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Do I have mean bees?


#1

We collected a 5 frame Nuc from a well known breeder near us in Texas. Went to transfer them from the travel box to the hive, my daughter (in a half suit) was standing about 6-8 ft away. I was concentrating on what I was doing, when I heard her screaming. Turned around to see a whole bunch of bees covering the top front of both her thighs… Mad as hell they were. Told her to jump in the pool and get her clothes off… bless her, can’t even begin to count the number of stings she has…
are they mean bees, did I do something wrong??
Thanks…
we had bees last year, not one sting… (they dies over the winter :sleepy:)
Thanks everyone.


#3

Wow, that’s disturbing. Were you issued with any instructions for doing the transfer? I’m wondering if you attempted it straight after they arrived, possibly a bit shaken & upset. I’m wondering if the bees should have been settled overnight. Were the bees attacking you in your bee suit?


#4

Hi Elizabeth, welcome to the forum and thank you for your post. Thank you also for including your approximate location in your post - it really helps with answering questions with information relevant to you. If you wouldn’t mind completing your profile to show your approx location, that will help with any future questions that you may have. :wink:

So first of all, please stop beating yourself up. :blush: Bees are wild animals, we have harnessed their abilities somewhat, but we will probably never completely domesticate them. So, for now, they are unpredictable. That makes them untrustworthy, especially with a new colony.

I have a few thoughts which may help a bit.

  1. You have quite a number of africanized colonies in Texas. These bees will contribute to the demeanor of locally mated queens.

  2. Most nucleus providers do two things, which may have contributed to your experience. First they take frames of bees from their local hives (to create the nucleus), which may have “unknown” or superseded queens in them. In Texas, that means that the frames of bees may be partly africanized. Second, they usually requeen them with a queen from a breeder outside of the africanized area. They introduce that queen to the nucleus 1 to 21 days or so before you pick up the bees. They then check that she is accepted just before you collect the Nuc. However, as a bee lives about 6 weeks at this time of year, if the frame-donating hives had any africanized tendencies, you may have to live with those bees for 3-6 weeks until your new queen replaces them all. I am not criticizing the nucleus supplier, this is just a fact of beekeeping life, especially on the borders of (or within) regions of africanization.

  3. When installing any new bees, capturing a swarm or doing a cutout, I always suit up fully. Maybe I am a coward, but I don’t welcome being stung, even though I accept it happens. One-piece bee suit, veil, gloves and boots. Just can’t trust bees in this part of the world until you have got to know them for at least few weeks. I would suggest fully suiting up for children and observers too. Also, if I am working on a new colony in our Community Garden hive, I do it at times when other people are not around, until I am sure that the bees will not misbehave.

  4. I keep Benadryl syrup in my beekeeping bag - easy to dose children or adults and it is an excellent antihistamine for the first reaction to the sting. May make the person very sleepy though, so they should not drive or ride a bicycle afterwards.

  5. If there are a lot of stings, consider a gallon Ziploc bag of ice wrapped in a towel (to prevent frost burns) applied the stung area. It can help reduce the swelling a lot and can be applied 3 times per day for 20 minutes each time.

All the best to you, your daughter and your bees. I hope you all feel better soon.


#5

I’m in NJ where there are no Africanized bees. Liz, what you’ve described happened to my daughter the same way except she had on a veil, was 10-20 yards away while I worked the hive, and when I turned to look at her they were on her ankles/calves like Velcro. She took a bunch of stings as well.


#6

I totally agree, what Ed (@Red_Hot_Chilipepper) describes is also very common. I am not saying that your bees are africanized, just that you have an especially good reason not to trust any new colony.

I worked with bees in the UK which were very aggressive. We would open the hive and hundreds would literally “boil” out of the top (even after smoke), making black rain on your veil. The UK does not have africanized bees yet, to my knowledge anyhow. Even fully suited I would walk away with several stings through the suit all over - legs, arms, hands etc, and many tens of stingers left all over. We requeened them as they were no fun for us or our neighbors, and 6 weeks later, all was fine.

