a later version here, but all of these documents are worth reading -

Otherwise for queen cells, I strongly suggest a look at this document by the same author:
It will give you a lot of confidence of what to look for, and what to do with your findings. :wink:

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