“ERRRR!” 10 Bee Stings, Wacky Comb And A Mean Hive

“ERRRR!” 10 Bee Stings, Wacky Comb and a Mean Hive

Bees have different buzzing sounds, that a beekeeper can use to judge the mood of the hive.  A gentle “hmmmmmm” is a good sound you want to hear in a happy hive.   When you do something the bees don’t like the hum gets louder for a few seconds to “HMMMMMM”.  When you do something really bad you get a loud “ERRRRRRRRRR”.  If you are a beekeeper you know what I’m talking about.  

This “ERRRRRR” is a warning sound to the beekeeper because it means the bees are angry.  Most hives do not make this sound during an inspection unless you bang a frame, squish a bunch of bees, smoke them with hot smoke or do some other stupid beekeeper mistake (yes, I’m speaking from experience here).   My hive Dandelion on the other hand makes this sound as soon as you touch the hive.  Open the outer cover “ERRRRRRR”, touch a frame without even removing it “ERRRRRRRR”, take a frame out of the hive “ERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!”

It’s still early in the season and I have already received 10 bee stings this year, seven from this hive, one from Debbie’s queenless hive and two bee stings were from Crocus which were both my fault.   For whatever reason Dandelion is easily agitated.

Yesterday after only opening the outer cover, bees descended on me and stung my leg several times.  They kept dive bombing me, chasing me and trying to sting me after that, so I could not continue the inspection.  I tried smoking the bee stings which usually works to disguise the sting pheromone, but it was failing this time.  Luckily, Brian was there and was dressed more appropriately, as a proper beekeeper should be, and not wearing capris like his stupid wife (that’s me).  He ended up doing the inspection for me.  I could not get within 10 feet of the hive without being attacked by bees, even when I smoked them.  I’m glad Brian is finally over his fear of bees! Despite massive amounts of smoke, the entire time the girls kept trying to sting him through his gloves.

The first few times I got stung this year from Dandelion, I was hoping it was just the bees that came in the package that were mean.  I thought once the new queen starts laying eggs and the new bees hatch the disposition of this hive would change.  It’s been six weeks since the package install and I’m not seeing the bees get any calmer.  This hive is not on my property and I really don’t want the homeowner being stung more than she has already from this hive.  I’m reluctantly considering requeening them.

Being mean is not their only problem.  This hive is sucking down syrup like there is no end in sight and not building out frames.  Instead they have decided they prefer to draw the comb perpendicular to the frames.  In the six weeks since this hive has been installed they have drawn only 5 frames.  They are on plastic foundation, and while some beekeepers like this medium, I’ve noticed my bees hate drawing it out.  The wired wax and foundationless frames are drawn much quicker.  The two other packages I installed the same day as Dandelion Hive are doing much better and they aren’t mean.  I put one package on foundationless and wired wax  (Willow) and one on wired wax foundation (Squill).  Willow had a second super added last week and Squill will be getting one any day now.

Some of the wacky comb. This comb was attached to the frame on the opposite side and pulled apart when this frame was removed.

What do you think? Am I judging them to quickly? Would you requeen this hive or give them more time to work it out? Have you had a mean hive before? How did you handle it? Let me know in the comments below.

Here are my hive inspection notes from the last two inspections. They are brief as I was only checking the amount of frames being drawn.

Hive inspection Notes From 5-13-12

Dandelion has 4.5 frames drawn. I got stung twice. That makes 3 stings from that hive this year. I hope the new bees are not as mean as the ones that came in that package!  Four frames built with capped brood and larvae.  Another 1/2 frame with pollen and honey.  Burr comb was being built perpendicular to the frames on one frame, I removed it.  Queen looks good. This hive has been sucking down the syrup. Yellow pollen being brought in by field bees. Pollen in hive.

Hive Inspection Notes From 5-24-12

Bees sucking down syrup. I think there is a slight dearth after all this rain.  Temps warm – 69 degrees and humid.    They have only 5 frames built up and are really struggling compared to my other hives.  Lots of capped brood and pollen. Burr comb is being built perpendicular to the frames on three separate frames.  I cut it out on 5-13 and they built even more by 5-24 which Brian removed.  If they build it back again I will pull the frames they have not built and switch them with wax foundation to see if they do a better job drawing those out. Stung multiple times and chased from hive.