From what I have experienced in California, the africanized are a little different. They tend to focus attacks much more around the head, neck and hands, mostly ignoring the legs etc.

Now it gets complicated. Not all really bad-tempered colonies in our regions are “fully africanized”. You can have a perfectly good queen, but if she mates with a handful of feisty drones, your colony’s workers may be intermittently problematic. Or you can have a situation like Ed describes, where there is no african input, but some accident of genetics results in nasty workers. The point is, you can’t trust them.

If I was in your position I would do a few things. First call the nucleus supplier and ask how long the queen had been in the nucleus. That gives you an idea of how long the bees will be mean. Second, don’t mess with them for at least a couple of weeks - if you need to, contact your local bee club to try to get someone to help you move the hive off-site while they calm down. Third, if they are still mean 6 weeks after your supplier says they have had that new queen, consider requeening from another queen supplier.

You can do this. It isn’t impossible. Just sometimes it is challenging. all the best! :slight_smile:


#7

I can’t thank you all enough for your wisdom and kindness.

Jeff, good point, however we did leave them overnight…Interestingly, the bees were not bothering me in my suit - the odd one buzzing around.

Several hours later I went to clean her clothes out of the pool. There was still one bee buzzing angrily around me then. I could hear that be telling me off doe disturbing the hive :wink: The intensity and frequency of the buzz was different…

Thankfully, being an RN I had antihistamine and prednisone areound. I also put her in a cool bath with lavender and tea tee oil. After I lathered her in aloe Vera gel mixed with lavender and tea tree, and then put anthisan (a fabulous sting cream from the UK available on Amazon) by the time she went to bed you couldn’t hardly see the sting marks… no swelling, nothing.

I think I’ll look to swapping the half suit for a full suit. I’ve told her she’ll have to go back out at some point, like falling of a horse, you have to get back on.

I will definitely speak to the supplier for info on the queen.

Can I leave them now for a couple of weeks?? I didn’t even get to putting any feed in for them…

Thank you all again. I’m feeling much more settled now.


#8

Hi Elizabeth. A very experienced beekeeper told me that the bees can get aggressive when they are hungry. Just wondering about that possibility…


#9

Depends on whether you have a good nectar flow at the moment. If you don’t know, your local bee club will. If there is any doubt, I would put a feeder on, preferably when your daughter is not home. :wink:

Sounds like you have come through this very well. Sorry it wasn’t an easy experience, but perhaps we learn more from the difficult ones. I think you are right about your daughter - getting her a full suit is a great idea. She shouldn’t wear shorts under it though - the stings can go through most suits with no extra layer underneath. The exception is the Brushy Mountain ventilated suit - I have never been stung through that, yet…

Those stings may bother your daughter for a week or so, I would consider getting some Loratadine (Claritin) to keep the histamine reaction down for that time. Yes, I have a little bit of experience in pediatrics and medicine, and also in getting stung multiple times… :blush:


#10

Dawn, do you have a particular recommendation(s) for beekeeping suit? Veil?
Thankfully Elizabeth’s daughter had on jacket and veil!


#11

I love this suit from Brushy Mountain:

I think Ed (@Red_Hot_Chilipepper) has one too. The only disadvantage is that it balloons out a lot, giving me a “Michelin Man” appearance. However, it breathes well and I have never been stung through the suit. I have been stung through gloves (the leather part!) and through a veil when I didn’t realize it was touching my neck. The veil I use is made by Brushy for use with this suit:
http://www.brushymountainbeefarm.com/Hat-Veil-Combo-w_half-zip/productinfo/990BZ/

Unfortunately they do not make the ventilated suits for children, so I can’t give any recommendations on those, but Ed might have some ideas.


#12

For my 4-H kids, I used Pidgeon Mountain Trading Post in Georgia (thanks Bobby). They weren’t ventilated but they work well and are reasonable since the kids will outgrow them really fast anyway.

