Do colonies become more aggressive as the Queen gets older?

Beekeeping & Apiculture Forum

Help Support Beekeeping & Apiculture Forum:

Blunt Spike 

New Bee
Joined
Aug 7, 2017
Messages
58
Reaction score
2
Location
Loggerheads
Hive Type
national
Number of Hives
3
Sorry for the long read but any advice would be gratefully received.

I have been hindering the normal progress of 3 / 4 hives for the last 5ish years. I have noticed that at the end of the summer I get them ready to over winter and the colonies are calm and gentle. Open them up in spring. The colony with the 3 yr old Queen is grumpy at best. The other 2 colonies who had 1 to 2 yr old queens both are still calm. This has happened for the last 3 seasons that I have noticed, some have remained a nervous colony until I / they have requeened and they calm down. Is this normal, is it likely to be something I'm doing? Do they get grumpier the older the Queen gets?

I went in today and 2 were so gentle, the other one with the older Queen, as soon as I went below the Queen excluder I was covered in bees. Now granted it was very overcast but the air was full, my arms and veil were covered. I had to keep walking away and wait for them to calm a little. I didnt go through that hive today. Last week they were just grumpy, but went through, lots of stores, good laying pattern / brood healthy, Queen seen - looked ok. Plenty of space - on brood and a half with a couple of supers above the qe. Need to point out that this colony last year were so gentle and calm.

Does the smoker fuel that I use make any difference? I currently use wood chippings that I get from a saw mill nearby. I am thinking of burning pine cones as there are hundreds near to the apiary. Could the type of wood im burning be making them angry? I dont often smoke the other two hives as they dont need it, and try not to use too much on the other, but not smoking doesn't work and smoking just seems to P them off.

Should I be requeening for often?


Thanks
 

oxnatbees 

House Bee
Joined
Apr 15, 2012
Messages
214
Reaction score
91
Location
Oxfordshire UK
Hive Type
warre
Number of Hives
6
Do you use any mite control chemicals in winter?

Do you remove old comb?

I'm wondering if stuff is accumulating in the wax, once it hits a threshold they begin noticing it.
 

Blunt Spike 

New Bee
Joined
Aug 7, 2017
Messages
58
Reaction score
2
Location
Loggerheads
Hive Type
national
Number of Hives
3
I use apiguard in autumn. I do switch out frames, but could probably be more proactive at doing so. Thanks.
 

madasafish 

Queen Bee
***
Joined
Apr 10, 2010
Messages
10,185
Reaction score
1,502
Location
Stoke on Trent
Hive Type
langstroth
Number of Hives
6 to 8 Langstroth jumbos, a few Langstroth and National nucs.
Pine cones clog your smoker with tar. Been there, no longer use them.

I find colonies mellow with age.

But bees hate overcast and thundery weather - at least mine do. Accentuates any bad traits.
 

Blunt Spike 

New Bee
Joined
Aug 7, 2017
Messages
58
Reaction score
2
Location
Loggerheads
Hive Type
national
Number of Hives
3
Pine cones clog your smoker with tar. Been there, no longer use them.

I find colonies mellow with age.

But bees hate overcast and thundery weather - at least mine do. Accentuates any bad traits.
Thanks for the heads up re pine. I've noticed they are worse when rain threatens and I try to stay away when its like that. The weather this week and my work have caused me to go today or risk not getting check on them until mid to late next week.
 

jenkinsbrynmair 

International Beekeeper of Mystery
***
BeeKeeping Supporter
Joined
Mar 30, 2011
Messages
28,128
Reaction score
5,854
Location
Glanaman,Carmarthenshire,Wales
Hive Type
national
Number of Hives
Too many - but not nearly enough
I use apiguard in autumn. I do switch out frames, but could probably be more proactive at doing so. Thanks.
You only need to switch out comb if they are really manky and falling to bits. 'Chemical' buildup in the comb making them testy - that's a good one :icon_204-2: :icon_204-2: :icon_204-2:
 

madasafish 

Queen Bee
***
Joined
Apr 10, 2010
Messages
10,185
Reaction score
1,502
Location
Stoke on Trent
Hive Type
langstroth
Number of Hives
6 to 8 Langstroth jumbos, a few Langstroth and National nucs.
I have some combs 5 years old.
The bees in them do not appear to be suffering from any nasty illnesses despite not being local.:eek:
 

Finman 

Queen Bee
Joined
Nov 8, 2008
Messages
26,591
Reaction score
954
Location
Finland, Helsinki
Hive Type
langstroth
What we may ask, from where come sweet young girls and from where cranky old women?
 

pargyle 

Super Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
***
BeeKeeping Supporter
Joined
Oct 16, 2012
Messages
13,603
Reaction score
3,791
Location
Fareham, Hampshire UK
Hive Type
14x12
Number of Hives
6
Sorry for the long read but any advice would be gratefully received.