To see more detailed pictures and descriptions of the hive inspection on 5-24 please view the gallery below.  Just click on a picture then scroll through the slide show by clicking on the arrows.  If you click on the picture the gallery will close.  If you are viewing this in an email or reader you may have to read this post on the website for the gallery and descriptions to display properly. Enjoy!

Other Posts You May Enjoy:

  1. Flame Duct Tape, A Rock, Orange String And Debbie’s Bee Swarm
  2. Three New Packages of Bees And Crocus Hive
  3. Installing Package Bees In Dandelion Hive
  4. It’s Queen Cage Removal Time!
  5. Drawing Wax And Building Wonky Comb – Dandelion Hive Check 4-27-12
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Author: Anita Deeley

Anita Deeley is a biologist who maintains 30 honey bee hives. She is the beekeeper, writer, owner and creator of BeverlyBees.com. When she is not spending time with her girls (the bees), she enjoys being a wife to her beekeeping cohort, Brian and mother to 3 little boys (the beekeepers in training). Read more about Anita here >>
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8 Comments

  1. Seems like many factors here.

    –I also question the plastic foundation. I wonder if they are trying to tell you something.

    –Nectar flow. Does it flow well now?

    –I think I would re-queen. I would hate for that gene to spread to the rest of the apiary.

    –Do they come after you only when you open up the hive or all the time?

    • I have decided to switch them to wax foundation. They may be cranky because they don’t want to build out any of those frames which is making the colony stressed. I know a lot of beekeepers who love the plastic but for some reason my bees just do not like it. Crocus has it and still has not drawn out all 20 frames. I have finally taught them to build it correctly but it was a lot of work and a lot of destroying of burr comb and moving frames and I’d rather not do that again. Since this hive is telling me they do not like it I’m just going to switch them. It is much easier!

      Yes the nectar flow is better now at last! The rain has slowed down too so the bees can get out again and forage.

      I’m going to give them one more chance. I would really hate to set them back by requeening. There are northern raised queens which will be ready soon and if I have to requeen that’s what I will use.

      This hive is at a friend’s house and they do not really go near it so I don’t know. Every time I go there I am opening it or feeding it. They seem to be fine when I change the sugar water which is on a boardman feeder. Maybe they are mean because they know I am going to ruin all their hard comb building work 🙂

  2. Based on what I learned in my beekeeping class, you should re-queen. It sounds like they might be slightly africanized because aggressive hive defense is one of the characteristics. I wouldn’t want to keep those kinds of bees. The drones could be mating with other queens also.

    The bees that we keep in the class are so friendly you could wear a veil and nothing else and most of the time not get stung if you’re careful. I took apart several hives in jeans, a long-sleeved shirt, and a veil but no gloves.

    Also, I would make sure there are no diseases in the hive. Sometimes when I opened up a hive with foulbrood, the hive would be angry and sting several times even if they have friendly genetics. I think this is because they are under stress because they are unable to successfully hatch brood and the hive population is decreasing.

    Keep us up-to-date!

    • Thanks Tanya that’s good to know about the foulbrood and the bees attitude. This hive does not have any diseases unless wacky comb building is a disease. 🙂

      Even friendly hives get cranky sometimes. I have the nicest bees at another site and they are crankier than normal this year. The weather has been really strange, which is affecting the nectar and pollen supply and making the bees antsy. In my area we have had an incredible number of swarms the past few weeks, more than the last few years combined in only a few weeks time. It is a weird season for beekeeping.

      I may end up requeening this hive but I am going to give them another chance. If they are still mean after the next few inspections a requeening is definitely in order!

  3. The aggressive behavior might be alleviated by positioning the comb as in the Housel Positioning.
    Worth a try, Before re-queening.
    Always a learning experience, the bees are constantly trying to teach us.

  4. what is that wacky cone cause from? We just open up our hive today and there was some of those wacky cones and they had tunnel built with cone too; which seemed kinda of weird. Is this normal, if not what should I be doing? Thanks

    • Sometimes the bees build comb that way. There are a number of reasons – honey flow intensity, foundation type, no foundation, too much space etc. You need to cut it out and fix it to keep the hive inspectable and prevent cross comb.