Albuquerque Beekeepers

Urban beekeeping in New Mexico's largest city.

Hi all,

I joined this forum so I could get some help.

I have a single hive about 3 years old in the NE heights.  I haven't bothered them much only harvesting honey a couple times a year so they could establish nicely.

I got in the hive in April and had no problems but last week, I experienced something different altogether.

The bees seemed to be agitated and taught me where the flaws in my suit were.  I harvested a couple of combs but the bees were doing their best to get at me so I got scared multiple stings and stopped.  3 days later I tried again and quit without harvesting any honey because the bees got very defensive very quickly.

My hive used to be friendly and let me harvest honey without any problems and without getting stung or scared by them.  This is very different. 

The hive is a top bar hive and fully populated sporting comb on every bar.  The bees will allow me to open the lid and pull a comb or two but mobilize very quickly after that.  Once agitated, they followed me as I walked away and took didn't let up at all as I tried to wrap up. 

After 30 minutes of walking around in my yard at least 30 bees were still on me, down from the original 50+.  I finally got a hose out and started spraying myself and the bees to get enough respite to duck into the garage an close myself off. 

Do I have an africanized invasion?  Is there a way to tell without calling an entomologist?  And, more importantly, what can I do about it?

Keeping bees is rewarding and I don't want to quit them but I live in the city with close neighbors and easy access for the bees to the street.  I'm afraid a neighbor or passerby may get swarmed and cause big problems.

Please advise. 

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This sounds like they're defensive from being queenless.  We've had a hive or two go like this when they didn't have a queen (weren't queenright), then settled back down once we installed a new queen, she had lain eggs and the brood smell got strong again.  Did you see eggs, young brood and possibly the queen when you'd opened the hive?

Hi,

Thanks for answering.  I have not pulled out any of the brood comb so couldn't say if we have a queen or not. 

But this does lead to more questions.  My wife and I are leaving town Monday for a couple of weeks so won't be able to install a queen until the middle of September at the earliest.  How long can I expect the hive to last without a queen?  Will it be possible to find a queen further into the fall? 

Secondly, if I open the hive up and live through it, how does one spot a queen in a hive filled with so many bees?

What are the implications if I do find a queen? 

This forum has likely answered most of these questions several times over, and I apologize for any redundancy.  I do sincerely appreciate your answer.

We don't look for the queen directly; that's a bonus.  What we look for is standing up fresh eggs.  That indicates the queen was laying eggs within the last 2(?) days, and odds are she's probably still alive in the hive.  A good range of small curlicues is also useful.  If there's no evidence of a queen, then at this time of year I think you're in noticeable trouble if you want the hive to survive (through the winter is a secondary concern).  If the hive does not have a queen, you should get one ASAP.  

If it's a queenless issue, I don't have enough experience to say whether you're absolutely hosed at this point of the year.  I would think it depends upon whether the current population of adult bees, and the number of bees that will hatch out from old brood, will be sufficient to weather the 1-2 weeks of no laying, plus the 1-2 weeks of you being away, plus the minimum 1 week of (if you can get a new queen, *and* the hive accepts her) the new queen not laying eggs.  Will there be enough bees to keep the hive through the winter?  If the hive is super strong, I would think there's a chance it might survive 5-6 weeks of no new brood, but...delay doesn't help matters.  Folks with much more experience than I as beekeepers community could answer this question.

If you do have a queen/young brood, I'm not sure why your hive is hot.  If it's the original queen that you started with, the genetics of eggs she's laying shouldn't change.  Thus, the nature of the hive shouldn't change.  *If* your old queen died in a window between hive checks, *and* the hive made a new queen, *and* the queen mated with drones that have some hot characteristics, *and* she survived her mating flights and got back safely, it's possible that you might have some hot characteristics in your hive.  We had a hot hive once after we bought a commercial queen to replace a queen that was laying poorly, and didn't cry when the hive died out over a winter.  It seems possible, but less likely.