I have been hindering the normal progress of 3 / 4 hives for the last 5ish years. I have noticed that at the end of the summer I get them ready to over winter and the colonies are calm and gentle. Open them up in spring. The colony with the 3 yr old Queen is grumpy at best. The other 2 colonies who had 1 to 2 yr old queens both are still calm. This has happened for the last 3 seasons that I have noticed, some have remained a nervous colony until I / they have requeened and they calm down. Is this normal, is it likely to be something I'm doing? Do they get grumpier the older the Queen gets?

I went in today and 2 were so gentle, the other one with the older Queen, as soon as I went below the Queen excluder I was covered in bees. Now granted it was very overcast but the air was full, my arms and veil were covered. I had to keep walking away and wait for them to calm a little. I didnt go through that hive today. Last week they were just grumpy, but went through, lots of stores, good laying pattern / brood healthy, Queen seen - looked ok. Plenty of space - on brood and a half with a couple of supers above the qe. Need to point out that this colony last year were so gentle and calm.

Does the smoker fuel that I use make any difference? I currently use wood chippings that I get from a saw mill nearby. I am thinking of burning pine cones as there are hundreds near to the apiary. Could the type of wood im burning be making them angry? I dont often smoke the other two hives as they dont need it, and try not to use too much on the other, but not smoking doesn't work and smoking just seems to P them off.

Should I be requeening for often?


Thanks
I think you will probably find it's a mix of reasons ... some colonies dislike smoke - have you tried a water mister rather than smoke.

Try putting a cloth over the frames that you are not inspecting - keeps them down in the hive.

Hot humid high pressure weather (more so when it's thundery) has a marked effect on their temperament.

The genetics can change when the queen is renewed - a queen mates with a lot of drones and if some of the ones she mates with have testy genes you can find some of the bees are less manageable than others ... and it does not take many to set the rest off. Once one starts the attack the rest will follow suit and if one stings they will all sting. Bigger colonies can be more defensive than smaller colonies but they can usually be managed.

Colonies can be defensive when there is a lot of honey in the hive and the flow stops - rape is notorious for making some bees defensive - particularly when it is no longer available.

Intensive inspections can upset the demeanour of the colony ... instead of inspecting all the frames - pull out the dummy board (I assume you use a dummy board ?) and move the frames en-masse by levering them from a point where you expect the brood to be and just inspect the brood frames - you really don't need to find the queen - if there are eggs and larvae there's a queen there - all you are looking for is queen cells and they will usually be on brood frames somewhere.

Have a think about your bee suit/gloves - what gloves do you use ? Do you wash your bee suit regularly ... what about the deodorant/soap/mouthwash you use - bees can react to smells they associate with concerns.

So many possibilities ...

What it is not is the age of the queen, dark comb, residual chemicals or any other mythological reasons ...

If all else fails and you cannot control them there is only one effective solution - replace the queen.
 

Finman 

Queen Bee
Joined
Nov 8, 2008
Messages
26,591
Reaction score
954
Location
Finland, Helsinki
Hive Type
langstroth
What ever reason to evil hive is , only way out is to change the queen.

You may invent all kind of theories, but it does not help.

Dark combs cannot be a reason, because every hive has dark combs and white combs. It does not take long when white combs become dark. ... strange reasons...
 
Last edited:

masterBK 

Queen Bee
Joined
Oct 20, 2009
Messages
2,262
Reaction score
294
Location
S Yorkshire
Hive Type
national
Number of Hives
wintering 31
We are all familiar with the fact that bees in a colony rendered queenless often become a bit more defensive in a matter of hours due to the lack of queen pheromone.. As a queen ages I believe it has been found that her production of pheromones declines with time. In response more cells for drones are made and prepared for laying and they are more likely to produce swarm cells. So maybe lower pheromone levels may also result in the worker bees becoming less placid if they are not getting their full pheromone "fix". Often if you replace an older queen with a young one, the behaviour of some colonies improves fairly quickly long before her progeny replace those of her predecessor. This may be attributed to higher pheromone production from the young queen.
 

ericbeaumont 

Drone Bee
***
Joined
Sep 23, 2010
Messages
1,726
Reaction score
1,237
Location
North London, West Essex and Surrey
Hive Type
national
Number of Hives
70
as soon as I went below the Queen excluder I was covered in bees
What ever reason to evil hive is , only way out is to change the queen.
You may invent all kind of theories, but it does not help.
Follow Finman's advice; all else is fiddling.

