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Bees won't quit

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    Carole Cooper

    How do I discourage the bees that follow me from the bee yard? After an inspection there’s always a handful that follow me all the way around the building and I usually just wait them out, but today about 25 bees came after me and absolutely wouldn’t give up — even after ten minutes, they were just as avid to attack as they’d been when I was near the hive. The inspection found them booming but with plenty of room, still. My question is how do I encourage them to calm down and go away so I can get out of my suit?

    David B

    Hi Carole,
    How many hives do you have at that location?

    susan rudnicki

    Please describe the size and number of boxes,
    how long the colony has been established,
    the last 3 dates inspections were done
    and if eggs were seen.

    What is the demeanor of the colony when it is not being inspected?
    Where were they sourced—swarm, package, cutout?
    What is the smoking technique? Describe throughout the inspection how the smoker is used.
    What is their attitude after dutiful smoking at the beginning? Do they still run at your hand or shadow passing over the frames? If you are slow and gentle, do they still get riled up, or do they calm down after a period?
    To get a thorough answer, these questions need answering.

    Nan ODonnell

    Try to Slow down and don’t be in a hurry. Sit down near your house and let the curious bees buzz you. Breathe deeply and exhale! bees don’t like CO2 in your breath. Don’t expect to rile up the bees and take off your suit right away.

    Carole Cooper

    I have just the one hive, currently two 10-frame mediums. I got this swarm from you, Susan, last June — a small, secondary or tertiary swarm with a virgin queen that took another 21 days to mate. By then the swarm’s resources were very much reduced and I fed them through the whole summer and fall until mid-November when they began to thrive on their own.

    The colony has had a recent catastrophic event — I moved them and, in so doing, accidentally killed thousands upon thousands of the workers (cooked them in a closed box). Inspected them 10 days later, April 1, finding plenty of worker bees and a few drones. In Box 1, what had been thriving brood frames were now empty, combs had been damaged by the workers (chewed from the top of the frames and allowed to drop to the hive floor) and there was one teeny tiny closed queen cell that had apparently already been stung. I put the combs back together with rubber bands and cable ties. Before the move Box 2 (and yes, I know that’s the top box) had only recently been added and the colony had drawn drone- or honey-size comb, then some brood had been laid in the middle frames — now, 10 days after the move, Box 2 had some capped honey but mostly empty comb with random-patterned drone cone, very little worker brood, no larvae, no eggs. At this inspection I noticed that the workers in Box 1 looked like “my” bees while those in Box 2 were much larger (workers, not drones). I thought I’d probably killed the queen.

    I did some bee math and calculated the latest they could have a new queen emerge if I had killed the queen the day of the move, then gave it a couple more days and inspected again — that was April 14. Found most of the activity between inspections had been concentrated in Box 1. Combs repaired throughout, normal-pattern brood capped on frames 5 and 6, likewise some larvae but not much. Their aggression during inspection was about what it’s always been. Some did follow me to the front yard but most gave up, normal for me.

    My husband got stung a couple times while using the hose in the backyard. The foragers use the sunny yard as a beeline to the hive and I figured he just looked like a bear or something.

    OK. Today I inspected to prove/disprove the presence of a queen or laying workers. It’s a queen — Box 1, frames 2-5 now absolutely fully laid with workers, frame 6 recently laid — capped in center, older larvae around that, younger larvae around that and eggs on the perimeter. Box 2 frames heavy with some capped honey, open nectar, pollen and drone cone. Observed 3 workers emerge on frame 7. Lots of bees and none of the tiny little girls I’ve always had.

    Those teeny ants were under the cover but I didn’t see them on the frames. Two different workers looked like they’d been coated in flour. No other signs of disease.

    I smoke them lightly through vents in the floor and at the door before cracking the lid and a couple puffs there. They always get super buzzy when I do that and they’re always right at my hood as soon as I open and for as long as I inspect. I puff them off the top of the frames as I go and puff them away from the sides when I need room to put a frame back in. They always get more and more buzzy the longer I go. They also always beard in large numbers during inspections. All of that was what I’ve come to expect.

    Because of the changes in the appearance of the bees I have been wondering if somehow a swarm moved in when my hive was vulnerable right after the move. The bee math says that if they re-queened, they were already in the process of doing so before the move. Whatever, these could be the same old bees or they might be new ones.

    So, how do I encourage the bees that follow me to go back to the bee yard?

    susan rudnicki

    Well, have to first observe that—whenever a beekeeper moves bees from a property, you ALWAYS provide vents for airflow and try to move at night. It is hard to tell from the description what happened exactly. I can’t tell how long they were “closed up”
    You can not encourage bees to not follow you, if that is what they have in mind. You can change your behavior—go further away,work them just before dark, get into a car or house, (brushing off any that are clinging beforehand) But the main issue is they are defensive toward you.
    I’m sorry, but the issue of the queen, whether a new or the old one, is too difficult to determine from this description. It is possible, if the hive was open for some time after the damage, that a new swarm moved in.
    Do you have a mentor? You could use a set of experienced eyes looking at your situation, as we often advise in this group.

    Carole Cooper

    Thanks,Nan. Patience has always been my short suit, so your counsel is spot on.

    Carole Cooper

    Thanks, Susan. I will try working them late in day, try walking further, try being more patient, try getting inside more quickly. It’s nice to know it didn’t have to do with my boxes or inspection schedule or smoking technique.

    While I feel badly about killing so many of them in the move, I know what went wrong and won’t do it again — I’m on to making whole new mistakes/ learning new things. As far as the queen goes, new or old, they have a laying monarch.

    Yay bees.


    Hi, I’m new to the group and first time posting. I just wanted to add something that wasn’t mentioned. I don’t know how often you clean your beekeeping suit but pheromones can tend to stick around if the suit has been stung. I give mine a thorough soak in hot OxiClean (the unscented kind) and hand wash in the laundry sink, then rinse it all out in plain hot water. I was finding that the bees were unusually defensive towards me and following me as I left the yard. After washing my suit as described, the bees were calm as kittens.

    Carole Cooper

    Wow, Nolan, of course! I left my suit on the front porch today and a couple bees still hung out with it for hours. . . I’ll wash it for sure before the next inspection.

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