honey bee behavior predators

What makes honey bees aggressive: things you need to know

Honey bees kill a bald-faced hornet. Photo by Rusty Burlew

Lots of things can cause hostile bees, including robbing by other bees, yellowjackets, or hornets.

You’ve managed your honey bee colonies all spring and summer with no problem. Now and then an aggressive guard warned you off, but in general, the bees were docile.

All of a sudden, however, the bees are angry. They fly at you. They form a dark cloud above their hive. And they might bury themselves in your pet’s fur. What gives?

Many aspects of a honey bee colony are cyclic in nature, and aggression is no exception. Honey bees may become belligerent at any time, but certain things set them off. In the late summer and early fall, more of these conditions exist.

What causes feisty bees?

Here are some of the factors that may make your honey bees more contentious:

  • Queenlessness is frequently a cause of hostile bees. The bad behavior usually stops as soon as the colony or the beekeeper replaces the queen.

  • A shortage of nectar-producing flowers is called a nectar dearth. The bees can’t find nectar so they often try to steal it from other colonies. This begins an assertive behavior known as robbing.

  • Not only are robbing honey bees threatening, but the bees being robbed become combative defenders of their stores. This often results in a cloud of bees around a hive, especially in the fall.

  • Look carefully. If robbing is going on, you will see bees fighting with each other at the hive entrance. Dead honey bees may litter the ground in front of the hive.

  • The fighting bees release an alarm pheromone—an odor that warns other bees of the danger. The alarm pheromone makes other honey bees combative, and more fighting means more pheromone is released which means more bees join the fray. The situation can escalate quickly.

  • Once the alarm pheromone has aroused the bees, you and your pets and your neighbors are fair game as well.

  • After robbing, other predators may flock to the odor of dead bees and the scent of open honey. Before long, wasps and yellowjackets arrive on the scene to collect both meat and sweets. This means more fighting and more alarm pheromone. What a mess.

  • Honey bees and wasps are not the only creatures preparing for winter. Raccoons, opossums, or skunks may attack colonies, especially as the days become cooler. Regular visits by any creature—including a beekeeper—may make honey bees more antagonistic.

  • Rainy weather, especially when it comes with heat and high humidity, makes bees cranky as well. During the “dog days of summer,” no amount of fanning helps evaporate the nectar or cool the hive.

Of course, other factors can produce an aggressive colony. If the queen was superseded by a queen with more aggressive or Africanized genes, that could be the source of the problem. This is unlikely, however. More often than not bad behavior is merely a part of the cyclic nature of honey bee colonies.

Honey Bee Suite


  • I totally agree. Here in the Northwest, by the middle of July we begin our blackberry flow. The bees love it and the honey is spectacular (apparently it’s 17% sugar to water in the nectar–very high). Then August rolls around . . . our most beautiful, hot sunny month up here, but there ain’t no forage for the bees. They do tend to get a little mean. There was also a time before summer officially set in, about two weeks when there wasn’t much available, and we experienced the same thing. Right now it’s so close to autumn for us, but the dandelions are coming on strong. Our bees are really happy right now, even if winter is about to set in.

  • In Virginia, there are a number of beekeepers who very recently are experiencing something never before seen, or witnessed by long-time beekeepers. The honeybees are fighting with other honeybees (from the same hive) in midair. And we’re seeing many, many dead bees on the ground immediately in front of the hives. Hive robbing was the first suspicion, but has been ruled out as the cause. I am wondering if weather warfare experimentation by the US Govt. may be the root cause. We’ve just had a very peculiar rainstorm, resembling weather/rain manipulation . . . there weren’t dead bees before the rain, only afterward. So perhaps this is an unexpected response to the ELF waves used.

  • The term “aggressive” should never be used in regard to bees of any type.
    Honey Bees certainly can be “defensive”, but never “aggressive”.
    All types of bees (honey, bumble, others) defend their colony and nest site, but never attack.

    Robbing behavior is a sneaky sort of activity, so it is not aggression either.
    Robbers may come en masse to a weak or exposed honey store, but individual bees are not interested in a fight, they merely are foraging, and willing to sneak and steal.

    “Aggressive defenders”? Try “alert defenders” or “intense defenders”.

    Even Africanized bees are merely much more defensive than European Honey bees, and will not attack unprovoked.

    • Jim, Sorry, but I was just attacked aggressively by one of my honey bees. I wasn’t near the hive, I did nothing to provoke it, it simply flew at me and landed on my head, I remained calm and it stung me. The same thing happened to my husband twice this week. We’re experienced beekeepers and have never had this happen. Until now I would and have said the same thing you did. After this experience, I can’t agree, these bees were aggressive and they did attack.

      • I have to agree with you, Tamara, and disagree with Jim. My wife and I moved into a house about a month ago. The previous owners were beekeepers and had moved the hive about 3 days prior to us moving in. From what I was told, they moved them off to the country. Several bees were left behind. We were aggressively attacked by the bees while trying to move into our house. We finally had to spray the leftover bees as we were told they would die regardless without their queen and hive.

        Our new neighbors are also beekeepers and are the ones who got the previous owners of our home into beekeeping. The neighbor was attempting to prepare for harvesting the honey and something obviously set them off. For the past two days I have been aggressively attacked by his bees which are on the very back corner of his property farthest from me. All I was trying to do was water my front yard. I can’t even get out there to mow. The company he has mow his yard had to do it with one hand on the mower and the other hand flailing in the air trying to keep the bees off of them.

        My neighbor mentioned that he has never seen them act like this in all of his years of beekeeping. Several of the neighbors have called the city to report my neighbor because they are also being attacked. Fortunately for my wife, our 4-month-old, and myself, all three of his hives are being relocated out to the country. I would assume things will die down once the bees left behind die off. My point being, bees can and do attack aggressively unprovoked as I am living proof. Both myself, the individual who had to endure the bees while installing our cable, and the wife of the beekeeper were all stung by the aggressive bees. The wife was stung multiple times while out on her front sidewalk trying to peek down the driveway at the angered bees a good 130′ or so from the hive. BEE AGRESSIVE B-E-E AGRESSIVE.

        • Wow, interesting story. I’m going to assume that you are in a part of the country that has been affected by the intense heat. I believe that the nectar dearth caused by the lack of water had a lot to do with the bees being aggressive. Nevertheless, aggressiveness is the one thing that worries me about suburban beekeeping—you never know what will set them off and who will be around when it happens. It is scary.

          The only thing I disagree with is that I think you were probably stung by your neighbor’s bees instead of the individuals left behind from the former homeowner. Honey bees defend their home, brood, and honey stores and when that is gone, there is nothing left to defend. Nevertheless, it is a minor issue and not the point here.

