May 27, 2018 at 5:50 pm #11270
I have a small urban farm in Culver City. I have had bees here for the last five years without incident. Originally I had two colonies, but one of them was overcome by wax moth. For some reason, the other survived. Eventually, the second colony either dwindled or decided to relocate. I should note that I have let the bees be bees. I don’t harvest the honey. I am more interested their pollination skills. In recent months, I have noticed that the hive is boiling with activity. It turns out they have been completely repopulated. Recently, the new bees have gone after my daughter a number of times, when she has been preparing beds and planting seedlings. She is working at least fifty feet away from the hive most of the time.
Because my daughter is now teaching an urban farming class, I am concerned about her students having encounters with the bees. Though I am reluctant to give up a healthy colony, I think they will be better off if they are relocated to a more spacious accommodation than I am able to give them. I am hesitant to label these bees as “aggressive,” but that was my experience the one time I did look in on them. Even with a moderate amount of smoke, they were all over me trying to sting me through my suit–with a couple of successful attempts.
If you have some expertise in bee relocation, and you are looking for a robust colony, please respond to this post with your contact information and any questions you might have.
May 27, 2018 at 7:03 pm #11272
- This topic was modified 3 weeks, 6 days ago by Donald Strauss.
HI, Don—I teach beekeeping in the urban environment, have 43 colonies and this report is troubling based on what I have experienced. First, the colony “0verc0me by wax moth” is a misunderstanding of the decline. Bees which are queenless and therefore unable to maintain a strong population become targets for ALL decomposers—wax moth is not the cause, but a symptom of decline and queenlessness. The other colony also likely declined from queen problems. It is one of the most common mis-diagnosed problems of managed colonies. If these were not feral bees, but package stock, then their decline would likely be due to overwhelming infestation of varroa mites. The feral stock are resistant and handle mites effectively. I also caution you about this— “I have let the bees be bees” because we live in the urban core and without managing their space needs, they can become very crowded and grouchy. In Winter, they may need boxes taken off. It is OK if you don’t want to harvest the honey, but you still need to do inspections on a regular basis and provide the proper amount of living space for your bees. All beekeepers get a bad rap if one of us is not managing our bees well in the close confines of the City. In Spring and Summer, they need space added and brooding up of brood frames to reduce swarming and crowding. I am wondering if …”noticed that the hive is boiling with activity.” is a symptom of this lack of management of space and therefore, the aggression when you attempted to inspect. Also, proper smoking technique on a crowded “boiling” colony must be such that you smoke under the lid, in the entrance, and wait 10 minutes. Then, the same again—and wait 10 more minutes. Then, you gently break the seal of the topboard, keeping the smoker near and pushing the bees down. You do not say how many deeps or mediums these bees are inhabiting, but it does not take long for a strong queen to fill 3 mediums, especially if they are taking over a home with ALREADY DRAWN combs. Smoking properly is a skill that needs practice, and many of my students take a long time to learn it.
Finally, I will say that a feisty hive such as this is a difficult adoptive candidate since most of the folks on this site are pretty new to beekeeping. You could open up the broodnest (you may need to get some help from a more experienced beekeeper for this) and see if they become more tractable with the change. I never insist a colony is inherently “aggressive” until all possible causes have been examined and remedied.May 27, 2018 at 9:18 pm #11273
Thank you for your comprehensive and detailed response to my query. This gives me an entirely different perspective. The first two colonies I had were feral. One was from a swarm that Rob McFarland collected a few years ago, and the second one was one that I collected from a huge avocado tree in my back yard. It is possible that the second came from the first.
When I had my encounter with the bees this afternoon, I was actually about to add a deep to the existing deep and two mediums. I did smoke the bees, but I did not use the procedure you recommend. It was, no doubt, more haphazard than that. I am inclined to give it another try using your recommended smoking technique.
I realized today that I could probably use another set of hands. I would be perfectly happy to pay someone to straighten out the situation. If you have any recommendations, I would appreciate it a great deal. If having a more appropriate amount of living space would put the bees into a better mood and make them less inclined to sting those who are working in the garden at a distance, I would just as soon keep them on the property.
dsMay 28, 2018 at 7:48 am #11274
Donald—you’re welcome. I can come out to help you if you get in touch and we arrange a date and agree on our principles. My phone is 310-374-4779
Manhattan Beach SusanMay 28, 2018 at 9:49 am #11275
Susan is great, so I’m sure she’ll help you out.
If you decide you’d rather move the hive off your property, I would be glad to do it. Please reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
DavidMay 28, 2018 at 4:58 pm #11276
Thanks for the generous offer. On further reflection, I have decided that the responsible thing to do would be to arrange for the bees to be moved off of my property. This episode has taught me that I simply do not have the time to tend to the bees in the way they deserve. Perhaps in a few years, when I have retired, I will take a third run at keeping bees (I kept bees with a small cooperative group up in Beverly Glen Canyon back in the 1970s).
Thanks again for shining a bright light on the problem. I am confident that it has led me in the direction of the right decision.
dsMay 28, 2018 at 5:24 pm #11277
OK—I saw David Boch offered to take the bees. Susan
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