Honeyflow.com | FAQ's | Community |

Very angry bees


#1

G’day, yesterday I wanted to inspect the brood box of my flow hive. Up until now the bees have been really quiet and co-operative but that all changed yesterday when they all went bunta at me. I smoked them as usual then removed the Flow super and put it to one side then had to get rid of a lot of comb to get the queen excluder off by this time they were really cranky and started stinging through the leather gloves, my jeans and even my bee jacket.I had intended to add another brood box as I thought the existing one was full . I wanted to put the new brood box on the bottom under the existing one but it was well and truly stuck to the bottom board. I got the new brood box on top and put the queen excluder on then the Flow super on top.
The weather was not particularly hot although the previous week has been hot and humid. After I got out of there I started thinking about what makes a normally quiet hive into a mass of homicidal maniacs intent on not just defending their hive but going on the attack. Do these traits come from the queen or from the drones? If I wanted to re-queen the hive how could you ever find the queen with the bees in full attack mode, any ideas would be appreciated, regards Neil


#2

I’m in my second year of beekeeping and have had a similar experience to you. But my bees are generally pretty calm.

I don’t know how much experience you have but if you are a beginner, i wouldnt assume it’s the bees fault.

A colony with a good temperament can get really angry too.

I can’t remember why now but i had an inspection involving going through my two brood boxes that really upset the bees and like you i had them stinging my gloves and bumping my veil. Unfortunately, i had a broken zip on my suit and a couple got in my veil which panicked me a lot. For some reason i had to finish the inspection and really had to steel myself to do it.

There can be a variety of things that set them off, primarily accidently squashing bees but also bumping boxes and frames. One thing that can cause a problem is if your super is stuck to the frames below, when you lift the super some of the frames below lift with it. This rolls bees and is very difficult to put back gently and even worse the stuck frames can drop off and thud back into the brood box below.

Another thing to be wary of is if you have a lot of bees on the ground, you can be stepping on them, squashing them or making them angry.

I’m fortunate that i dont have a really bad reaction to stings and it has generally improved over time. After about 6 months of beekeeping, i stopped wearing gloves and that has massively improved my ability to handle and read the bees. Firstly, the greater risk of being stung makes me move more slowly and carefully. Also i find i have much better control of the frames and dont knock or squash bees as much. But i’m still learning a lot each time i go in.

I’ve now got to the point that i’m happy to inspect the super in shorts and t-shirt and sometimes without smoke depending on the bees.

There are a number of other tips i’ve got from this forum and elsewhere:

  • if the bees are getting upset, either close up and come back later or if you need to carry on walk away 10-20m, squat down and wait till they lose interest in you.
  • if the bees are lining up at the top of the frames staring at you, they’ve cottoned on something is afoot. Give them a puff of smoke and they’ll generally disperse but if a whole box is doing it you might want to stop and come back later.
  • using a teatowel to cover portions of the box you are not working can reduce the disturbance to the hive and keep the brood area warmer. But be careful moving the towel as bees will normally cling to it and so if you drag it as you pick it up you can upset them. Also in breezes the tea towel can get blown around which annoys them - i put a weight on it. I only bother with a towel during brood inspections.

On the other hand you may have cranky genetics but i wouldnt assume this unless you can’t even approach the hive or you have had an experienced keeper do an inspection and come to the same conclusion.

Another thing i’ve noticed is that the guard bees learn to recognise threats. If i have a bad inspection then i often can’t approach the hive for a day or two without being checked out pretty closely.

I have a bird that regularly snatches bees on the wing from the front of the hive. The other day i saw it swoop past and it immediately had three bees chasing it on its escape route. It looked like a world war 2 bomber being attacked by fighter planes. How the guard bees were able to recognise this threat and accelerate after it in fractions of a second, i have no idea. I’m pretty sure the guard bees must have learnt to be on the look out for this regular visitor.


#3

G’day Dunc, thanks for the response, I have had bees for 15 months now and have inspected this hives brood frames before without all the aggression shown the other day. On my daily walk with the dog I pass an apiarist who is home only on weekends and often have a chat to see how things are going with him. He told me on our last chat that he had received the worst sting for many years through his jeans and into his calf muscle he said it took days for it to settle down so even the professionals get it. Unfortunately I really react badly to bee stings and have been told I should be flying glider planes or doing something else, however I really enjoy my bees and will persist with them.
I have another hive and a couple of nucs that I would be confident working without full bee suit and gloves, maybe just a vail or is it vale?.
The apiarist also told me that the worker bee’s life transitions from housekeeper/queen attendant to gathering pollen then gathering nectar then guard. I can’t argue with that but if it is true if the guards are starting all the aggro after a couple of weeks most of them should have been retired to bee heaven and replaced by unstressed guards, well that’s my theory.


#4

During the queens mating flights, she is inseminated by many drones, so yes the colony will go back and forth with some being more defensive than others.


#5

G’day Neil, you spell veil like Neil:) If a hive turns out cranky, the last thing you want to do is add another brood box. That will make the hive stronger in numbers & therefore will only make the hive even crankier. It will also make the job of finding the queen much harder should you decide to re-queen.

The best way to find the queen of a cranky hive is to take the brood box several meters away & leave another box in it’s place. While you are looking for the queen, the attacking bees will go back to the original site, leaving you in peace, kind of:)