          I appreciate that you wrote to let us know what happened and, yes, I believe you. Several years ago, after keeping bees year after year with no problem, I suddenly had one hive whose bees would attack anything in sight—including my husband. We ending up re-queening the hive, but I don’t know if that cured it—or if time cured it—but the aggressiveness eventually went away. But for that period of time they were definitely B-e-e Aggressive.

          • “Nevertheless, aggressiveness is the one thing that worries me about suburban beekeeping — you never know what will set them off and who will be around when it happens. It is scary.”

            Having recently moved my hives from my urban (slightly suburban) backyard so as to maintain the peace with my neighbours — and to maintain my peace of mind — I have to agree with this one. 98% of the time, my bees were not a problem for anyone. But I’ve seen my bees chase after my neighbours who were nowhere close to the hives. If I had neighbours with small children playing in their kiddie pools, that kind of thing would be a nightmare. Most recently some of my bees got caught in the long hair of one of my neighbours and she freaked out as they buzzed and burrowed into her scalp. Which I can understand. Every day that I kept the bees in my backyard after that was nothing but stress.

            I don’t discourage urban or suburban beekeeping. I think it can be done safely under some circumstances. But as with many aspects of beekeeping, urban or backyard beekeeping has been idealized so much that many novices don’t really know what they’re getting into, and neither do their neighbours.

          • Excellent points, Phillip. It’s helpful to hear from people who’ve been there. I know how hard you worked to keep your bees in line but you still ended up moving them, which was the right thing to do. Thanks for writing.

      • Perhaps it was because the bee landed on your head and got caught in your hair; thought it was in a spider’s web and acted defensively? Is that a possibility? I dunno, just a thought…..

      • Tamara you are exactly right, my hives are on the far side of the barn 300′ from the house. I inspected the hives yesterday and got stung once through a glove. Today I got the cart from the back of the barn and was dragging it to the back porch of the house. Three bees met me halfway to the house one hit my ear and then put a stinger inside. I never tried to defend. Daddy told me to “never swat at a bee” probably 65 years ago and the bee would leave you alone. Definately not true.

        • I am really concerned about this. I just moved to Palm Springs and am being attacked daily! Multiple times a day. Previously my lemon oil spray kept me and the new yard pretty much clear with the exception of a quick fly over. Typically I am chased by bees. Our cross country road trip consisted of us driving stopping quick picture NOW RUN! And even after that they circle and try so hard to get in!!! So is it me? I don’t wear sweet scents I don’t eat a ton of sugar. Idk what to do. I’ve only been stung twice but I’ve been a TARGET my entire life. I’m literally on the edge of tears trying to figure out how I’m supposed to enjoy having a beautiful backyard and gorgeous swimming pool without being so specifically and directly attacked- let alone consider enjoying the outdoors like I do. I had a bee fly down from a palm just a few days ago saw him at about 20′ away before I knew it STUNG right in my ear. They aren’t looking to just check me out- they want to attack. I’ve searched the internet for hours each day since moving to Palm Springs (being outside here is more important to me than it was in Washington State) and I have tried citronella, garlic, cayenne, peppermint in a humidifier, eucalyptus spray, orange citrus sprays, lemon sprays. All 100% natural products. I tried the pennies in a bag trick, literally menthol everything THAT seems to attract them. I’m not a bee keeper I was them to KEEP to themselves. Please help or send me someone that can. I just don’t want to be attacked anymore.

          Shawn Bo

          • Shawn,

            This is an interesting comment because beekeepers use lemon oil, peppermint, eucapytus, orange and other oils to attract bees. The oils can help attract swarms, and guide bees to a food supply. If you are wearing any of these oils, I’m not at all surprised they are following you around. To keep bees away I would recommend the opposite approach: wear no scented products at all and use unscented shampoo, deodorant, soap, etc.

      • Tamara, this behavior has been happening to us for the past few days. The girls have always been so nice until now. We have no idea why. We can be on the other side of our yard and one bee will seek us out and go after us. We are at a total loss with their behavior. We went into the hive but couldn’t find the queen, but there was a huge amount of brood, so she must be in there somewhere. It is a mystery. Any answers for us? Would appreciate any information you can give us. Thank you!

        • Lark,

          Bees are frequently testy when the queen has disappeared. If you see eggs, you know she was there in the last three days, and that would be a good sign. If the brood is older, if you are seeing only or mostly capped brood, she could have good missing in the last couple of weeks. Also, look for supersedure cells which could also signal queen loss.

        • I agree Lark. We have 2 hives, one friendly, the other seems aggressive. They attack if I’m walking around in the paddock they’re in. On a couple of acres so I’m not even close to them. I’ll be walking outside and the next minute there’s an angry bee trying to sting my head. What gives?

          Regards, Fed-up

      • Yeah, I also agree. Currently working in the south UK and there is a hive in the neighbours’ garden. The bees are hugely aggressive no matter where we are working. Never seen this before as we work outside and have been doing so for 20+ years. The hive has now been moved but the bees are still around and still aggressive.

      • I am experiencing the same thing from a docile hive that went nuts yesterday. And today, three bees who followed me more than 20 feet away from the hive ALL DAY yesterday are finding me on the property today as well. They were queenless and I gave them frames of eggs yesterday. I am hoping this rectifies the situation. This has never happened before. I guess in 30 or so days those three bees will die of age. Let’s hope they do not teach the others.

        • Jeanmarie,

          Those bees don’t necessarily have to die. When queen pheromone starts to build up in the colony, it will have a calming effect on the bees.

    • We have had bees for 3 years and lost the last ones in a hard winter. Our new hives came with queens from Florida. We have never experienced a hive quite like this one. We starting getting attacked on a daily basis throughout the day as far as 120′ from the hives. They come fast and hard, hitting mostly around the neck up until they sting you. They then start biting.

      So far 3 others that bought bees from this person are having the same issues. I can not garden except in the early morning and later at night. We have re-queened a couple of days ago but never experienced anything like this. They are a very active hive, not over-crowded, have put up more honey by early June than our last two years 2 hives did at the end of the year. I think they are Africanized and yes they do seek you out when not even close to the hive. We can’t allow anyone over until they settle down. They go after everyone.

      Any ideas? Any one else having this issue?

      • Heidi,

        I’m really not surprised to hear this. Zillions of Africanized bees live in the southern states and are moving further north. If the queen producer used open mating techniques, and most do, the chance of getting Africanized genes is large. Also, the Africanized bees seem to be good honey producers, so the pattern fits. As soon as the current population is replaced with progeny from your new queens, things should calm down.

