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the naked beekeeper 

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Hi folks,

This is the first year I've had my own bees, after attending my local apiary and doing a beginners course last year.

I have had a problem with one colony turning horrible. They were a swarm I caught. First off they were lovely. I hardly needed any smoke, they gently walked across the combs and I didn't need gloves. Then just recently, after about 3 weeks, they turned nasty on me. I opened the hive up to inspect to see if the virgin queen had started laying and I got attacked. Stung 14 times, I hurriedly closed them up and as I did so, some bees got under my veil and one stung me on the eye; my cap slipped in front of my eyes and I tried to close the hive up but I had to go back to shut it properly as the roof wasn't on correctly...... It was quite a traumatic experience what happened. I do it all on my own and two stings swelled up huge.

Some down my trousers, some got up my sleeves somehow. And they followed me.

I haven't opened them since this happened a few days ago, but I went out to watch them today and I got stung just being crouched down watching them. I wasn't in the flight path or in any threatening position.

What the hell would make them turn like that?

I'm pretty scared to open them up again now to be honest.
 

grizzly 

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Hello There
Is this the first time they have been a bit narked ?
Did you smoke them ? How much space do they have ? have they lots of stores ? i could go on..

There are lots of reasons as to why they could be in a bad mood, i tend to give mine a few inspections before making any judgement.

However if they continue to be foul, the queen gets replaced immediately nowadays.
 

Onge 

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I can heartily recommend a proper bee suit. As grizzly says give them a few more inspections before judging them.

Good luck :)
 

jezd 

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In my limiited experience most swarms change as they settle down, first few days and weeks they can be fine but once the work starts they tend to be fussy and can come out in waves - all my swarms have been like this expect one (and I killed her, :mad: don’t start me off again lol). I would never risk being with the bees without a bee suit mind, the weather and food is up and down like a yoyo just like the bee moods and you are asking for trouble.

They may settle down, I am keeping my nasty hives to see how they emerge next spring - interesting to see.

Jez

PS I wear an all in one suit, however I always have an extra layer under that too, even on hot days
 

Geoff 

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Wasn't there someone on the forum selling all in one bee suits for a reasonable price? Also I use a heavy duty glove than normal marigolds. White Park recommended the heavy duty black ones from Tesco and they were a god send when I was given a colony that behaved like they all had PMT. I moved them out to a farm and will get requeened when I can find her.
 

jezd 

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Are you wearing any perfume/ aftershave/ deodorant that they can smell?
Worse than that, human breath, dont breath on bees they dont like it...
 

steve1958 

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I was told to stay clear of Head and Shoulders Shampoo.

Apparently the little loves hate it.
I guess they are a lot more sensitive than us
 

Hivemaker. 

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So you still don't know if they have a Queen.
Virgin may of dissapeared,Queenless bee's are not happy bee's.
Quite a few are touchy at the moment because of lack of honey flow down this way,guarding what they have,if anything.
 
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Poly Hive 

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I suppose it depends on the breath of the individual human. I blow on mine to shift them over if I want to see that patch of comb and they dinna mind.

They turned nasty unexpectedly. You got stung. Well....... that tells me a few things.

firstly you were under protected.

2ndly the colony may be queenless.

3dly they may have been queen right but the weather was turning and or the flow had dried up and they objected.

If you keep bees you have to expect the unexpected and be dressed for it. As you have unfortunately discovered being stung is not so pleasant and some places hurt considerably more than others.

I expect to be stung every time I go to the bees. I dress for it. Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised. Often I am not.

I would not wear BLACK gloves if you paid me. Hint.

Next time you go to that hive smoke them well. Take off the top hamper and smoke as you go in. Then pull the middle brood comb/s and see what is what.

Use your smoker.

PH
 

admin 

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Give the hive a tap before smoking and they will tell you if they are queenless by giving out a loud hiss/hum.

I am with Hivemaker regards them guarding what honey they have because the weather has been so bad.
 

bobandbec 

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The only thing I would add was not to over smoke them ie. don't pump the smoker so the smoke is forced into them, more a "drift" of cool smoke and rest for a couple of minutes before manipulating. They can get really bolshy if you overdo the smoke. I always try to do mine without smoking but with it lit and to hand if required!
And I definitely agree a good smock or suit is a must. Why take any risks if they can be avoided. I also wear a sweater underneath the smock and a woollen "bob" hat to cover my head and ears. I found the ear lobes were a regular target and painful areas to get stung.
The only area I wouldn't overdo is hands. Wearing to much can have a detrimental effect on the feeling of handling the bees which can result in upsetting them more. Personally I find marigolds or thin nitrile gloves best and they are disposable after the inspection, so fresh clean gloves for the next visit.

Peter
 

OXFORDBEE 

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Before opening the hive see if the bees are flying freely. If you go in and the foragers are all at home you could have a difficult situation on your hands.

There's no point pussy footing about; this is the end of the season and the important thing is to get your confidence back. If you keep our confidence you will maintain control of the situation.

