If you got stings to your suit then there is the ‘sting here’ pheromone on your suit and the only way to get rid of it is to wash your suit.
Yes you can have an aggressive hive, it is being defensive and that can happen if you don’t smoke the hive enough with a couple of minutes after a couple of puffs under the roof, then as needed if the bees are getting angry. A queenless hive can be aggressive also. If you hear the bees getting hot then close up and go back another day. Be smooth and slow when working in a hive, darn slow is best.
Bees in my opinion do have a short term memory but some say they don’t. But if you are nervous working in a hive they will know so try bluffing them by being as relaxed as possible.
Welcome to the forum Richard
If you got stings to your suit then there is the ‘sting here’ pheromone on your suit and the only way to get rid of it is to wash your suit.
Smoking your suit at the sting region may temporarily confuse the pheromone smell and buy you some time to keep working with the bees.
Working a bee hive can get overwhelming quite quickly, especially when what you plan to do turns out differently.
Some times walking away from the hive for 5 to 10 minutes to recoup can help. You can use this time to check there’s enough fuel in your smoker.
Pete has given some very good tips above. I’m a highly strung person, so working a bee hive is supposed to teach me to stay ‘relaxed’. It is somewhat therapeutic, but it does mean you have to ‘fake it until you make it’ by acting calm around the bees.
Would have to be there in person to see what is going on. No need to find the queen everytime, the presence of eggs lets you know she is there. Have you checked over the hive for any disease, its probably a long shot but disease can sometimes affect their temperament, they can get grouchy like the rest of us when they are not well.
Yes, very much so. Could be a number of factors, the weather, nectar sources like citrus, smells they don’t like, my bees are generally very calm and easy to handle but if I start digging in the garden, adding mulch or Seasol they turn and will sting. I have even lost a couple of chickens to bees scratching around near the hives.
Yes, they might. But really, they are most likely just aggressive bees. You don’t need much smoke, only a couple of puffs. Any more than that and they will just get “shitty” with you. I would give the bees another month and if they don’t settle down, the queen should be replaced. There is no fun in keeping bees of an overly aggressive hive.
Yes I have the same problem I have Guard bees that love me way too much they chase my wife but seem to settle about a week after hive inspection
I have a "three strikes’ rule. If a hive is grouchy on a day of bad weather I don’t count that, but if there isn’t any reason that I can see, I put a red pin in the hive. If it happens again, I give them another red pin. If they are nice I remove one pin. If I get to three pins, I requeen.
Thank you all for the advice an information. Will leave them a few weeks and try again. Washing my suit sounds like a plan too.
Just reviving this thread as I’m not far from “underneath” and seem to be experiencing a hot hive. My original colony swarmed (which I think I caught and re-hived). In the last six or so weeks, I’ve noticed the hive with the new queen has become increasingly aggressive.
I now confess to having lost my nerve and abandoned the last three inspection attempts in a cloud of irate bees. I think I would now have 4 red pins using Michael Bush’s rule, although I haven’t had ideal weather for the inspections. I’m happy to give it another try in ideal weather but I’m not very hopeful.
Mostly they ignore me until I get into the brood box. Yesterday when I opened the flow super, they immediately bounced out and started pinging on the veil, then scrambled for a way in anywhere. I also was followed back to the house by a handful of incessant meanies. I read somewhere here to try walking through some brush to lose them and that worked well). In the last 6 weeks or so, I’ve had hundreds and hundreds of attempts to sting - fortunately none have got through yet, but that hasn’t stopped me pulling up stumps as the number of angry bees and intensity increases (yes, I’m a chicken). Consequently, I haven’t got through the whole brood box in that time and need to. Last week I only got as far as the first frame. I’ve now got two other hives and they are calm - phew!
Yesterday, I inspected another hive and had ‘sting here’ pheromones all over my suit, but not a peep out of them which somewhat restored confidence.
Anyway, I accept, I have to requeen and will order one tomorrow. I will also try to get some help, but they’re not very flow hive friendly around here. I’ve read Michael Bush’s process for requeening but would appreciate any further advice/tips as I don’t like my chances of finding an unmarked queen, assuming she’s still there. Cheers!