        • Hello Rusty,

          Yes they calmed down after re-queening, a little more each week. It took about a month. They are ok now but still not at all like our previous hives.
          We have enjoyed our bees a lot. It did burst our bubble for a while. Never had anything like that before, nor has anyone we talked to in our area.

          Thank you,

          • Heidi,

            That makes sense because it takes a while for the new queen’s offspring to take over the hive, while the old ones die off little by little.

      • I am suddenly having the same problem. I can’t even walk outside and my back yard is 2 acres. What ever happened with your bees?

        • We re-queened our hives and the issue got much better. We still have one hive that gets aggressive when you go in to the hive, but they don’t seek you out any more. So, the answer is to re-queen your pissy hives. Good luck.

        • Jennifer, ever solve this problem? I can’t seem to be anywhere without being attacked. I’ve gone all unscented, cut out all sugar, nothing. I’m considering putting “bee-gone” on my clothes. (I WISH. I wouldn’t do that.)

    • Thank you for that I will change my lingo..yes they are being defensive to me..protecting their hive! See my recent post today if interested. Thank you.

    • Jim, my husband and myself were ATTACKED by bees twice on our property. I beg to differ. They flew in my hair and wouldn’t leave us alone. We were stung several times within a few mins and they flew toward us!!! We were no where near where they were coming from.

    • I disagree also considering my two dogs were attacked by honey bees from a neighbor’s hive yesterday and killed one of my dogs and the other was barely alive. They could not even get to the hive to provoke them!

        • Depending where you are you may be dealing with Africanized genetics? I had a couple of Carniolan colonies from nucs that turned really hot a few years ago. They were wintered in Lufkin Texas a known hotspot for AHB. Never again. I will not take nucs from that area or anywhere where there is a risk of bringing on Africanized genetics.

      • I’d like to know more about this. I am a new beekeeper, have (had) a very furry small dog who suddenly became very ill and I had to put her down. I do have a somewhat aggressive hive, however, have never witnessed the bees give the dog grief nor heard the dog yips, wince, or complain about the bees, in fact, the dog didn’t really go near the hives, minded her own business and gave them their space. I am having a huge struggle with introducing the bees to my yard having may have been an issue for my sweet girl.

    • We were standing in a garage next door to where the neighbour keeps hives and we kept getting attacked.

    • Just wanted to mention that if you disrupt & damage Africanized hives, the unborn WILL be war ready coming into this world a day or two later. Communication is next to none with these bees!

    • We have had bees living in the eves of our house for years without problems; they have always kept away from us in the garden. But this year, I have been stung twice just sitting out minding my own business? Can you explain this???

      • Steve,

        Do you know for sure what stung you? Probably the most common thing to get stung by is yellowjackets. Do you have them where you live?

        If you are sure it is honey bees, perhaps the colony is queenless or is being pestered by something else and taking it out on you. It may pass on its own, especially if the stinging was due to queenlessness.

  • Jim,

    Technically, I agree with what you say. Bees are defensive not aggressive. However, the question I am frequently asked–and the one I’m answering here–is “why do honey bees become aggressive?” From the point of view of the person asking the question, the bees appear aggressive. It is a word people use to describe what they are seeing.

    When a new beekeeper is being chased by a cloud of bees as he is running from his hive he is the one who feels defensive–and he believes the bees are being aggressive. I can certainly understand that.

    Even our legal system has a problem separating defensiveness from aggression. If you are relieved of your wallet by a pickpocket on the streets of New York and you turn around and kill the guy, are being defensive? Or have you crossed the line into aggression?

    You can say “aggressor” is an anthropormorphic term, but so is “defender.” I believe it is more important to understand “the why of it” than the name of it. I’ve tried to explain some of the reasons honey bees may behave in this manner–a manner frequently described as “aggressive.” You can call it anything you like.

  • We have several honey bee hives here in east central Florida. We have a combination of wild honey bees (caught while swarming) and some purchased European bees. It is March here and we have just had several swarms. There is plenty of room in the hives and the orange blossoms are in bloom and the bees are producing honey. There seems to be plenty of food. While trying to move a swarm from the swarm hive to a regular hive the bees became very aggressive (even with smoke). It has been 5 hours since the move was made and you still can’t even go within 100 yards of the hives or the bees will chase you relentlessly. One thing I do know is that a killed bee will give off a scent that makes the others aggressive or defensive, whatever term you choose. Even without the bees being riled up we have been attacked and stung when walking about 30 yards away from the hives. I was thinking maybe these bees have become Africanized.

    • Mike,

      Based on your description I would say there is a good chance the bees you caught are Africanized. Normally, a swarm of European honey bees is extremely docile when they are swarming. I have caught swarms a number of times with no protective gear whatsoever. The swarming bees are defending no brood which probably accounts, at least in part, for their docile nature.

      Africanized bees, on the other hand, can be quite nasty when swarming and will chase long distances and attack. Since you are right in the heart of Africanized bee territory, you need to be extremely careful. You should probably destroy this swarm before the drones have a chance to mate with any of your virgin queens and produce more Africanized bees.

      • This is my second year beekeeping. I have had a lovely time with my bees. In the beginning, I would work my bees with only a veil.

        I harvested honey for the first time about 2 months ago. Since then, my hives have been SO HOT!!

        I have smelt the artificial banana smell that accompanies defensive pheromones (which I have never experienced before). Bees kamikaze ping my suit and buzz me until I finish. Smoking or not. I have to walk 200+ feet away to lose my tail of bees before I can go back to the house.

        At first, I thought it was because it was cloudy and the rain was coming. Then I thought it was my suit was marked with pheromone, or that my husband was mowing. But I washed my suit in baking soda and vinegar, my husband was not mowing, and it was a gorgeous day… I opened the top to put a new box on and BAM! Bees were mad. Luckily now I wear a full suit because I was starting to get pretty bad swelling. But I don’t like how defensive they have become.

        Queens are all the same, it just happened after harvest. There is no dearth, the girls have already refilled the combs I gifted back to them.

        I THINK it is one hive, they sound louder than the rest. (I have 4) my original one is producing extremely well and is very docile, her offspring seem to be the issue.

        I was going to requeen the evil hive but she is a wiggly, sneaky girl and I can’t find her. How do you requeen if you can’t track the original? I would hate to bag the whole hive, but they are attacking my husband and dog even if I am not working them. (They better not go after the kids).

  • Rusty:
    The swarms appear to originate from our hives, but we can’t be sure. They swarm around our hives and then mass in our orange trees that surround the hives. They are usually in a tree within 10 to 15 yards of our hives. Is there a way to identify Africanized bees? If we need to destroy the bees, what is the best method, so as not to damage the hives and foundations. We have also ordered three new Italian queens and bees that should be here around the middle of May.

