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Bees suddenly chasing me

I’ve mentioned my first harvest in another post. I’ve got new flow hive that got started with a nuc and new queen from an experienced member of the local club early in October. The bees have always been calm and have not worried me when I check the side window or extraction door at the back. The hive is set up facing a fence with a tree to one side and a shade house to the other, so the bees always exit the hive and fly upwards.

Two days ago I opened the Flow super to check capping levels, and the following day did the first extraction. Opening the super caused disruption and I left the hive to settle down.

When I did the extraction I had to put on a veil as the bees were buzzing around me but didn’t appear aggressive in that. That was yesterday.

This morning I went out to watch through the window I’ve got in the shade house - it is four sides of shade cloth but the doorway is open. For the first time ever a bee followed me in there and went for me. It chased me all the way to the house. I went out again, same thing. Then I went to the shed to find shadecloth as a curtain, and one chased me into there. I waved it off with a towel and fitted up the curtain door.

Going back to the house another bee chased me quite aggressively. It buzzed me so closely that I could not get inside without it. I grabbed a towel to wave it off but it stung me on the side of the neck.

So my question is about whether this behaviour is a result of disrupting the super and then extracting the honey the day after. Do bees get more protective when these things happen, and if so, how long does their angst last?

Hi Kim

If you have neighbors near you want to consider watching that colony and seeing how often it is defensive. Should it be more defensive that usual, do consider requeening the colony in Spring / Summer to a calmer genetic.

But if you are a beginner do have an experience beekeeper have a look at your colony and give you better advice, someone who had dealt with both calm and defensive bees is ideal. Your Local bee club is where I would look for support.

From what you describe your colony is more defensive that usual, but if it only happened once and never before then I would say just keep an eye. Sometime there are things that make a colony defensive during the year, therefore you need to way out all the options before considering to requeen.

Hope I have not made things more confusing for you.

Hi Kim, how defensive were the bees during the inspection? It’s natural for bees to be defensive at the best of times. They can be more defensive during rainy, stormy, threatening to rain or overcast periods.

If bees have been upset during an inspection, you can count on them being aggressive for around 3 days.

In regards to the bee that stung you, one thing I try to do is let an aggressive bee follow me into the house, then shut the door. It doesn’t take long before the bee gives up on chasing us, then she flies to the nearest window to get out. Then it’s easy to kill her without getting stung. She wanted to die anyway.

Another thing to bare in mind is that bees mostly target where we exhale CO2. If we can hold our breath or disguise where we exhale, that can go in our favor. Another thing is to duck while we walk away fast. They don’t seem to come down to the lower level in the time it takes for us to get away.

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another trick is to run around a tree or an object of some sort if bees are chasing you. You can often lose them that way. Another thing I have found: bee hives in open areas where they have a long line of sight- are far more likely to attack than hives that are in secluded spots surrounded by plants and obstacles that stop them seeing you. I had an overgrown yard at my last house with 8 hives here and there amongst the bushes. bees were rarely aggressive. When I moved I put one hive in an open area and they were really troublesome attacking me all the time even 25 feet from the hive and bothering my neighbors. I relocated them to a hidden nook on the opposite side of the yard and since then they have been fine again leaving me alone.

@KimM as Jeff said bees can get angry for a few days after a disturbance. They generally settle back down afterwards. Sometimes if you open a hive at certain times- like when the weather is a bit stormy- the bees will immediately be angry. Yesterday i went to my friends apiary- he had just been opening a hive over the day removing frames, spinning them- and then putting them back in. He had been in the hive three times. The first two times the bees were completely placid but by the third they had had enough. As soon as I walked into his yard a bee flew up and stung me on the back of the neck. No warning- just ZAP! I was over 25 meters from the hives. I was adding a super to a crowded hive in anticipation of this heat wave we are having- the bees in that hive were 100% placid. But 20 or more bees from the other hive were constantly trying to sting me the entire time- super angry!

Due to the changeful unpredictable nature of bees I rarely work without gloves. I think it takes a lot of experience to confidently work without protection- you really have to have a feel for the bees and their mood. A week ago I was doing something and bees suddenly stung my glove on mass- I had at least 10 stingers in it. I would hate to have something like that happen when I had bare hands! But I know some very experienced beeks who rarely wear gloves- and also rarely get stung. But they really know the bees.

Ont he other hand my friend is getting attacked way more than me- I put this down to his relative clumsiness. If you are at all clumsy handling frames- the bees get angry much faster and much more often. When you watch a beek with a great deal of experience you notice how slowly yet deliberately they work- and how little the bees are bothered by them. If you start to panic- you bump frames and squash bees- and then things go south…

Also- at certain times of the year bees become more defensive- like in autumn when they are harassed by wasps and if their is a dearth of nectar around.

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One thing that occurs to me is the possibility of a honey leak into the brood box during your harvest. It isn’t common but has happened to others, and I’d assume if it did that the bees would be extra defensive. I’ve had three Flow harvests myself and never had aggro results…no leaks either…

I have had a few honey spills in Flow frames and the bees concentrate on cleaning up the spill and too busy to go defensive. I’ve not had issues doing a Flow Hive extraction with the bees even showing an interest in me or being aware I was taking the honey.
My thinking is that there is another reason for the bees being defensive and not being related to the taking of the honey. Even when there is a spill large enough it runs off the cor-flute onto the ground there is a lot of activity cleaning up the honey but no aggression.
Cheers

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Thanks for the suggestions, everyone. I hadn’t thought of ducking down low.

I’ve thought of some other stuff since posting. First is that I went out early to video the activity as I could see from the house there were lots of bees flying out. It was before 8am and perhaps the guard bees were being more watchful.

Secondly, I’ve watched the video I was taking (currently being uploaded to Youtube and I’ll link to it). It looks like there might be some orientation flights among the activity and perhaps that also means the guards are more vigilant.

Thirdly, they were much more calm Wednesday arvo when I checked the side window to see how the capping removal was going. I might need to watch from a distance in the mornings in future.

Here’s the video, 15 seconds of calmness then Wham! into the back of my neck.

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It isn’t for everyone but if I have a guard bee really intent of getting at me I’m happy if it gets onto my veil and I get a clean shot at it. The bee where doing an orientation flight, a give away when they are facing the hive and flying about with the same distance from the entrance, Guard bees are always on the defensive, I have had them decide to go for me after standing in the same place for several minutes just watching, No Kim, I didn’t break wind to push her over the edge… :laughing: :laughing:Cheers