I can tell you exactly what I did, if you like:
- On day 0, I ordered a mated queen for delivery a week later. I then set up 4 empty nucleus boxes (I had a double deep brood box hive to requeen)
- I took about 2 frames of bees and brood and 2 frames of food out of the hot hive, and put them in a nucleus box, using plenty of smoke, and a spray bottle of sugar syrup to weigh the bees down a bit and discourage flying. I repeated that until all frames were out of the hive
- I put the sparsest nucleus back in the place of the original hive and moved the other boxes about 30 feet away from each other. That meant that when I opened the nucleus later to search for the queen, any alarm pheromone would not upset the other nuclei. Maybe not strictly necessary, but it made me feel better
- I left them to settle down for about 3 days. The queenless nuclei would then have time to start making queen cells
- After 3 days, I inspected each nucleus. The bees were much less aggressive when there were fewer of them, even though 3 nuclei were queenless. If I found a queen cell, I just closed the nucleus. My mission was to find the queen, not destroy the queen cells at this point
- Once I located the queen, I dispatched her and closed the hive (still on day 3 at this point)
- On the day of arrival of my new queen, I destroyed all of the queen cells in each of the nuclei, using lots of smoke to make sure that the bees couldn’t hide any from me (they are very good at that trick)
- I put the caged new queen into the nucleus that was on the original hive site, allowing the hive access to the candy plug. Before I walked away, I made sure that the bees were not being aggressive towards the queen cage (biting, stinging or balling it). They were not
- After 3 days, I made sure that the queen had been released (she had) and that there were no more queen cells (there weren’t). I then made a double newspaper layer, and put one of the other nuclei on top to recombine two nuclei. I also newspaper merged the other two nuclei
- After a week, I inspected the merged “hive site” nuclei for eggs, larvae and queen cells. All looked good, so I transferred the frames back into my standard hive box. I put a double layer of newspaper on top, then a second empty brood box, and transferred the other merged nuclei frames into the second brood box. I would have added an in-hive feeder at this point if there was a nectar dearth
- I left everything alone for a week, then inspected to make sure that the queen was doing well. If I had seen queen cells at this point, I would know that my queen had been rejected, but there weren’t any, so I had succeeded
- I then had to wait about 8 weeks for the hive to calm down. You need to replace about 80% of the workers to calm down aggressive hives. I minimized my inspections during this time
I am sure that doesn’t answer all of your questions, but that is step-by-step how I did it.
Hi @Outbeck, my technique is a bit different, however this is what I do & it works for me. I do have other hives, which helps me with my strategy.
First step is to put 3 frames with BIAS from a friendly hive in the middle of a brood box flanked by drawn comb or foundation frames.
Second step is to smoke the bees well before removing the honey super (without removing the lid) to place nearby, then take the brood box to place, maybe 6 or more meters away.
Third step is to replace the brood box with the new brood box. Put a fresh QX on, then replace the honey super. Put a fresh lid on the hot brood box.
After 24 hours, it will be easy to look for the hot queen because most of the aggressive bees will be at the old location. You will only have nurse bees to contend with. Even if some bees are aggressive, they will eventually go back to the old location.
At this point I donate the hot brood to other queen-rite colonies, replacing them with one or two brood frames from a friendly colony.
There’s no need to inspect either colony for another 4 weeks, until it’s time to see if the colonies were successful in making new queens.
PS When donating the hot brood frames, I put them in honey supers or add them to queen-rite nucs., without going to much trouble
The other thing to mention is to assess the size of the remaining colony when it comes down to how much brood you leave them with. One or two frames might be enough, flanked with drawn comb or foundation…
I did one the other day. I think I have a second one to do. I’ll know better in the morning when I attempt to take honey from it. I tried to split it last week, but didn’t get to even remove one honey frame, they started attacking my hive tool, so I shut the lid.
Why thank you, Dawn. What a great step by step plan!
I have a question for you. If you didn’t have an issue with Africanised bees in the area, would you consider letting them make their own new queen or are you re-queening for a guaranteed calm colony?
We used to let them make their own queens most of the time in the UK. Much cheaper and less work!
Having said that, I still had hives there that were too hot to handle, so we imported some nice, gentle New Zealand queens. They were gorgeous bees!
Thanks for your feedback. It sounds totally doable and not too stressful except for my lack of extra hives to utilise. My two other hives are in their infancy - one my small swarm that’s yet to fill a brood box and the other a nuc I recently bought and have located about 10kms from here, so not ready to pull frames from either yet.
I like how you get the agro bees back to the original location minus the queen. It sounds very manageable! It would also mean I could leave the flow super on, but I don’t think I’ve got the resources. The only extra I have is a single langstroth frame of honey in my flow super. I thought I could possibly take that and combine it with the six inner frames (most likely but not guaranteed to contain the queen) of the hot hive in a new deep brood box or two nuc boxes (as per Dawn’s method) then leave the outer 2 honey frames with a smattering of drone brood, that I’ve definitely seen (and possibly worker brood) in the brood box in the original location with the flow super on top. It may be worth it to draw the agro bees back to the original hive for a few days, while I find the queen in the other box(s) and dispatch then re-queen?