    • Mike,

      I honestly don’t like the sound of these bees. They may be trying to rob or usurp (physically take over) your other hives. There is no way to tell if they are Africanized short of sending them to a laboratory.

      Whether they are Africanized or not, they sound way too aggressive and I think you should consider destroying them. If you can get close enough too them without endangering yourself, spraying them with soapy water will kill them. Soapy water interferes with their ability to breathe, but the soap leaves no harmful residue on anything.

      You need to be careful, though. This is not going to make them happy and it may take a few minutes or longer to work, depending how well you can soak them. Take careful precautions to protect yourself and others in the area.

      Also, let me know what happens. You’re making me anxious!

  • Thanks Rusty:
    I may try to take one down to the Ag Center run by the University of Florida before destroying them. See what they can tell me.

  • We caught a swarm about 2 weeks ago that just seem to be really nasty. We can’t even fill the front feeders for them without them defending their hive and flying at you. They will continue to chase me back to my yard–even after I’m done working with them. It is a big swarm, and we have 4 other hives that are quite docile. Our boxes are close enough to the yard that I’m concerned that visitors might get stung. I was out in the yard and hours later, one kept flying at my face. I don’t have that problem with the other bees.
    Should we keep or get rid of this box?

    • I wouldn’t think a swarm caught only two weeks ago would be that defensive. By now they have a nest and brood to defend, but to have them chase you is unsettling. I had one hive like that a few years ago. I ended up re-queening the hive and then the problem went away.

      I don’t know where you are writing from so I don’t know if Africanized bees are a problem in your area. If not, it may just be the queen’s genetics–some are more aggressive than others.

      I think what you do is a matter of how comfortable (or uncomfortable) you are with the neighbor situation. If they keep flying at you long after you’ve worked them, and you’re in an area with other people, I would either get rid of them or re-queen the hive to get rid of those genes. Perhaps you could just destroy the current queen and add a queen cell from one of your other hives.

      You will have to wait a while for the re-queening method to work, but it’s a good alternative if you think you can hold out for a few weeks.

  • We recently received packaged bees with a clipped and marked queen. We introduced the bees to their new hive without ever having to use smoke or any protective gear. Then suddenly this week, they have become very defensive to the point we now have to don protective gear even to replace the feeder. Nectar flow is very low right now and we did open the hive long enough to verify the queen is laying. Wow they got extremely defensive. Thinking possibly that they were being attacked by robbers, we have put in the entrance reducer to make it easier for them to defend. We have never had a new hive become this defensive and would appreciate any ideas why this is occuring and what if anything we should do. Fortunatley the hive is somewhat isolated from the house but we can’t even walk within 30 yards of the hive without bees becoming defensive. Please help if you can.

    • Ed,

      It would be normal for bees to be calm during installation since they have no brood or stores to defend, and then to be more aggressive as brood was being raised. That was my first thought anyway. But if they are following you 30 yards out, they are very aggressive indeed.

      This is what I would do: Since packaged bees and their caged queen are usually entirely unrelated, I would wait until the queen’s brood starts to take over the hive. The bees that came with the package should all be dead in four to six weeks, and you will be left with only the progeny of the new queen. If all goes well, that progeny will have a more “normal” temperament. I think that will cure the problem if you can hang on for that long.

      Let me know how this turn out; I’m curious.

  • I am a new beekeeper in So Cal. I have two established hives, a hive that has been on my property for over a year from my beekeeper friend that got me interested in these wonderful creatures, and a new hive that I just queened. Everyone has been very kind and docile until I borrowed a brood frame to start my new hive. WOW – not so nice anymore. I’ve had bees chase, bump and sting. I’ve read EHB will subside after about 3-4 hours, but AHB keep it up for days. Four bees even pinned my daughter in the house. Every time she came to the glass doors, they would bee right there buzzing at the glass. I’ve heard they don’t like loud noises. I had a hedge clipper out this weekend and right away 2-3 were in my face. I had to dress in my bee suit to finish my pruning. I did get stung before I put on my suit. Can they tell you’ve been hit?

    I had to relocate a hive (at night). How long before they stop swarming the old existing area?

    This is a great blog.

    • Vickie,

      It’s funny, but right now this is the most frequent question I’m hearing. And I’ve had the same problem. My own bees, normally as gentle as can be, have been warning me off for two or three weeks, and I get stung just minding my own business.

      I can’t tell you for sure why it happens, but I know it happens every year. It may be a combination of things, including fluctuations in nectar sources (or nectar dearths), the change in day length (they just went from getting longer to getting shorter), higher humidity in some areas, a decrease in egg-laying (which occurs after the solstice), an increase in predators such as yellow jackets, an increase in robbing bees (seen more in late summer and fall), and a need to start ejecting drones.

      Normally, I just stay clear of the hives until they calm down. It’s just a cyclic thing we have to deal with.

      You asked about noise. They don’t like noise, and when they are in this aggressive state, they like it even less. My husband had trouble running the weedeater last weekend, and the lawnmower, even though these normally don’t cause a problem. Bees will swarm around the old hive area for several days after it’s removed. Some of those bees are probably from the colony that was there, and some are probably robbers trying to find the source of the smell. Eventually it will dissipate.

      I’m sorry I can’t be more specific. I can only assure you I see it year after year and it does go away. During the other eleven months they will be sweet!

  • I recently discovered that my purple martin house has turned into a honeybee hive. It is approximately 25 30 feet from our house. I am pleased that for the first time in 5 years my garden is doing great…largely due to these little guys. My concern is are they two close to my house?? I love the fact they are around doing their job but I am concerned since I have small children. They are very attracted to our salt water pool and I have seen 10-12 on the railing drinking. We do live in a heavily wooded area and our yard is in the open. Should I have them removed?? I will be sure to do in humanely and in a very environmentally friendly way.

    • Hi Stephanie,

      Honey bees generally do not sting unless they believe their home is threatened. Bees foraging or drinking are pretty benign and tend to mind their own business. It’s interesting they drink from your saltwater pool. Bees need both salt and water, so you’ve made it convenient for them!

      Nevertheless, if you are concerned about having them near the house, I recommend calling a local beekeeper. A couple phone calls should locate one. Most beekeepers are happy to have the bees and will remove them for free, especially a colony that isn’t buried in the walls of your home. Don’t call a “pest control” company, as these folks will likely kill them.

      Thanks for considering the bees in your decision. And thanks for writing.