I bet your queen died.  When we had that happen with a hive I couldn't be in the backyard without at least a pair of bees zipping over and pestering me.  I maybe had a minute of peace before they were on me.  I had to wear my bee gear to do anything in the yard.  It died down after the new queen we bought and installed started laying.

To see if queens can be found now, I would contact Ken Hays at Hays Honey and Apple Farm, or Papa Bear's Honey LLC.  Or, someone in the community may respond.  

Something I forgot.  When you go to look through the hive, and the queen is dead or they wanted to replace her, the bees may have been able to make an emergency or supercedure queen cell.  Look for emergency queen cells as a peanut shaped bit of comb hanging off of the front of one of the brood bars.  Look for supercedure cells as peanuts hang off of the edge of a brood bar.  If you have those, your hive is trying to make a new queen.  At that point, you either have to gamble that the new queen will mate and succeed, and there's not much to do right now but wait.  Or, you buy a new queen, kill all of the queen cells off and install the new queen.  

Thank you for the help.  I'll check the hive thoroughly as soon as I can after returning.  If the hive is meant to survive, I guess the bees will make it happen. 

My wife and I are leaving in a few hours and, tempted as I am, won't be suiting up to look this morning.  Probably do more harm than good trying to hurry through a hive inspection. 

Maybe all will be right on its own in a couple of weeks.  I'll post again when I get back in there.

Your replies have been really helpful.  Pulling me back from a panic.

HI again.  I returned from my trip to find my hive still heavily populated so I was encouraged they either still have or replaced their queen.  It has been several weeks since I last opened the hive before getting in there again this morning.  The result was much the same as before.  Smoking them didn't seem to have any calming effect but they weren't any more aggressive until I removed the first top bar.  The first thing I noticed was that they were very productive and not only replaced but produced additional honeycomb.  In 3 weeks, they had been busy.  The next thing I noticed was the way they came after me.  Not wanting to mess with it, I closed the hive back up likely crushing a bunch of them and walked back off.  Once again, it took almost 20 minutes for the last of them to leave me alone so I could take the suit back off.  These bees concern me because of my proximity to so many other neighbors and the street.  The only saving grace is my neighborhood is quiet with few pedestrians or passersby on weekday mornings.  The bees chase me out to the street and linger for quite a while.  I have to consider options now and could use any ideas more experienced people may have. 

Gene,

     If there's no queen, and thus little brood to tend, the bees will go out and forage and get supplies, making new comb.  You won't know if there's no queen unless there's no sign of eggs.

     I'd be happy to come out and take a look.  If you're interested, we can arrange a time today, tomorrow, or in the near future.  505-977-8864.

Regards,

Buckner

We've had that problem in the past with overly aggressive worker bees. I'm not sure of the reasons why this happens but we had to requeen our hive. We were told by our mentor to requeen them. What we ended up doing is transporting our hive to the gal (forgot her name) who used to sell queens in the south valley. She had them for a month. When we got our bees back after the new queen was installed the workers were docile like before.

Camille

Thank you.  That's an option we are keeping open for the Spring.  I'm afraid it might be a bit late to try that before Winter.  My hive is still a bit hot and two of us were stung yesterday trying to check it out. 

I think the stinging/activity yesterday was because we had the hive open for such a long time, and that the smoker fuel wasn't smoking.  It took a while to tidy up, deal with the cross combing and honey-harvest the wonky/fallen comb.  They were reasonably fine through the first 1/2 of the time, and just started to pick up the tempo the longer we had the hive open.  It's a very *strong* hive, with lots of brood and honey, and the strength of the hive was an added factor.  With smoke, and going through the hive in 10 minutes at a normal pace, they won't have time to get riled, or at least I'd like to think that. It will be interesting to see what happens.

They were coming in through the old opening on the north side next to the house on one end of the hive, and through gaps between bars on the other.  We closed the bars, and I'll bring over the metal mesh to block the old opening next to the house. That'll just leave the newly opened southern end for them to come in/out of.  That might help a little, and will allow opening the back end of the hive with less bee strength there.

Splitting the hive in the spring will cut down the strength, and that might help as well.

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