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Safely dealing with Africanized Honey Bees


I have a hive that has become quite aggressive. I plan to re-queen as soon as a replacement come available but have been thinking a lot on how to avoid riling them up while I hunt down the existing queen. I live in a neighborhood of 1.5 acre lots so many neighbors could be impacted if I handle things badly. For this reasons, inspections of this hive are always done last and very cursorily. I will likely have to go deep to find the queen. So…

In addition to lots of smoke, and picking a time when most folks are away or indoors, I am considering:

  1. sugar/spearmint oil spray - I know I may lose a few but sticky bees have a hard time flying and creating a nuisance. Besides I lose more than a few each inspection when they leave their stingers in my gloves so maybe a wash.
  2. bee vac - sucking up the triggered bees seems like it could be helpful, but will they be that much more aggressive when I release them back into the hive?

Any other suggestions?


I would do neither the above.
A lot of bees are riled by too much smoke
It is really hard working with sticky fingers.
I would move the brood box well away, maybe ten feet. Put a regular super where the old box used to be and go away for an hour.
All the nasty bad tempered flyers will be in the super then you have more placid bees to wade through to find your queen


This sounds very compelling. Interesting comment on the smoke, too. I guess I’ll have to watch for feedback from the bees on that.


As well as moving the hive seperate the boxes so you only have one lot of bees at a time. Divide and conquer.



I generally start a new colony by adding frames of brood from placid hives to the box like @Dee suggests.

I smoke the bees, remove the honey super, put it down somewhere, remove the QX after taking the brood box 10 or more feet away. Put the QX onto the new box. Then I replace the honey super.

After all of the older bees have left the cranky brood box, I find it much easier to find the queen. Then I let the remaining nurse bees make a new queen with brood from a placid colony.

PS. keep well protected during this operation & keep everything at a height so you can avoid excessive bending over.

PPS. It’s also advisable to pick the best weather.


Thanks for the suggestions. I have a spare deep but no built up frames not currently in use. Will new frames with wax foundation suffice in the original position as the decoy or do I need to borrow some frames from the the other hives (maybe some honey)?
I will not attempt make a new queen as the existing trouble maker was bred from a placid colony and I want to make sure I don’t end up with the same result. So tell me if this is right. Once I find and remove the queen, I then replace the hive in its original position and leave the decoy nearby until it is vacated. Two days later I introduce the new queen (using timed release marshmallow or such). Sound right?


If you want to go with a new queen, I would do it in the one day. Just a couple of frames containing honey will do in the decoy box. Maybe not. I think a frame of brood would hold them there.

I would smoke them, remove the honey super & put it down somewhere. Then I would remove the brood box & place it somewhere conveniently away, replace it with the decoy box. After a couple of hours, I’d smoke them, remove the QX, find the queen to kill, then place the new queen in the cage where you want it to go (I clear a spot on the bottom bar of the middle brood frame). Then replace the QX, swap the brood box for the decoy box, then replace the honey super after smoking the bees off the QX. Keep your smoker going, you may need to use it often.

Put the decoy box on top of the hive. Remove it after dark, once the bees have all returned to the original entrance.

PS. Upon reflection: a see lots of flaws with this technique. I like my original idea better.


I would notify your neighbors of your intentions.


If you have really agressive bees and close by neighbors, I would plan to move the hive somewhere until you get things resolved. Close them with screen after dark, load them in one piece and haul them to the country somewhere. Then divide and conquer.



Of course. A couple of them are already aware of my situation (walking around in a “space suit” is a great conversation-starter) :-).


Thanks for the link. Good advice. I don’t really know anyone with large acreage but there is plenty of open desert BLM land nearby. I could probably find a remote location - will do some research.


I do have a vodka-queenbee cocktail in my freezer. Would that be useful here? Maybe a few drops in the decoy? Could be helpful… could be disastrous… Unless someone says otherwise I was not planning on attempting to use it (not the time to be inventive).


Hi TT, my first strategy will be the best to minimize aggression. If you add the purchased queen to the frames of brood, all you you need to do then is remove the honey super, take the brood box away, replace it with the new brood box containing fresh brood & purchased queen. To further minimize aggression, place a different QX on, then replace the honey super.

I would remove & replace the honey super without removing the lid. After a while I’d put a different lid on the old brood box.

I would leave the brood as is for about 24 hours. Then take a look, have a second purchased queen ready to replace the old one.

Because you are on 1.5 acre lots, I can see no reason to take the hive away by using this strategy.


Thanks again, everyone, for the suggestions. There is a rather unusual lack of conflicting guidance :slight_smile:. I just need to decide if I want to end up with one or two hives when I’m done but the procedure seems clear enough. Thanks!


I’m not sure if I followed this correctly as I have a possibly Africanized hive that I too need to kill the queen and replace next spring. I am not good at spotting queens yet. So 1. Install decoy box where current box is. 2. Relocate existing box with brood frames. Install a queen excluder in now relocated original brood box. 3. Locate queen and kill. 4. After killing queen and installing new queen, split or join boxes ‘per plans or preference’. Question: Would installing a worker/gatherer excluder, anywhere in this equation, be advantageous? If so when and where would you add it? Thanks.


Hi Dusty & @TickTock. I always reckon that two queens are better than one. Now with the QX, I’m assuming that there is one above the brood box. I would leave that in place so as not to disturb the bees while removing it. I would leave removing the QX until the next day after most of the field & guard bees have left to join the decoy hive. At that point it will be much easier to locate & kill the queen. You can have a purchased queen ready to replace her straight away or the next day.

With the decoy brood box that contains fresh frames of brood, the first purchased queen as well as maybe some freshly drawn comb or fresh foundation on the sides, you’ll need to put a second QX over that, before replacing the honey super. This is because you are not removing the first QX for another 24 hours.

This is all about doing the least possible disturbance to the bees & upsetting them.

It’s worth remembering that an angry hive’s brood box doesn’t get inspected as frequently as a placid hive. Therefore doing that brood inspection to find that queen will be more challenging than normal because the bees have a had more time gum things up, making it more difficult to remove the QX & frames.


Time to armour up for this work. No bare hands, gloves and make sure your trouser legs are closed off. Those little buggers are not fun near your nether regions :smile:



Totally agree with Rob, but I would wear boots - they can find ankles pretty easily. Also I would wear leather gloves, but nitrile on top. They can sting through the gloves, but if you have nitrile on too, it is very easy to quickly stretch the glove to pull the stinger out. They also love to go for the face and neck, so make sure your veil is VERY well-sealed.

Hope never to deal with them again. :blush:


They can sting through the gloves

Yup. The last two times I inspected mine, I got it on the top of a knuckle. When the leather is stretched while grabbing something they get through. I use white gaffers tape to seal my wrists and ankles (gaffers tape because it doesn’t leave residue and white because when I used black it acted like a bee magnet - I think they thought it was exposed skin). I think I’ll go double gloves when I go hunting for the queen.


Hi TT, when you say that the bee got you through the stretched glove over your knuckle, you’ll understand why I suggested to place the hive in such a position so as to avoid excess bending over.

Good luck with it, it wont be all that bad. cheers