  • Rusty

    It is August 11 and I just assessed my two bee hives that I’ve had since April 2011. They have done great until now. There was no honey at all in the supers or in the brood box. I feel we are in a nectar dearth here in SC. So, I removed all my supers and started feeding 1:1 sugar water. Later in the day, I noticed the swarming around both hives and dead bees in front of the hives. Should I continue to feed them until the fall nectar flow starts? I’m worried they will starve if I don’t feed them. This is my 1st year beekeeping and it upsets me to think I could lose the hives.

    • Mary,

      What looks like swarming is honey robbing. The dead bees in front of the hive are the result of fighting. When bees attempt to rob another hive of its honey, the bees fight and many will die. Robbing occurs most often during a nectar dearth, so I’m sure that’s what you are seeing.

      You should immediately reduce the entrances to one bee length. Maybe 3/4 of an inch or an inch. This will make it easier for the home bees to defend themselves. Also close any other entrances if you have any. You can continue to feed if you do it inside the hive. In other words, use some kind of internal feeder where other bees cannot get to it. Also, do not use any essential oils–just use plain sugar syrup. Bees from all over will smell the essential oils and try to rob that as well.

      If you were in that extensive heat wave this summer, it is no wonder the bees didn’t put up much honey. The nectar-producing plants probably didn’t have enough water to supply a good crop of nectar. It was bad luck for many beekeepers. Also, since many hives are going to be short of honey, you can expect to see a lot of robbing.

      If your queens weren’t injured and most of the bees are still alive you can probably save your hives if you continue to feed. Cross your fingers for a good fall flow. Keep your entrances small for the rest of the year. You didn’t mention pollen, but if there was no pollen stored you might want to give them a pollen substitute as well. They need pollen to raise young bees and that my be in short supply as well.

      Let me know what happens.

  • This is a really helpful site. I have had bees for six years and this is the first time I have had a hyper-alert hive for more than a month. I have one (of five) that is and has been really difficult to work this entire season. In every other way they seem OK. I don’t see signs of skunks or coons. I will try interior feeding and perhaps requeen before winter. Thanks a lot for this conversation.

  • Sorry to be a comment hog (this may be my 3rd or 4th comment today), but a lot of what you outline in the post makes sense. We’re not having a nectar dearth. We’ve had a weird summer with everything growing and blooming about two months later than usual, and I don’t see much robbing going on. But I robbed from the bees yesterday, taking about 3 frames of honey from one of the hives, and the bees went into an instant hissy fit. I should have closed up shop and got out of Dodge instead of hanging out to finish the job without any smoke to disguise my manly musk. For the rest of the day and all of today, those bees have been out to get me. I even saw my next door neighbour getting chased (not good). I’ve never seen the bees so riled up. I won’t do that again. I’m not going near them for the rest of the week. Hopefully they’ll forget about me.

    The other factor that could be setting them off is the weather. The “dog days of summer” is exactly what we’re going through. The sky clouded over today but it’s still hot and humid and tomorrow we’re getting buckets of rain on top of it all. Even with a ventilator rim and a screened inner cover, the bees are constantly fanning around the hive entrance. I want to put a screened bottom board on the hive to help them out, but I don’t want to rile them up even more.

    Most of the time I love having bees, but at times like this I wonder, “Why am I doing this again?”

    • Phillip,

      I’m not worried about a comment hog, although I would like a picture. I am worried about Kansas. Today I mentioned “we’re not in Kansas any more” and you mentioned getting the h- “out of Dodge.” I wonder if I have any readers in Kansas and if they are offended. I hope I do and they’re not.

  • Glad I found this site too. My normally sweet bees are acting very aggressively. I was stung 8 times yesterday doing a hive inspection, and once this morning while walking by the hive. I was worried that they might be so agitated that they would abscond this late in the year. But if other people are experiencing the same thing it must be a combination of factors. I also assume that if they are defending the hive this aggressively, they probably won’t want to leave it.

  • We live in Garnet Valley, Pa near Chadds Ford. We have 2 hives . . . one established and thriving and the other is new this spring and seems to be in trouble. The new hive queen was a Russian queen and we bought the bees from Ohio. Both hives looked great in August and then we checked them again about 1 week ago. One hive was full of brood and honey but unfortunately, the other hive was very light, hardly any honey, no brood and we could not locate the queen which we have always been able to do in the past.

    The hive has been very aggressive and we have had bees actively go after us near the house (our hives are in the back yard . . . we have about an acre and a half) which we have never seen them do before. We have been feeding them a 2 to 1 mixture of sugar for the last week and they have continued to be aggressive. I have had to wear my suit and gloves to feed them which is unusual even in the fall.

    I talked to someone from the Pa beekeepers association who recommended to add the problem hive to the established hive that has good stores of honey. I was worried that they may fight and we may have 2 hive failures . . . he said to separate the newly introduced supers from the other hive with a piece of newspaper with a hole in it to slow down the transfer of bees into the hive. Someone else suggested to remove a frame of honey from the stable hive and add it to the other hive. I was also wondering if we could reintroduce a new queen and if any queens would be available locally. Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

    • Cheryl,

      All the things you noticed are characteristics of a queenless hive, including aggression, no brood, and (sometimes) low honey supplies. This time of year it will be hard to find a queen, and even if you did, the colony doesn’t hive time to build up a cluster of bees for winter.

      I agree with the beekeeper who recommended combining the weak hive with the strong one. The newspaper method works well, except I would recommend using a small slit (or no opening at all) rather than a hole because a hole may combine them too fast. Here’s a post with more tips on combining with newspaper.

  • My son has 2 bee hives, got them last year. I cannot be outside right now because the bees keep chasing me in the house. It is spring and I have fruit trees blooming but the bees do not seem to be collecting any nectar. Do you have any idea why the bees keep buzzing us?

    • Ruby,

      Are the hives close to the house? Usually honey bees aren’t very aggressive in the early spring, so it’s hard to say. Have you been stung or are they just casing the area? They may just be looking for food, checking out everything in the area. You don’t say what kind of fruit trees you have, but some are not very attractive to honey bees–pears for example.

      My guess is that the bees haven’t yet found a really satisfying source of food. When they do they will get busy with that and leave you alone. I think you will see a change soon. Write and let me know if that’s what happens. I’m curious.

  • The hives are close to the house, but last year I had no problems. I have not been stung, they just buzz around my head and they dive bomb my husband. I have plum trees blooming, flowering almond trees blooming and forsythia blooming, the apple tree will be blooming soon. All around the neighborhood there are Bradford pears blooming, and a lot of trees with pink blossoms, do not know what kind of trees they are.

    They are getting water from the pond.

