Honeyflow.com | FAQ's | Community |

Hive too hot to handle, and there's a total fire ban in 3 days


#1

Short version: I have two hives, one that’s very placid and one that’s become so aggressive it’s unmanageable. In three days, summer starts, along with a total fire ban, which means I can’t use my smoker - not that the aggro hive cares about smoke anyway. I haven’t been able to source a replacement queen. I’m lost for what to do next.

Long version: I’m towards the end of my first year as a keeper and have two hives in the Perth Hills, Western Australia. I’ve got two hives, the first bought from a local, experienced keeper and breeder, the second is a cutout from a birdbox. Nerd that am, I call them Normandy and Mako. Normandy’s always been a strong hive while Mako’s struggled to get established, not helped by last year’s terrible season; I was been able to take Normandy of brood and honey to shore Mako up until it got going under its own power.

Mako is now a lovely hive, full of relaxed bees, queen is laying in a picture-perfect patter, plenty of stores and more coming in all the time. Normandy, on the other hand, has undergone a slow but noticeable personality change in the year since I got them. They started out being as chill as Mako, but have gotten progressively pissier and pissier. It was unpleasant, but manageable until yesterday. Yesterday I tried to open them up for an inspection, and they were pinging off of my veil from the moment I took the lid off, and went absolutely ballistic when I tried to pull a frame. No amount of smoke or seemed to deter them, nor the water spray that had worked, quite successfully, on Mako. I

In the time it took to decide to put the lid back on and start to make my retreat, I got stung through my suit three times, countless more just stung the suit itself and five more found a gap between my sock and boot and gave me a lovely ankle bracelet. And then they gave me my own personal escort back up to the house, about 10m away. And then refused to leave. Since then, there have been a lot of bees hanging around the back door to the house, acting very aggressively towards anyone who sets foot outside - I’ve been stung again twice.

I’ve asked around locally if anyone locally’s got a spare queen or nuc going to re-queen them, but have so far had no luck on that front - too late in the season, I guess. Do I have any other options?


#2

I’m not sure- but I think you may be able to use a smoker during total fire bans if you take certain precautions. There is some info here:

https://www.honeybee.org.au/pdf/RTE2305A.pdf


#3

You can not use a bee smoker in Western Australia on days of total fire ban.
https://www.dfes.wa.gov.au/totalfirebans/pages/totalfirebanwhatcantido.aspx#32


#4

@busso is correct. You cannot legally use a smoker in WA during a total fire ban.


#5

I’m in Roleystone - everyone for five miles will call the firies at the first whiff of smoke. About the only ones who wouldn’t give a damn about the smoke are the aggressive hive.

I mean, should I just look at merging them with the chill hive at this point?


#6

Amy_Hightower, where did you hear about the total fire ban, it didn’t show up on my search


#7

Total fire ban kicks in when, after December 1, the needle jumps from ‘high’ to ‘very high’. We’re currently sitting at high.


#8

Amy, there is a difference between a fire ban or fire ban season & Total fire ban. TFB is usually on day to day system & areas that come under that TFB are advised, check out Bussos post above & go to the DFES site, go to top right for full explanation .
Back to hive, requeening can help but it will take some weeks for nasty queens progeny to die out, what they are feeding on sometimes gets them a little angry or maybe could you move them to another site even for a week or so then back to home again sometimes helps. Hope it all goes well with you though as it take the fun out of keeping when you know they’re just waiting for you and waiting to have another go at the ankles.


#9

Divide and conquer.

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


#10

I would not do that. You would than have an incredibly strong, and probably very mean, huge hive. If you are able to do so, I would try to weaken the mean hive - split it into 2 hives if you have the equipment.

I know it will be hell doing it, but it should help calm them down by diluting out the aggression pheromones. If you can’t use smoke, 1:1 sugar water in a spray bottle can help quite a bit.


