Bees Gone Bad....

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Field Bee
Aug 5, 2009
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8 and 3's swarm time...
We're pretty new to this business, having started with two nucs this summer.

Nuc 1 is as placid as can be, a joy to open up, they fly around a bit, but not aggressively. They keep their comb neat and tidy, have grown well into a strong colony, and have a super full of honey. So we know what "good bees" are like.

Nuc 2. Well, they always were a little bit feisty. They've grown well, but that is where the good news stops. Over the last few weeks, they've turned increasingly aggressive, to the point where inspecting them is a pain. They'll chase you if you loiter within 20 yards of the hive, and during inspection, they all pour out and sting your gloves, your suit, everything. They also build wild comb off the bottoms of the frames, so you're desperately trying not to squash them as you pull a frame for inspection. Inspections have been so chaotic that we haven't even managed to see the queen for a fortnight, but there is plenty of capped brood, and some larvae. Thankfully, they're not that close to other people, otherwise we'd be in trouble.

I'm guessing, but it looks like all of the nice bees that came in the Nuc have died off (we got it at the end of July), and the bees that the queen has been laying are all born with ASBOs from the outset.

So what to do? Clearly we need to re-queen, but when? We've been advised that it could be a "bad batch of sperm", and will work its way out, but I'm not sure how long I can wait.

You could requeen tomorrow, or as soon as you obtain a replacement. Just have to find that incumbent queen....

Your best bet might be to split the brood bees into 2 boxes and move them away from the hive stand and wait. The quiet bees (OK the quieter section) will have the queen.

Now only, say 5 frames to look through. The flying bees will depart and rejoin the hive stand part. You are left with a quieter task of finding the queen on fewer frames. You could split them into approx 2 halves (or quarters, by now) and repeat the quietness test to find where the queen is most likely to be.

She will be on one of the inner sides of the frames, especially if left in a light place. You might be left with 2 frame sides to check to find her, or 4.

There is a law that says you will have to check 3 frames (four sides), unless she does a runner as you are checking. Often you can see her on the frame as you gently part them as she will stand out from the workers.

Introduce the new queen before reuniting the last of the bees (or put her into a queen cagewith a few attendants). Your choice. First-time queen introduction (well any, really) needs that insurance of the old queen being available should there be an unfortunate mishap.

This is just a suggestion of how you might approach the problem. There are other ways to achieve the same result - seive the bees though a Q/E for eg.

You will probably find her easily, especially if she is a painted lady and all of the above will not be necessary.

Have fun!

Regards, RAB

Other things....

You are only risking squashing bees at the wall of the hive?

You are removing an outside frame, or even two, and then moving the occupied frames along to make plenty of space for frame removal, even turning them sideways to clear the ends?

You could use a dummy frame next to the hive wall. Easier to remove than that first frame.

I also thought you would need to wait for the new brood to replace the old queen's offspring, but often it is a 'queen pheromone thing' and the bees will probably become more placcid shortly after introduction. Others might agree or disagree on that one.

Regards, RAB
When they were placid, we used to spot the queen easily - she has a great dollop of tipex or similar on her. The problem is at the moment that we rarely manage to get through the brood box.....

We have a dummy frame, so we do move the frames slightly sideways, but the protrusions of comb are very large - an inch extra width, hanging off the bottom. I will try removing an additional frame to get some more room!

Thanks for the help - a hive of feisty bees is quite an experience for someone in their first season!
yes it sounds as if it has gone bad but what are the other effects that are working the bees at the moment
are they being attacted by wasps or hornets
are you to rough handling them
heavey perfume or after shave
are they realy feeding well either to much on a flow or not enough

there are many reason why they change, either way if you have had enough buy a new queen , try mike at easy bee see if he has any avalible, or where ever you want and find the old one and squish her
We have some wasps, but nothing that the hives can't deal with. The odd wasp gets in, but is booted out promptly. Most of the wasps hang about for a while near the entrance, then give up. No obvious hornets.

In terms of handling, we probably not perfect, but we're a lot better than we were. Neither of us are big on perfume and aftershave.

The only thing that has changed is that the field they are in has been cut for hay. So they've been exposed to tractors rumbling about, and their view has changed. From a human perspective, I'd say the view is now better....but I don't know what the bees think.

We've formulated a plan. Next Monday, if the weather is good, we'll inspect them. They'll have been quiet for a week. The two of us will go through the brood box, and make sure the queen is there. If they're still bad, then the queen is for the chop!

(When I came back to the computer, and couldn't find this thread, I eventually realised I had posted it in the wrong section....feel free to move it if that makes things tidier...)
This wont go down well with many but we are in essence talking about a wild organism, bees don’t 'go bad' they are just bees. its normal, you either have to change the queen (others on wont squish em, not sure on what their position would be for 'asbo' queens) or just put up with their reactions and hope they settle down.

It seems wrong to me to jump on requeening every time a hive gets miffy, why do they need inspecting that much at present?
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She's had a reprieve. We've had no tractors anywhere nearby for about a week, the wasp traps have been working well, and we've left them alone.

So yesterday we opened them up. They certainly came out to see us, but they were not being a pain. None of them stung my gloves, which was quite a change from last time. They've done nothing with their super, but the stores in the brood box are considerable. Plenty of capped brood, no obvious larvae or eggs, but the queen was certainly there. I'd guess she has stopped laying for winter? There might have been larvae and eggs on the middle frame, but they were awash with bees, and I wasn't about to bait them by knocking them off.

So, lessons learned:

1) Tractors and bees don't mix!
2) In addition to the spacer, pulling out one of the "outside" frames makes examination much easier.

I've also watched HedgerowPete's recent video about cutting the extra comb off the bottoms of the frames - I might try this next time. So we're going to hit them with winter feed and hope for the best. No sign of varroa at all.
My 'tetchy' colony seemed to change overnight to the docile pussycats that they were a few months previously after they superceded, I only found that they had superceded when I was hunting through the brood box loooking for the old queen and I came across the queen cell, I was looking for the queen to replace her.

she's had a reprieve and is on the 'I'm watching you' list :D
Rae, just because you cannot see varroa, does not mean that they are not there. I would certainly consider treating for varroa with say Apiguard before the winter.

Further, if you do need to re-queen another couple of good queen bee suppliers are ...

Kemble Bee Supplies and Bickerstaffs
Interesting on varroa.

The two nucs are new (from mikethebee), and they're all on brand new kit. I've not seen a single varroa mite on the OMF sheets, and I've taken hi-res photos of frames during inspections, and carefully looked at them for mites - none seen.

Should we treat regardless? I'd rather leave the bees alone if we don't need to treat them.