    My son has been working long hours and has not had time to put on the supers, could that have anything to do with it? He checked one hive and said there was still a lot of honey in it and a lot of brood.

    • Ruby,

      I don’t think the lack of supers would cause that behavior. Right now my bees are flying around randomly and seemingly without purpose, but we have very little in bloom here. I’ve seen the bees in the grass, on the fence posts, and my dog has been chasing them but they haven’t been chasing us. I was going to suggest that perhaps they are queenless, but if your son sees lots of brood, that’s probably not it either. Maybe he should check the other one and see if it has a queen.

      I’ve rarely seen aggressive bees this time of year, it usually happens in the fall. Readers? Does anyone have an answer for Ruby?

      • Rusty, we worked outside Saturday with no problems (putting up a storage shed). Sunday the bees starting buzzing again. My son will be checking the other hive as soon as he stops working 12 hours a day. He did make the opening to the hive larger, the bees were hanging outside trying to cool off.

          • Rusty, the hives swarmed on Saturday. New hives so we did not think they would swarm. Found people to take the two swarms. Maybe that is why the bees were aggressive, or maybe it has something to do with the crazy weather. Sunday was 81 here in Albuquerque, NM and now it is snowing.

          • Ruby,

            They both swarmed on Saturday? Wow, I’m really surprised because I didn’t think that was the problem . . . but maybe I should have. If you caught both swarms that is also amazing. Since I’ve been following this thread, two other beekeepers have written with similar symptoms so now I will tell them to prepare for swarming. I have never found bees to be aggressive before a swarm, but I learn something new every day. Thanks so much for sharing with me. Keep me posted about whether the remaining bees become more docile or if they maintain that mean streak.

  • I have one hive. Last year I could go and sit at the front corner of the hive and watch them. This year I had to change the bottom hive boxes. The bees remained defensive for hours and even two days later one met me before I made it to the car and attempted to sting my head. Everything is blooming and I’m sure they aren’t Africanized. I use to be able to walk past my hive without thinking anything about it. My hive is only about 50 feet from the house so I can watch them. I have had them two years and this is the first time they have been, let’s say, prolonged defensive. Thanks for any advice.

    • Brian,

      A lot of people are complaining about aggressiveness in their bees this spring, which is unusual. I’m beginning to wonder if it has something to do with the abnormally warm weather so early in the year. I don’t know where you are writing from so I don’t know if you’ve been affected by the warm temperatures. I am wondering if the flowers are blooming but producing smaller amounts of nectar than usual . . . or something along that line. I just don’t know.

      I suspect your bees will calm down soon, that this is just a passing phase. We are having our normal wet and cold spring here in the Pacific Northwest and my bees are acting just like they always do. I really think the aggressiveness is weather related, but I don’t know why or how. I’m interested to know if your bees calm down as the weather pattern returns to normal. Let me know if they do. Also, if you are not in the unusual temperature zone, let me know that as well. Thanks.

  • I am glad I found this site. I am in Santa Monica, CA. I have two beehives close to the house. Until recently, bees did not bother us at all. I could sit just next to the hive to watch them. I noticed that they got agitated progressively more after each hive inspection this spring. First, it took them longer to calm down. Now they dedicated a few bees to patrol our back door, so we could not use our backyard. After a few days, they normally release a “blockade”, but it looks like it’s getting worse. Our local beekeepers all agree that I need to re-queen because of the possibility that the bees are Africanized (in fact,they look smaller than normal bees). So, to queen or not to queen? Sergey

    • Sergey,

      It is really hard to tell at a distance. As I said in the post, honey bee aggression varies throughout the year and it varies from queen to queen. Also what one person considers overly aggressive may be reasonably aggressive to someone else. If your weather is hot and humid the behavior may be worse than when it is cooler and less humid. I’m guessing that if you’ve co-existed with these bees in your backyard for the past few weeks, they are not Africanized. Rather than a few bees coming after you, dozens would be after you. But only you can decide how much of the aggressive behavior you are willing to put up with.

      If it were me, I’d probably wait to see if they swarm and to see if the behavior subsides. Then again, I don’t have my bees close to the house. Also, I’m not in California. If multiple local beekeepers are suggesting that you re-queen perhaps you should listen to them. You might be more relaxed in any case.

  • Rusty,

    Many thanks for quick response. Unfortunately, we are in very urban area with neighbors etc. If I would have just a little bit more space, I would consider bees behavior as acceptable. The thing about these bees – they were VERY neglected in the past, they are survivors. I sort of adopted them. They are very healthy, prolific and deliver a lot of honey. They used to be gentle – I had my morning tea in the garden just 10 feet away from the back of the beehive.

    I feel, with all these bee problems in US, I want to keep these survivors to keep healthy and strong bees in the area. Re-queening means that I will lose this somehow unique stock… I am really reluctant to do so. Thus, I am looking for some non-traditional solutions to be in peace with my bees. Also, it seems to me, there are some trigger(s) which switch them into “attacking” . . . in my opinion, it is little bit exceeding the defense mode. My current theory is that it is the smoke – they hated it! I tried sugary water, but it is not enough.

    Partially, the problem is that I an a novice in bee the business (6 mo) and probably the bees feel my nervousness, but I guess they misread it – I’m just afraid to damage them. So, any advice on how to provoke them less would be highly appreciated.

    By the way, weather, no we had actually quite cold weather, colder than normal. We had one rain – these crazy workaholics just flew into the rain, they did not stop… It seems to me they have plenty of honey and nectar/pollen supply, they are not searching for the food. Hive has a double-bottom with mesh screen and top ventilation. They are not overheated. They also have plenty of space, an empty super has been added during the last inspection a few days ago. Varroa count is 20/day.

  • I am new to beekeeping and have ordered 2 new hives for this spring in Utah. I was considering doing some urban beekeeping (I only have 1/2 an acre and neighbors on 3 of 4 sides of my property, road on the fourth side with kids walking to school. After reading all the posts here I am wondering if they will become a nuisance to my neighbors and if I have enough space as a buffer between humans and bees. I can place them further out away from town, but I was hoping to benefit from some pollination in my garden this year. Does anyone with experience want to offer me some advice?

    • Gail,

      Aggressiveness in bees comes and goes as I mentioned in this post. You can have bees for years in a urban setting and never have problems. On the other hand, it doesn’t take them long to cause trouble if for some reason they feel cranky. You don’t want to cause harm to others or get yourself sued, so I would recommend that you err on the side of caution. Still, it’s an individual call and you know your circumstances better than anyone else.

      If any of you urban beekeepers have some advice for Gail, please write in. Also, Gail, read my post about Brushy Mountain’s urban beekeeping webinar. It discusses some of the urban issues. Brushy Mountain may still have that webinar available for you to hear.