#11

Yes, as Down says, don’t combine. That would be the worst thing to do. 1) they would be stronger (which makes them more defensive). 2) the aggressive bees are the most likely to kill a foreign queen, so the “chill” hive is most likely to lose to the aggressive hive on genetics. Put an empty bottom board down for every box on the hot hive. Get an box of empty comb top put on the old location. Take each box and put it on one of the bottoms with a cover. Put the empty comb box on the old bottom and put the cover on. Walk away. As you were sorting the boxes onto the bottoms, pay attention to which has more bees and less weight. These are the most likely to have a queen. Come back in about an hour and listen for a “queenless roar”. Find the calm box with the most bees and the least weight and try to find the queen. If it’s still too hot, then set out another bottom and another box and put half the frames in that box and walk away for an hour. Again, come back and listen for the queenless roar. Look in the box without the roar for the queen. Ideally you might want to wait a week and come back and destroy all queen cells in every box. You could introduce a queen to each box, keeping them all weak which will help with defensiveness. If you did not find the queen this will also help with deciding which box has the queen. The one with the queen will kill the queen in the cage. If you don’t want to buy a queen, after a week and destroying the queen cells, you could give them a frame of open brood and eggs from the “chill” hive and recombine all the boxes.


#12

Check about the smoker on TOBAN days. You will go into fire season but even WA does not have continual TOBANS.

As for the grumpy hive, make some bases and roofs out of old ply and seperate each box. Check them a few days later and kill the queen. They should raise a new queen and be seriously weakened so they behave. For the ones you don’t want, just rob them out and cut out the brood.

Cheers
Rob.


#13

Thanks for the advice folks. I was less concerned about the smoker issue (which everyone seems to be focusing on? I primarily just don’t want to be stuck trying to rectify the pissy hive when we do start having total fire ban days post december 1, as we get a lot of tfb days and the fuel load this year is high) then what to do about the pissy hive.

I will def not merge the hives! However, the chill hive does have a frame with an uncapped supersedure cell in it with larvae less than a week old, and a couple of empty supersedure cells on another frame. After splitting the nasty hive, would it be worth pulling the frame with the full supersedure cell into one of the queenless boxes and restarting that way? Or would that be risking the chill hive if they’ve decided to supercede? The chill hive, after its initial struggle, is doing well and is, well, very chill.


#14

Long term : re queen.

Short term: use liquid smoke. The stuff chefs use for that ‘Smokey Flavour’. You just put it in a flower sprayer, diluted with water. It’s food grade and actually works just like the real smoke👍


#15

BeeKiwi…that’s a damn good idea. We have the gear to do that ourselves.


#16

I’m currently doing a couple of trap-outs.

Because trap-outs are fresh on my mind, I think that a trap-out would be an excellent way to deal with a hive like you are describing.

You can make sure that your hive’s roof is well ventilated & shaded first. Set up the trap-out on a board that can be quickly screwed in front of the entrance early morning. The returning bees will go into the lure box that has a frame of brood from your good hive. Let them make a new queen.

The thing about the angry bees is: once they become populated into a much weaker colony they will become way less angry.

After around 3 or 4 days, you could take the new hive away, remove the bee escape (trap-out), THEN you’ll be able to find the queen with mainly nurse bees to contend with, which will be much easier.

This can be done without any smoke or stings. You may need a little bit of smoke to drive the bees away from the entrance before screwing the trap-out into place.

PS, I’ve taken the fact that as far as I know, you don’t have SHB in your area into consideration.

Disclaimer: I’d be careful using this strategy if beetles are a problem in your area.


#17

As was stated earlier, fire ban or not if anyone in the area sniffs smoke the fire brigade is called and fair enough so unfortunately no smoke can be used during summer which is a pain.
@Amy_Hightower I have a colony similar to yours that went aggro but I think that it may have been being robbed. The entrance was reduced to half and was only a brood box. I finished up moving it, after it took a disliking to my mother in law, to about 10meters away and reduced the entrance to about 40mm and have left the branches and brick infront of the entrance after moving them and they seem to now have settled. I think the branches and brick have also acted as a robber screen.
I was thinking about requeening also but for productivity reasons more so. Does Beewise have queens? These are definitely my best breed so far.