You could also check with your local beekeeping clubs: Their children grow out of suits as well lol.


#13

Dawn, that seems like the best reco: the no-sting and cooling vent part — not worried about the look part, if it satisfies those 2 criteria! :grin: I thought that expensive hat/veil was supposed to keep the veil away from your skin? BTW, does it zip to the suit? The first time I went out with the local Florida bee club for a ‘work session’ on the club hives, on of the other newbies, who already had his own suit, had a problem; hi hat/veil was not zip connected, but had drawstrings, and bees got in under the veil, stung him a number of times on the forehead and cheek (fortunately not on the eyes). He was a real trooper, though. Just walked away board the host’s farmhouse, and we all thought he needed the facilities. But we found out later as soon as he turned the corner, he whipped of the veil to deal with the bees, and confessed to cursing a lot. :scream: Nobody heard him. Got him some ointment the host had. Lesson to me… I want a zippered veil! :smile:


#14

It does. Mostly. But when you are looking down the fabric kinks a bit towards your skin. If you are working with a very “hot” hive, and there are 80-100 bees on your veil, the fabric around the neck can touch your neck and the underside of your jaw. That is the only access they need to “ping” you! :wink: I have only been stung once in maybe 50 inspections with it, and I have to say that hive is one of the most aggressive I have ever worked with - I am hoping to get its attitude adjusted very soon. :smile:

Yes, and with a very nice system. Two zips (one each side) from the back to the front and a velcro fastener to keep bees out where the zips meet at both ends. It also means you can partially unzip, then flip it off backwards without detaching it once you are done.

I used to have one like that about 25 years ago. I had the same problem. Once they are inside, you are toast. Now I spend a bit more money on my sting prevention. :heart_eyes:


#15

Georgia. Pigeon Mountain trading Company is in GA. It is close to Tennessee though :wink:


#16

Is it really in Georgia? All these years I’ve been thinking TN probably because we had such a good time camping in Pidgeon Forge lol.

I fixed the post.


#17

I switched to fragrance-free shampoo and conditioner after being chased by bees a few times when I first started keeping bees, even when I was a fair distance from the hives. The products I was using before contained lavendar and rosemary essential oils and the bees seemed to react to that. It may be worth checking what products she uses. Going fragrance-free has made a big difference for me.

When I’ve been stung (about four or five times in almost a year and always on my thighs; I wear a mesh half-suit due to the Australian heat), the reaction doesn’t appear until a day later and then stays itchy for about a week. So she may have a delayed reaction like I do.


#18

Hi Liz. The only thing I can offer (I’m only a 2 year newbee) is that bees don’t like dark clothes. A couple of months ago it was summer here (NSW Australia) and we were having 48C days. I came home at lunch time to give my girls more water and put a white tee shirt on but forgot about my black work pants. Guess what? Got stung on the leg! I also had to buy my husband a white hat 'cause he kept getting stung on his head (black hair)! So if they were a bit riled up and your daughter was wearing dark pants, maybe that’s why they went after her legs. :frowning: Hope she’s doing better. Cheers.


#19

Sorry I went quiet, I had a big surgery on Thursday .

Yes she had on black pants!

I had a local experienced beekeeper come by to help out. He’s put the feeder in and checked on them. The hive is doing well and as he says is a gentle,hive. So just one of those things.

Safia is doing better, the stings were gone, and have now suddenly and a delayed reaction on Saturday, a week after the incident!

A steep learning curve!

Thanks again to everyone for your info and support.


#20

Hope you feel better soon and that the surgery went well.

If the pants were black, I am sure that was the problem. Good detective work! Glad the bees were gentle with the beekeeper helping you - nice to get an outside opinion.

I had some stings a couple of weeks ago and they took almost two weeks to completely disappear. I took antihistamines when they were itchy, but I had a classic wheal and flare reaction for well over a week. I hope Safia feels better soon too.