If you are hesitant about opening them up then get the smoker going really well and give the bees a few good strong puffs into the entrance. A few good puffs before opening up the hive could save a lot of smoke later on, especially if you are uncertain about the temperament of the bees.

The important thing is that the smoker is giving cool smoke and not hot smoke (which has a blue tinge). Hot smoke will get the bees extremely aggitated.

Once you've given the bees a good puff at the entrance, give them a chance to fill themselves with honey before you open the hive. Don't go straight in but wait for up to 5 minutes.

Puff some smoke into the gap between the clearer board and the brood box when you are lifting off the clearer board this will prevent the bees shooting out to see what's going on.

Once you open the hive don't go mad with smoke. If you have a virgin and she's unmated (which is unlikely 3+ weeks after hiving a cast) you don't want her getting terrified and flying off.

Always remember if the bees are in the hive you can manage them with a bit of smoke when required.

If the bees are mainly out of the hive having a pop then you've lost control of the situation.

Good Luck!
 

Queen B 

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Any thunder in the air? Or have they been confined to quarters by rain/cold weather? Short of food? One of my colonies went for my husband the other day when he was trimming the grass nearby (with shears, not a mower), and he hadn't got anywhere near them. He was, of course, fully suited-up - gloves, jacket, veil & hat, boiler suit underneath, jeans under boiler suit, wellies. OK, so you may die of heat exhaustion but the stings don't get through! The next day, I inspected them. A couple of drifts of smoke at the entrance, waited a minute to let it rise through the supers ... then a full inspection. They were good as gold!
 

the naked beekeeper 

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Everyone has been so helpful, thank you.

I thought I had dressed up suitably. I had on a t shirt, a thick winter rugby top and then my smock. I had a cap on to keep the veil off my face. The elastic on the smock is not too clever though and my gloves are a bit loose, so that may be how they got up my sleeves. I am soon to buy an all in one suit and I'm going to tuck my gloves into my top. Also where my gloves are slightly loose, they would get caught under the frame as I replaced it and it was hard to get my hand back without a slight jar to the frame. Only gentle, but I could hear the bees don't like it.

I think the colony has a queen as I have seen pollen going in.
However as I said, do they get that temperamental that they'll even sting you when you watch? That has never happened to me before. I wasn't in any threatening position.

I did use smoke and I waited a minute or so after I puffed it in the entrance. I will definintely make sure it's cool smoke next time though and not hot smoke.

I don't wear any aftershaves or anything, so I smelt fresh.

They seem to have about 2 frames of nectar and some sealed honey.
The weather had been raining on and off the previous few days.

I tried to control the situation with smoke, but it just seemed to make them worse.

As I would reach my glove across to lift up the end of the frame, they would divebomb my hand. It was bloody scary having bees under my veil and I literally legged it after trying to get the roof back on with my cap over my eyes. And it was again pretty distressing knowing I had to return to put it back on properly. I never want this to happen again, so all comments are really, really appreciated and listened to. You guys have more experience than me.
 

admin 

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As I would reach my glove across to lift up the end of the frame, they would divebomb my hand.
Are they Carniolans ? I have been through a hive that one of our members has and they did the same thing to me,it was like running a magnet over Iron fillings.
It was bloody scary having bees under my veil and I literally legged it.
Been there done it last summer,before I purchased my new suit I got a few bees under my veil,I never new I could still move away from a hive so fast.
 

jezd 

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As I would reach my glove across to lift up the end of the frame, they would divebomb my hand.
For my part I would say that’s normal for them on an off day (some of mine always do that), its just bees protecting the hive - some do it more than others. Its an interesting point that when you get to do the introductions day and courses they always choose nice calm bees on the day and therefore you don’t see the full range of behaviours.

Your are right, it can be nerve racking and on many days you have to grit your teeth and just get on with what needs doing.
 

jon 

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Then just recently, after about 3 weeks, they turned nasty on me. I opened the hive up to inspect to see if the virgin queen had started laying and I got attacked.
Sounds like the virgin queen got lost.

I thought I had dressed up suitably. The elastic on the smock is not too clever though and my gloves are a bit loose, so that may be how they got up my sleeves.
I work with just a veil and nitrile gloves most of the time although I have a smock type jacket as well if I come across a feisty colony. I wear two pairs of socks with the toe cut off on each wrist and pull the nitrile gloves up over the sock. This stops any bees crawling up your sleeve. The colony you describe needs to be worked with proper protection. If you are a beginner, I would get a more experienced beekeeper to check if the colony is queenright.

I think the colony has a queen as I have seen pollen going in.
It is one of the oldest beekeeping myths that the sight of pollen going in means a colony is queenright. It seems to be something which all the older beekeepers believe.
The colony may well have had a queen which is now lost and they would have been bringing in pollen in anticipation of needing it later.
 

gavin 

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Did this idea not come from seeing pollen coming in in quantity in early spring? Pollen coming in in early spring = colony in good heart = queen came through the winter.

all the best

Gavin
 

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