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Desperately seeking guidance

I’m very new at all this. I’ve had my hive since late last summer. I live in Northern Arizona. Over the months before winter I’ve opened and inspected the hive multiple times. Although the bees did not like it they, for the most part, tolerated my inspections.
Yesterday I opened the hive in preparation for spring, it comes very early here in the high desert. I wanted to add a pollen pack, remove the simple syrup container and put on a super in anticipation of the coming spring flow.
The best way to describe the reaction of the bees is they went crazy.
I was completely covered in bees trying to sting me. I could actually feel them hitting my suite. At 1 point I couldn’t see through my head protection for all the bees that were clinging to it and trying to sting me. There were even some bees that died trying to sting my smoker. 5 got through the suit and stung me in various places.
I got the job done, but it cost the lives of many angry kamikaze bees.
I realize, being that I’m new at this, that I must have made many mistakes. I now know, for instance, that my diatery habit of eating many banana’s a day can cause problems when dealing with honey bees. Any other advice is greatly appreciated.
Thank you in advance.

Hi Matt, welcome to the forum and wow that sounds like a very scary inspection experience!! The main things that come to mind are that you opened the hive too soon in the season, and/or you have Africanized bees. Do you belong to a local bee club?

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I live in a very small town that is isolated for quite some distance to the next town. No club here. The closets one is a 45 minute drive.
It is possible that the hive somehow became africanized but I thought that kind of thing happened when we didn’t have freezing temps every night. The thing is, as long as I don’t disturbed their hive, these bees are very docile. I have many fruit trees in the yard that are in full bloom. I can get very close to the girls and they work with no issue. On occasion they will land on me as I work the trees and they just leave again. I was wondering myself if maybe I opened their hive to soon but with all the orienting I’ve been seeing I didn’t want over crowding.

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I’m too far away to offer constructive advice but Eva could well be right. Maybe the bees just reacted as you would with a home invasion finding a stranger in your home.
My bees are more defensive than normal at the moment, I normally work without gloves but this past week and have had to wear them. They behave perfectly till I raise the roof then they are instantly on the defensive about the hive.
Not much help to you but your not the only one with that problem.
Cheers and a big welcome to the forum, you will find lots of advice and support here.

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Sorry you don’t have any local beeks to consult with, that makes the particulars tough to sort out.

Hm, yes I also thought freezing temps at night should mean AHB couldn’t get a foothold. With that in mind, the fact that the temps are so cold at night would help explain the bees’ annoyance at your intrusion, at Peter said. Here in SE Pa, it’s warming sooner than usual but still at or below freezing at night, and with very little forage yet. Just yesterday I was messing around the front entrance of my one (last surviving :confused:) hive to put a robbing screen on, and a guard took a literal flying leap at me, like she was shot from a gun!! She chased me all the way into the house :astonished:. Regular hives also get extremely feisty - but I thought it best to put the AHB question on the radar given possible proximity.

Anyway, your bees might settle down once nectar flow is on, but read up on requeening just in case!

I hope they do. They seem much calmer this afternoon that’s for sure. I’m glad to have installed the super when I did. The blossoms are popping out everywhere already. We’ll have highs in the 70"s in the next few days.

Did you smoke them a few minutes beforehand?

Yes I did as I have every time I do anything with them. The strange thing this time was rather than making them turn to feeding on honey, the smoke seemed to be their first cause for them to rise up out of the hive in huge numbers.

Could the hive be queenless? I hear they become a bit more defensive in such circumstances. Did you manage to lift any frames for inspection during the frenzy?

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Although it is definatly possible that the hive is queenless, I would think I would see much less orienting. To me, this is a sign that the hive is moving forward in the natural progression of a healthy hive. Unfortunately I could not inspect any of the frames but I did see that the frames, 10 deep and 10 medium, were fairly well covered in active bees. I’m hoping that in mid March, when I check the hive again, there will be much less turmoil and the girls are back to being calm and relaxed.

When I have a colony that is overly aggressive it makes me wonder why so it could be caused by the climate at that time, bees will go aggressive if there is a thunderstorm about they will know even if you can’t hear it, for example. If foraging conditions are under average the bees will go defensive to keep what they have. I also do a check in the hive for issues like not enough empty cells. Try to think like a bee, is there something in the hive that has changed, even spending the time to scrape out bur comb can make a hive calmer after a day to calm down after your intrusion. I’ve had hives go hot with the death of the queen, but I have also found the bees not change and just get about making a few queen cells. There is a lot of possibles, and I ignore a one, or even a two off event but there is just sometimes you have to bite the bullet and terminate the queen.
Cheers

Thank you for taking the time to share all the sage advice. I mean this to all those that have taken their time to help with this. As with so many things in life, I’m sure time will heal most of these issues.
I must say though, if it comes to requeening because of aggressiveness, unfortunately I will be forced to end the entire hive and start over. There is no way I can search for the queen and replace her with so many bees defending the hive at one time. Or do I misunderstand what is entailed in requeening?

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Here’s the plan I intend to follow if my colony remains as ‘hot’ as they seem at the moment once the nectar flow starts:

http://www.bushfarms.com/beesrequeeninghot.htm

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I agree with @Eva. Michael Bush has a saying “divide & conquer”. I assume he means to break the colony up into more manageable bits.

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Hi Matt,

Where they as protective as these girls?

In my humble opinion, I reckon it’s more the beekeepers handling in this instance…

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Definitely the beekeepers bad handling in that instance. It’s funny to watch him start off with no protection at all. After a while he puts a veil on, then after a bit longer a pair of gloves. By the end of the video, he’s fully suited up.

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I’m with youJeffH, I’m only a newbee but he certainly did not impress me by the way he was handling the bees.
He deserved to get stings
G

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Sadly he doesn’t know anything about a Flow Hive, he got it wrong about which way the draining tube goes in and like an absolute novice says to open the whole frame in one go so flooding of honey into the brood box is almost guaranteed. This guy doesn’t know bee keeping either. This video is great as an example of misinformation and ‘don’t do as he does’… :roll_eyes:
Cheers

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I would say the bees in that video were about 50% as defensive as what I encountered. I think one of the issues was, as more bees stung at my face and hands, more pheromone was released and that caused more bees to rise up and defend. My hands were, at one point, completely covered in bees trying to sting me. I cleaned up many dead bees after this event. In the future I will not move forward when I encounter such resistance. Simply close up the hive and retreat to return at a later date.

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The chap in the video is pulling the Flow Frames, full of honey, from the wires. Surely that’s not the correct way is it?

I still struggle to pull them out myself because they are tight in the box. I use the J-tool and lever them up like wooden frames, but it feels like I’m going to break something.