  • Are the bees that remain in the hive after swarming usually extremely defensive for several days or until it re-queens? I have Carnolians and was planning to split my hives yesterday; however, one of the hives swarmed before I could make the split. I successfully captured the swarm but the bees from the original hive are very defensive. Our back yard is off limits and the hive is 200 ft from the house; as soon as someone goes out the bees sting. I live in WV and I don’t think Africanized bees are an issue here.

    • Jeremy,

      Whenever bees are queenless they can get defensive. After a swarm, the remaining bees are protecting their hive, their brood, and their virgin queen. They are short on foragers, short staffed in general, and are protecting everything they have left with zeal. Give them a week or two and they should calm down.

  • “Aggressive bees” update.
    My bees finally returned more or less to normal, but still sensitive. It looks like they show aggressiveness for 3-4 days after beehive inspection/disturbance. For 3-4 days they just patrol our back door non-stop all day. After that, they do release the “blockade” but visit backdoor from time to time. Usually only 3-4 bees involved. My observation on this is that these bees (who patrols) are programmed to “attack” – they just looking for occasion. My current theory is that during the hive invasion, some bees switched into “attacking” mode and continues to be in the same mode when danger is over for couple of days (until dies?). After a few days they ether just forget about their mission or, may be just died… (after attack?). To minimize the aggressiveness, I decided to do the following: (1)minimize invasion into beehive (less frequent and less invasive if possible); (2) minimize or eliminate at all the smoke (have smoker nearby just in case); (3) to see if I could create artificial barrier between beehive and backyard – I am thinking about sort of “curtains” made out of green plastic mesh/screen material – to imitate bushes… sort of; (4) bees on mission – eliminate at the backdoor (no damage to the body) in hope that my theory is correct and there are only few bees have been reprogrammed (this approach would not help if beehive sent new bees to patrol). It is really sad to even think about destroying bees, but I think, it is less damage than complete redoing the colony (change queen). Any your comments, suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    On urban beekeeping. City of Santa Monica (CA) recently established rules for beekeeping. I think, they are very reasonable. There is some guideline regarding beehive placement:
    (1) Hives shall be located at least five feet from all property lines.
    (2) Hive entrances shall face away from or parallel to the nearest property line(s).
    (3) Hives must either be screened so that the bees must fly over a six-foot barrier, which may be vegetative, before leaving the property, or be placed at least eight-feet above the adjacent ground level.
    They also required re-queening every 2 years, swarming control and that bees owner provides source of water.

    • Update on my “aggressive” bees: I did beehive inspection last week. It was a huge difference. I was expecting my bees “usual” behavior (quite protective if not aggressive), but everything was much calmer this time. I did usual stuff. I think, the major difference was in myself – I was calmer and relaxed. Also, I decided to use a little bit smoke (against my previous decision) – I think I smoked entrance correctly this time – a few gentle puffs just inside the hive at the entrance and than wait. After inspection I was expecting my bees usual patrol of the backdoor for 3 days, but, no – no patrol at all. Bees behaved themselves – very busy and just do not pay attention to me.

      From another hand, totally unrelated to my bees, my neighbor did his bees inspection and his bees attacked me in garage quite far away from his place (no casualties so far). Interestingly, they were not interested at all in my wife – I think, they do not like my smell. Everything is balanced.

      I am so glad that I did not follow the extreme recommendations to re-queen. Rusty, many thanks for your suggestion to wait and to not do anything extreme – you were absolutely right!

  • I am a beekeeper in Southeastern Wisconsin. We have had an unusually mild winter and a very warm spring. I went out to check our hives today (we have 5) and they were extremely agitated. I was only able to check one frame of one hive before I was warned out of the area. I am happy to hear I am not the only one who is dealing with this unusual bee behavior, however, I don’t know what to do! The frame I saw had lots of brood, and looked healthy. My partner checked the hives a few weeks ago and they weren’t as mean to him. I guess we will give them some time and space and see what happens. It is a fenced area, but there are lots of people around. I am concerned about safety and right now I am not looking forward to an entire season with these bees! Thanks for this thread, I will keep checking to see what other folks are doing and keep you posted about the behavior of our bees.

  • I am just curious if some global Earth physical conditions like sun activity (geomagnetic storm), moon phase (gravity waves), some seasonal (?) pollution (time for pesticides?) etc may affect bees behavior? Rusty’s idea about unusual warm weather did not explain my problems because we, actually, have relatively (for So Cal) cold spring.

  • Reading through this discussion has made me quite nervous. Beekeeping will be a new endeavor for me this year. I’ll be bringing two hives to my farm in about a month and was planning on placing them at the edge of my large yard. But these comments have made me fear for the safety of others, particularly friends with allergies and the old man that mows the grass. I have more remote areas that would work but I’d have to walk a long way to get there. Any advice?

    • Most beehives most of the time create no problem for people, pets, or livestock in the area. In fact, you can go for years with no aggressive tenancies at all. Then one day, for no reason that you can see, your bees are suddenly buzzing you, stinging the local dog, or chasing the neighbor off his front yard. These episodes usually last from a few days to a few weeks, and things usually go back to normal afterwards.

      However, those periods can be terrifying for those afraid of bees. In my opinion, it is best to keep them away from neighbors or from places where other people (the postman, meter reader, delivery person, door-to-door salesperson, children) may become intimidated.

      You don’t want your neighbors complaining about you or filing a lawsuit, so even if you are within the guidelines established by your community, I think it’s best to tuck your bees further away and out of sight (if possible).

  • Rusty,

    You seem to have good knowledge on aggressive/defensive bees. We are not in AHB territory, we have three hives that are all derivatives of one hive. We did have a colony collapse three years ago, not due to mites or chemicals. The hive became over-heated and the comb separated and smothered the brood.

    Last year we had a bee expert come and evaluate the bees. He was very happy with the population: docile, high production, and very good quality.

    However the hives were built by my father-in-law several years ago when he would capture feral hives for people. The hives are just an open box so it is nearly impossible to rob them without destroying much of the colony. So our bee expert started incorporating brood chamber and foundations. The last visit was very bad. The bees got so bad they chased him and anyone around for 200+ yard. They were wound up for more than a week, this was in fall. This spring it appears for the most part the hives are calm but we have rogue bees defending certain quadrants.

    My wife got stung yesterday and my father-in-law got chased some 100 yard from the hive. I am not a beekeeper that is why I tried to get a professional, but if this behavior continues I will have to destroy these bees and I don’t want to. I recognize the bee problem CCC with mites and chemicals and I like and need the pollinators.