Really? NZ Queens to the UK. Surely you’d stumble across a card-carrying gentle queen in the UK!
So, if you had a hot hive, without the presence of Africanised bees, you might let them make their own new queen? I’m just considering the availability/timing of new queens for re-queening versus the availability of drones for mating this late in the season. Thanks again
Yes I would, assuming the season was at a point where there were still plenty of drones around.
Hi Beck, you’re welcome. The main part of the strategy is to work on the brood box (in order to find the queen) away from the original site, which is where the angry bees will return to.
I remove brood frames from nucs & hives in their infancy all the time. They are the easiest hives to retrieve brood frames from. Plus they are easy to add brood frames to because the first frame you lift out will be an empty one. Then it’s easy to slide the other frames across till you get to the bee mass. You could remove 2 brood frames from a calm nuc., then replace them with 2 frames from a hot hive. The bees from the hot brood frames will normally calm down to the temperament of the calm colony. Even if they didn’t, it’s only for a few weeks until they die out.
Anyway the bottom line is to minimize/eliminate bee stings for yourself & possibly other family members, not to mention neighbors.
PS Just an afterthought. The frame of brood I choose for bees to make emergency queens from doesn’t have to be the best looking frame of brood in the donor hive. It could be the outside brood frame that the queen just started laying in. As long as it has some new fertilized eggs is all that matters.
OK thanks. I’m not sure there are too many drones about other than from my hot hive.
Yet another question - what do I do with the flow super if I split the brood box into 2 nuc boxes? I realise all the logistical issues you have when there aren’t too many hive resources.
Good question! I haven’t done this, but I think I would leave the half number of frames in a deep brood box, and put a dummy/follower board in. I would then put a half hive mat over the empty side of the brood box and leave the super on top.
The alternative is to just take the super off for the week that my queen replacement procedure would need. If you are letting them requeen themselves, you could still do that with the super off for a week or so. @JeffH may have some better ideas, but if your apiary is small, your choices are limited
Hi Dawn, in my climate I only use 8 or 10 frame brood boxes to split into. Therefore I’d suggest to use the same size brood box as the original one. That’s why I remove the honey super first, then replace it after I swap the brood boxes over.
It wasn’t that simple the other day for me because I attempted to split the hive. The bees just got crankier & crankier. It was lucky I had the queen isolated on a frame. I combined 4 of the brood frames with bees with another 4 brood frames with bees from another colony to start a new colony to bring home. I marked the 4 angry brood frames so that I wouldn’t let them make emergency queens with them.
Back to the angry hive. I prepared a brood box with one good brood frame, flanked by fully drawn comb. I used it to replace the angry brood box, which I placed about 8 meters away. I put the honey frames into other colonies. The next morning I donated the rest of the brood frames to other queen-rite colonies, replacing them with one good frame, plus a few fully drawn frames before placing it on a vacant spot. All that was left to do was place a date tag on each colony so I know when to look for the new queens
Removing the angry brood means I don’t have to intervene to make sure they’re not using them for emergency queens. That’s why I suggest donating them to queen-rite colonies.
Thanks Dawn and Jeff!
Your experience and recommendations are greatly appreciated.
I have great news! There’s a local-ish beekeeper who breeds queens has agreed to come and give me a hand
I think he’s forgotten I have a flow hive (he’s not a fan), but I’m not reminding him.
I’m keen for him to judge for himself. He also mentioned that a local eucalypt species (Messmate Stringybark or Eucalyptus obliqua) can make them very cranky. One’s started flowering about 6 metres from the hive, so fingers crossed that’s the problem. I didn’t have this issue with them last year (I have hundreds of them), but here’s hoping. From the brief conversation, he practices a version of what you’re both suggesting (moving the hive away to deal with etc). I’m just relieved to have some experience on hand rather than muddle my way through nervously with my clumsy awkward gloves.
You’re welcome Beck, my first mentor told me that Blue Gums make bees cranky. It probably is a hot hive seeing as you didn’t have that trouble last year.
Working on the brood box away from it’s original position is a no brainer. It took me a long time to work that one out. I worked over a lot of angry hives before the penny dropped. I streamlined the strategy until I got to the one I described, which can be done without getting a sting.