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Robbing or just unusually cranky?

Sorry this is long but I would really appreciate advise from an experienced keeper. For reference I have 1yr experience. Location is Brisbane AU. It’s a warm winter with loads of stores in the hive and more coming in daily. Approx 1 month since last inspection. Only mods to the FH is hivedoctor base instead of normal one.

To repaint my FH, I temporarily moved the brood and FH frames into regular full-depth langstroth boxes. The flow frames don’t quite fit properly so the inner cover couldn’t be added. FH roof seemed to fit on ok though.

The colony were not happy being moved and I had 30+ bees chasing me away even at the end. They continued searching around the outside of the house for hours, until sunset 4 hours later. This has not happened before but I did do the transfer in a bit of a rush so maybe not as gently as I should have.

Overnight I repainted the boxes. Next morning I put them outside to air. Inside the boxes was still some very small amounts of wax.

Within 1 hour angry bees were back circling the house, but mainly near the repainted boxes.

As the day went on the number of angry bees seemed to increase. I suited up and went to see the hive itself thinking something was wrong…

There were many bees, possibly 30+ seemingly trying to enter the hive from behind, under FH roof, and what I feel was side/side swaying at the hive front. I was instantly attacked in the suit as if they were all on high alert. This resembled what I had read of robbing behaviour.

So… I switched the hive back to the repainted boxes (really needed another coat but nevermind). There was definite bee rage as you can imagine.

Within 2 hours everything seemed calm again. A couple of bees still zooming around the house but not like earlier.

Question is… does above sound like robbing, lured by the repainted boxes drying outside (with some wax) combined with the incompletely closed temporary hive?

Or were my bees really that furious for two days and moving them back magically calmed them (unlikely)?

Hi Geoff, what you did is quite disruptive for the bees. Did you use plenty of smoke? If the bees got upset during the process, it takes 3 days for them to calm down. While they are in defensive mode during that 3 day period, they will be seeking out the CO2 you exhale, that will direct them to your face, which is where they want to sting you. If you can hold your breath while walking past the hive, that will help. Sometimes they detect the increase in CO2, then just attack an exposed part of the body without going for the face, which is unfortunate & hard to avoid. If they do go for the face, hold your breath, duck quickly while walking away. The bee will continue to search for the co2 at the level your face used to be.

I doubt that you saw robbing behavior because we haven’t had much rain lately & there’s a bit of a honey flow on. There is up here anyway.

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Hi Jeff, thanks for replying. There is a flow on here as well and negligible rain.

I felt I used a moderate amount of smoke but perhaps it wasn’t enough. Agree it was very disruptive for the bees to be ripped out of a nice warm box and moved into a new box.

Good to know it probably wasn’t robbing and the calming after returning to their original boxes was probably just coincidence. 2nd time I used much more smoke though…

In hindsight I would wait until a nice warm spring day to ever do that again. It was 20+ degrees C, zero wind, zero cloud cover but still that’s a fairly big differential from the 35c they like.

Well done Geoff, the extra smoke really helps. What you learned with the benefit of hindsight is gold.

I hope you were able to get the frames back in order without leaving many squashed bees between combs etc., because squashed bees that are difficult for house bees to remove are a magnet for hive beetles. They will lay eggs in the bodies.


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I was extremely careful to keep the frame order (I’ve actually numbered my frames with a paint pen to be sure)!

Hoping not too many were squashed, I tried hard not to do. Loosing a queen this time of year would probably be a disaster as there’s not many drones about right?

I don’t want to fire them up by opening again in 3 days to check for eggs so I was thinking maybe 10 days (enough time to build and cap an emergency queen cell if needed but prior to hatching).

Hi Geoff, there will be drones about. I’m successful in getting queens mated right through winter. I start splitting late in July (brass monkey month). I always let the splits make emergency queens.

If I was you I wouldn’t inspect to see if you killed the queen or not. I’d save that inspection for late winter/early spring, when it’s time to think about swarm prevention strategies, or even just to see how things are going.

Thanks Jeff. I think I’m maybe panicking a bit and should just sit back and let them raise a new queen (if I’ve killed the old one), then split in late winter/early spring.

Good to hear there are drones about, that was my major concern.

Seems they have resumed the house attack patrol so outside is off limits again, but there’s rain next few days that will hopefully shut it down.

You’re welcome Goeff, remember what I said about the 3 day thing. Also keep in mind about the co2 I talked about. If you walk past the hive, do so while holding your breath. That works for us.

I haven’t checked the latest forecast. I just don’t want rain tomorrow morning. I plan to rob some hives. My vege garden can do with some after that. Plus my not very big rainwater tank must be getting low.

Reviving this thread with an update. I left the hive alone for 24 days only to open yesterday and… disaster.

No eggs, larve or capped brood. Oddly no sign of an emergency queen cell either on any brood box frame. Still many bees but they are desperately queenless at this point.

I was fortunate enough to buy a new queen after calling 4 different breeders.

The bees seem to have accepted her based on my understanding of their behaviour…

Would appreciate if anyone else can confirm this looks like acceptance - exact moment is at the 1:40 mark Welcoming a new queen - YouTube

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They certainly don’t look hostile. However, I am concerned about the final position of the queen cage in the brood box in your video, before they release her. If there isn’t enough bee space for the nurse bees to feed her, there are 2 possible problems:

  1. Her pheromone doesn’t get distributed around the hive
  2. They can’t feed her if the open parts of the cage are pressed up against the comb


Oh no!

What would you suggest is the best position? I had been told to put her between the frames which I thought was ment to be like that.

Was also told not to open the hive for 5 days now but if I have to then I will.

Hi Geoff, I agree with Dawn, however the bees still have access to her via both edges of the cage (top & bottom in it’s current position), which might be enough. Also I wonder if bees would chew comb away in order to get better access to her.

Does it help there’s 4 attendants inside? Would that be enough food wise for the couple of days to chew her out?

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I think that would be enough Geoff. Just looking outside, it’s raining up here. I’d be inclined to leave it as it is, assuming that you have rain down there as well today.


Yes it does help, but it won’t be liquid food, which is easier for everyone (attendants and queen). I am sorry, I don’t mean to worry you, and I don’t think you should do anything right now, as queens with attendants can be fine in a transport cage for a week or more.

My only point is a learning issue, not intending to cause you concern. When I introduce a new queen, which I do every year in at least one of my various hives, I push the cage into the comb above some capped brood. There is usually a honey arc in that position, so the cage isn’t damaging anything vital. It then stimulates the house bees to clean up my mess and get close to the new queen, plus it gives a ready source of liquid food to nurture the newcomer. The capped brood nearby means that any newly emerging bees will immediately greet the caged queen, and transmit her pheromones around the hive. All of this just increases the chance of acceptance.

I am not saying that you did anything wrong. My comments are just a counsel of perfection, at least based on my experience. You should be fine, though, and I agree with @JeffH, don’t open the hive again just yet. Let them settle for a few days first. :blush:

By the way, that is a beautiful queen that you have there. She is huge! Must have been laying well before she was caged, which is great news. :wink: