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My bees hate me :-(

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.

cheers

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Update:
So the local Beek came, pumped a truckload of smoke into the hive, in anticipation of a bit of heat and got absolutely nothing. He said the brood was looking terrific and there was no disease :sweat_smile:. He even marked the queen for me. His view is it’s the Messmate Stringybark setting them off. While they flowered last year, it wasn’t nearly as heavy as it’s been this year - there really is a strong honey smell to them this year, whereas last year was a bit meh. He also correctly suspected that my nervousness around the hive (because of the increasing agro) wouldn’t have helped, as well as the dull/overcast weather during the last two inspections.
Without being 100% sure, he said something like, stay away from the hive in the morning and early part of the afternoon (I think). Can anyone clarify? We went in at about 4pm on a sunny afternoon.
I got chased away from the hive the next morning when feeding the chooks, so I guess it all adds up. My addition was obviously a bit out before that. I’ve found a couple of online references to bee aggression with messmates:

Amongst beekeepers it has been known as the 12 day wonder, producing large quantities of nectar during its peak flowering period. The nectar tends to make the bees defensive and protective of their colonies (aggressive). The pollen is good quality and bees breed well on it.
From Heathmont Honey - Messmate - Eucalyptus Obliqua

Flowering started early this year, however, many still haven’t started, so this could go on for a while :worried:
Anyway, a good result and I didn’t have to squish the queen! Thanks again to everyone for your help and feedback!

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Dawn_SD thankyou for the thorough explanation. What surprises me is how neatly you reduce the one hive to 4 nuclei then rejoin . I now feel I have been a bit precious with the hive at my expense and the expense of the harvest.

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There are many ways to do things in beekeeping. What you did may well have been the best thing for you and your bees. Please don’t second guess yourself. You now have some more ideas for the future if you want to try something different. :wink:

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Great to hear the outcome, thank you for posting. There is nothing like feet on the ground and eyes on the frames. Hopefully he didn’t give you a hard about having a Flow hive.

Really appreciate the update. I am very happy for you and your bees. Meanwhile, lots of people have some new concepts to consider from all of the responses that you have generated by sharing your question… :wink:

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I have a friend who teaches beekeeping and also does freelance beekeeping helping people deal with their hives. She has said that many many times she gets calls from people who are convinced they have very aggressive hives. When she goes to do an inspection she finds a perfectly manageable hive. In her opinion one of the biggest causes of this is that the inexperienced beekeeper is moving too fast, and clumsily thereby aggravating the bees. Bees cannot see slow movements very well- it’s how their eyes work.

I also observed that as I became more experienced with bees the amount of unpleasant inspections I did reduced dramatically. One key is to remove frames slowly- all the way. There is a tendency to move them out fast for the last half once the shoulders of the frame are clear. Bees then get rolled between the frames. This can instantly set them off. The trick is to work both slowly- and also fast- which seems counter-intuitive. It’s important to have everything ready, smoker well lit, and a clear plan of action, and to work systematically. Also looking at the weather and inspecting when it is the ideal time. For a hot hive that may be the middle of the day when the most bees are out and about.

having said that- she also has a 3 strikes rule for her hives - and she does encounter some truly aggressive hives and routinely re-queens them. Another reason why good record keeping is essential. I currently have a very aggressive hive: the bees fly up and start stinging my gloves as soon as I open the lid- no matter how slow and gentle I am. As I go deeper things just get worse. That hive has about 10 strikes now- and must be re-queened. It’s a shame as it is a very powerful and productive hive- but every time I approach it I am wary. It’s a potential menace for my neighbors too as the bees stay angry for a few hours after each inspection.

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At some point I have came to an analogy that manual work with hive is somewhat similar to using a clutch in manual car. Movement could be reasonably fast but always smooth. No jerks, no quick change of direction of movement. And it would work well if didn’t have butterfingers :laughing:

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Well done Jack, for your neighbors sake, definitely re-queen that hive. For your sake also, because drones from that hive could be passing on those aggressive traits.

I think the 3 strike rule is a good one. I killed a queen the other day on strike one. I was wondering at the time if I was doing the right thing. Anyway I split it 3 ways, so I’ll be better off in the long run.

perhaps a touch of aggression in bees is a good thing. Wouldn’t want to have their defensive capacity entirely bred out of them. Though considering that beekeepers have been attempting to d precisely that- it seems the defensive genes are pretty strong.

I agree Jack, however there needs to be a limit to how much aggression we can handle. For me, it has to be if I can manage to work the brood, with smoke, which I normally need. If I can’t split a colony or manipulate frames no matter how much smoke I give them, they’re too hot for me. I don’t want to go all dressed up with multiple gloves etc., just because the colony is a good honey producer, for example.

Did you read my update on the abandoned hives? If so, I went yesterday afternoon, as planned to split the split, so to speak. There were 7 brood frames. I didn’t want the splits using those brood frames for emergency queens, so I gathered 6 brood frames from quiet colonies, then proceeded to make 3 nucs. After a lot of smoke & shaking the cranky bees off the brood frames, it became very apparent that I did the right thing by not allowing the bees to make emergency queens with their brood. The bees wouldn’t leave me alone, however no stings. I made my 3 nucs before taking 2 of them to my other bee site. That will keep the bees separated.

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agreed- my hot hive stings me right through the gloves. hen I deal with it I will have to double glove and wear think clothes under my suit. That hive is currently a real pain… good work dealing with yours- I will read up what you wrote before I go into mine later this week.

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My strategy is in reply #9 on this thread.

cheers

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Thanks Jack - you are spot on. While I was initially conscious of being slow and measured with this hive, the more aggressive the bees became, the more wound-up I became and probably hurried it along. Another problem was that this was my first hive and I didn’t realise until later in the piece that frames should be pushed toward the centre. Consequently, the bees have built out into the available space making frame removal all the more tricky. I’m also wearing the full gloves which automatically makes me more clumsy and awkward.
One thing I made sure I did, was to go straight into a calmer hive afterwards. It was fine and I probably slowed down and relaxed as a result. What I’m not sure about is why this hive is not cranky (so far) and the other one is - probably because it’s a new smaller colony that’s easier to work through (plus I had replenished the smoker).
For what it’s worth, more Messmates are in heavy flower now and the bees are worse, I even had to move the chooks further away from them. I think I’m in for a crank few weeks or more. The plus side is nectar flow is well and truly on.

Thanks Dawn! There’s now some great info for people with aggressive bees!
Here is the culprit tree - Messmate Stringybark

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Your reason could be correct, but there is another possibility. The other hive may not be foraging on the same flowers. A couple of years ago, we lost a hive to insecticide poisoning. We think a neighbour probably sprayed a flowering plant that the bees were visiting from one of our hives. However, the hive next to it (one metre away) had very few bees dying from poisoning. So just because hives are next to each to each other, it doesn’t mean that they are visiting the same forage. Bees are weird and wonderful creatures! :blush:

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