PS: bees do not have the human ability to get angry or grumpy, but are more or less defensive according to many variables, queen genetics being the most obvious.
 

Finman 

Queen Bee
Joined
Nov 8, 2008
Messages
26,591
Reaction score
954
Location
Finland, Helsinki
Hive Type
langstroth
We are all familiar with the fact that bees in a colony rendered queenless often become a bit more defensive in a matter of hours due to the lack of queen pheromone.. As a queen ages I believe it has been found that her production of pheromones declines with time. In response more cells for drones are made and prepared for laying and they are more likely to produce swarm cells. So maybe lower pheromone levels may also result in the worker bees becoming less placid if they are not getting their full pheromone "fix". Often if you replace an older queen with a young one, the behaviour of some colonies improves fairly quickly long before her progeny replace those of her predecessor. This may be attributed to higher pheromone production from the young queen.
I do not believe a bit of that.
A queen does not loose during one winter its feromones (last summer queen) and bees do not swarm because of feronomes.
And the story about drone production.

It was here a few time ago, the swarming does not depend on genetics. However guys have bred breeds, which do not swarm. I have bought these queens, and really they do not much swarm.

I wonder this forum's grand men, how they generate the theories from nothing.
It must an old man's syndroma : I have explanation to everything.

I have read at least 50 reason, why bees are angry, but not a single reason, why the hive is calm.

A honeybee is not eveloped so that it is friend of a human.
 
Last edited:

Finman 

Queen Bee
Joined
Nov 8, 2008
Messages
26,591
Reaction score
954
Location
Finland, Helsinki
Hive Type
langstroth
Follow Finman's advice; all else is fiddling.

PS: bees do not have the human ability to get angry or grumpy, but are more or less defensive according to many variables, queen genetics being the most obvious.
One natural explanation to angry hives is time periods, when they do not get yield. At the end yield season when yield is permanently over, the robbing pressure is high. We have that period in August. Bees need extra energy to pick all neigbours from the landing board. And wasp pressure is high too.

And before sunset bees become very defensive and ready to kill everything which open the hive. What I know, keep then out of there.

But a beekeeper learns quickly, when his hives are angry, but is it necessary to invent pheromone reasons to that.

Perhaps the bees are angry, because they have a sting and they want to use it. They only need a target. A Reason is a good target, not an old queen.

When I had 55 years German Black bees, I had only angry hives. Nowadays I have only calm hives, because I change every queen, which makes angry hives.

And the queen age is same as 55 years ago.

And why you get sometimes an extra super angry hive, when they change the queen. ... pure genetics
 

Finman 

Queen Bee
Joined
Nov 8, 2008
Messages
26,591
Reaction score
954
Location
Finland, Helsinki
Hive Type
langstroth
I remember one pheromone thing of angry bees. It is only 30 years ago. And it tells too, how bee breeding works along time.

Bee poison smell is an alarming scent of the bees. Bees put the sting out and flap their wings to wake up other defenders.

30 years ago I carry water bucket with me on hive visits. I washed hands with water when I got stings to my hand skin. Bees became mad when they felt the poison smell.. but it is not any more needed. Workers do not react any more to the sting smell like they did on old days.

Long time ago bees love to sting into the edge of the sleeves, into wrists. 20 stings per visit was the limit which I was not going to stand. .. but surprisingly not any more. Modern bees do not sting me to my wrists. It is fingers what they sting.

Changing point of the bee breeds were when varroa killed German Black bees from my district about 1990.

Varroa killed all feral bee colonies in buildings and in nature too. And varroa killed all miserable beekeepers.

Second point was when I got first inseminated queen for queen rearing. It taught, that bees do not need to be angry to get good yields. Bees' nature changed totally.

WHAT I MEAN ... because of breeding results we have already forgotten why bees sting and what irritates bees to sting. But we get better and better theories all the time , why bees sting.

Old combs and old queen theory is surely the best theories what I have met. Hives must be all the time alarmed when they think how old is their queen and how old are their combs. ...They are like irritated Africanized bees. ... are you serious..
 
Last edited:

Blunt Spike 

New Bee
Joined
Aug 7, 2017
Messages
58
Reaction score
2
Location
Loggerheads
Hive Type
national
Number of Hives
3
Thank you to everyone who took the time to post a reply. Food for thought.
 

F.F.Stung 

New Bee
Joined
Oct 8, 2020
Messages
42
Reaction score
37
Number of Hives
2
Sorry for the long read but any advice would be gratefully received.

I have been hindering the normal progress of 3 / 4 hives for the last 5ish years. I have noticed that at the end of the summer I get them ready to over winter and the colonies are calm and gentle. Open them up in spring. The colony with the 3 yr old Queen is grumpy at best. The other 2 colonies who had 1 to 2 yr old queens both are still calm. This has happened for the last 3 seasons that I have noticed, some have remained a nervous colony until I / they have requeened and they calm down. Is this normal, is it likely to be something I'm doing? Do they get grumpier the older the Queen gets?

I went in today and 2 were so gentle, the other one with the older Queen, as soon as I went below the Queen excluder I was covered in bees. Now granted it was very overcast but the air was full, my arms and veil were covered. I had to keep walking away and wait for them to calm a little. I didnt go through that hive today. Last week they were just grumpy, but went through, lots of stores, good laying pattern / brood healthy, Queen seen - looked ok. Plenty of space - on brood and a half with a couple of supers above the qe. Need to point out that this colony last year were so gentle and calm.

Does the smoker fuel that I use make any difference? I currently use wood chippings that I get from a saw mill nearby. I am thinking of burning pine cones as there are hundreds near to the apiary. Could the type of wood im burning be making them angry? I dont often smoke the other two hives as they dont need it, and try not to use too much on the other, but not smoking doesn't work and smoking just seems to P them off.

Should I be requeening for often?


Thanks
Shavings off treated timber must surely be questionable
 

Murox 

Queen Bee
Joined
Aug 31, 2017
Messages
3,204
Reaction score
1,215
Location
Campbeltown Scotland
Hive Type
other
Sorry for the long read but any advice would be gratefully received.

I have been hindering the normal progress of 3 / 4 hives for the last 5ish years. I have noticed that at the end of the summer I get them ready to over winter and the colonies are calm and gentle. Open them up in spring. The colony with the 3 yr old Queen is grumpy at best. The other 2 colonies who had 1 to 2 yr old queens both are still calm. This has happened for the last 3 seasons that I have noticed, some have remained a nervous colony until I / they have requeened and they calm down. Is this normal, is it likely to be something I'm doing? Do they get grumpier the older the Queen gets?

I went in today and 2 were so gentle, the other one with the older Queen, as soon as I went below the Queen excluder I was covered in bees. Now granted it was very overcast but the air was full, my arms and veil were covered. I had to keep walking away and wait for them to calm a little. I didnt go through that hive today. Last week they were just grumpy, but went through, lots of stores, good laying pattern / brood healthy, Queen seen - looked ok. Plenty of space - on brood and a half with a couple of supers above the qe. Need to point out that this colony last year were so gentle and calm.

Does the smoker fuel that I use make any difference? I currently use wood chippings that I get from a saw mill nearby. I am thinking of burning pine cones as there are hundreds near to the apiary. Could the type of wood im burning be making them angry? I dont often smoke the other two hives as they dont need it, and try not to use too much on the other, but not smoking doesn't work and smoking just seems to P them off.
I often use pine wood chips, because they are free and plentiful; however I always use some other vegetation likes leaves or grass or moss above the 'smouldering' wood chips as when puffed up the smoke can be very hot indeed. You could also try plain water in very fine mist sprayer, it works very well for me.
 

elainemary 

Field Bee
BeeKeeping Supporter
Joined
Jun 1, 2019
Messages
837
Reaction score
978
Location
Yorkshire
Hive Type
wbc
Number of Hives
10
We are all familiar with the fact that bees in a colony rendered queenless often become a bit more defensive in a matter of hours due to the lack of queen pheromone.. As a queen ages I believe it has been found that her production of pheromones declines with time. In response more cells for drones are made and prepared for laying and they are more likely to produce swarm cells. So maybe lower pheromone levels may also result in the worker bees becoming less placid if they are not getting their full pheromone "fix". Often if you replace an older queen with a young one, the behaviour of some colonies improves fairly quickly long before her progeny replace those of her predecessor. This may be attributed to higher pheromone production from the young queen.
Interesting I was wondering about this too. I have a very gentle queen (last 2 years) and first part of this year she was gentle too. However I’ve added a Nuc extension and the colony has become progressively ‘tetchy’. I put it down in part to adding a couple of sealed brood combs from another edgier colony. However the reducing pheromones makes sense too and I did wonder whether it had an effect.
Re queenlessness I have a couple of colonies which remain calm and nice even when queenless, but agree the majority become tetchier, some a lot more than others.
 

Boston Bees 

Bumblebee
BeeKeeping Supporter
Joined
Oct 13, 2020
Messages
1,427
Reaction score
1,383
Location
West Yorkshire
Hive Type
national
Number of Hives
10-20
Colonies certainly become more aggressive as they get bigger. Not sure about older.
 

Latest posts

Top