    Any advice? Are they rogue and will they die off?

    • Rick,

      Any number of things can cause your bees to go through a period when they are feisty and defensive. This year has been particularly bad for some reason, and I’m wondering if it isn’t due to unusual weather patterns.

      My opinion is that they will calm down in a while. It could be a week or three . . . I don’t really know. But this behavior is usually temporary caused by some condition like the loss of a queen, predators (wasps and such) bothering the hives, unusual weather, loud noises, lack of good forage, or perhaps air pressure. It’s impossible to say.

      If a hive remains aggressive for a long while, beekeepers often take out the queen and put in a new one. Then, after a few weeks, the offspring will be the progeny of the new queen with a different genetic makeup. If the bees remain feisty and you want to keep the hives, a beekeeper could do this for you. You would probably have to purchase the queens, unless you have a beekeeper friend who would give them to you.

      Other than that, it is up to you how much irritation you want to put up with in exchange for the pollination the bees provide. In any case, do not destroy the hives. Call your beekeeper or another one and donate them. From your description, they sound normal to me, and I’m sure there’s a beekeeper who would love to have them and who will come and take them away for free. Please do not kill them.

    • Rick,

      I was very concerned regarding aggressive behavior of my bees. I searched internet for answer… While I was searching and posting numerous posts at bee-sites, my bees calmed down and behave much nicer now. It looks like the story is the same: (1) feral decent very healthy and prolific bees and (2) bee inspection in accordance to numerous best beekeeping practice rules… I do find so many examples of such combination on the internet… and the same result – bees went crazy, aggressive, behaved not themselves…

      I guess, they are sending a message: do not touch us, we are doing fine, do not interfere… Such message is difficult to consume for “classical” beekeeper… what about scheduled weekly inspection? There is ancient Roman law regarding bees – they are declared to be “wild animals” kept in captivity. Thus, once they escaped, they are wild animals and needs to be treated so (no former owner responsibility for the swarms in particular). I think, it is very wise approach and we need to adjust our beekeeping practices accordingly – do not treat bees as a slaves, but as independent creatures! I do not think that such approach would be welcomed by commercial beekeepers, but there are growing movement all around the globe for natural beekeeping, we have a freedom to chose the way for ourselves…and bees will choose their own way…

      • Sergey,

        The silence that met your post regarding natural beekeeping was deafening – as well as an indication that you are correct in your statement that “I do not think that such approach would be welcomed by commercial beekeepers…” The natural beekeeping approach is also unwelcome by the army of amateur/hobbyist beekeepers who seem addicted to the practice of continually disrupting the harmony of their hives by incessant manipulation and inspection of the hive. How content and healthy would we humans be if we were constantly subjected to smoke, the roofs of our homes were routinely and repeatedly removed, and the furniture rearranged with each invasion? We would not be content and healthy, and the bees are showing us worldwide that they are not content and happy with it either. I believe that the future health and well being of the honey bee lies in the hands of all beekeepers, but a change in beekeeper attitude will be required. Until beekeepers embrace the concept of becoming bee guardians and relinquish the role of being bee owners, manipulators and orchestrators, I believe the honeybee will continue its struggle to survive.

        For anyone wanting to learn more about natural beekeeping, I highly recommend reading “Beekeeping For All” by Abbé Émile Warré. Also, the short book (11 pages) “Beekeeping: natural, simple and successful,” by Johann Thür, is very enlightening. Check the following link for a PDF version of Thür’s book. http://www.users.callnetuk.com/~heaf/thur.pdf
        by Johann Thür, Beekeeper

          • Rusty,

            That was a very interesting post, but it doesn’t even come close to addressing the point of my post above: doing what is best for the bee. Per my references, “Beekeeping For All,” and the article by Johann Thür, with rare exception, yes, I consider myself a natural beekeeper. To imply that any diversion from what would be natural for a bee (harvesting, plastic hive parts, the act of beekeeping itself) detracts from the “naturalness,” is like saying that one is not as human if he has an artificial knee. Even in a natural setting, hives are harvested (bears, skunks, etc.) and bees will build their hives in artificial structures of all kinds (houses, BBQ grills, etc.) While there are degrees of naturalness in any biological construct, generally, the further away from what is natural that one gets, the further away from “ideal” for that construct one gets. So, if the beekeeper’s goal is maximum honey production through hive manipulation, as is the intention of Langstroth hive design, it will be done at the expense of the honey bee. Is that wrong? Well, as you say, how one keeps bees is determined by one’s goals in keeping them. My goal is to provide my hive with an environment as close to “natural” as possible, maximizing the health and contentment of the bees, with little regard to the amount of honey the hive produces. I feel that it is important that every beekeeper realize that other goals are likely to be in conflict with the bee’s best interest.

          • Mike,

            If I get an artificial knee, it is because I made the decision myself. When you keep bees, you are making decisions for them. Big difference, but a minor point.

            You keep talking about honey production. Sure I take some once in a while, but my bees are going into winter with three deeps brimming with honey. Are yours? And of the honey I already took off, I hold most of it until spring just in case I have to give it back. I don’t see what your beef is here.

            Here, try this one: “Let the bee be bees” Really?

  • Rusty,

    Some additional information. I live in West TN and my beekeeper whom I spoke to today assured me he will not be deterred by his previous experience and promises to get here in the next few days to rob them which he thinks could be the problem. In talking he said he has seen a very weird trend. He tends many hives and one of his own, which has been the gentlest hive he knows, has just turned “aggressive/defensive.” He has trouble getting to his car in the middle of the day. I told him about your site and he is interested. He also has another hive about 12 miles away that is doing the same thing. He said we have had a huge increase in honey production in the early spring followed by a dramatic drop off. The warm spring caused a lot of the flowers to bloom early and now there is break between early spring bloomers and early summer bloomers. Maybe that is the problem (clover has ceased blooming as we are in a pronged dry period).

    • Rick,

      A nectar dearth is a common cause of aggressiveness. If you are indeed in a lull between early spring flow and early summer flow, that could do it.

  • Rusty – thanks for all the great info on this page. My hive was also extremely aggressive/defensive yesterday to the point where I felt I had no choice but to destroy the colony. I feel terrible about that decision but at the time didn’t see any other option. This is really long as I want to give all the details but I’d appreciate any feedback on if this was normal bee behavior. Here’s what happened.

    I’m just north of Dallas, TX. I have a top bar hive on the side of the house next to an 8 foot tall wood fence. I’ve had the bees for one year now and have not had any issues with them up to this point. There was a dearth toward the end of last summer and I fed them well over the winter to ensure they had stores. The winter was very mild here, and now things are blooming and the bees seemed very happy and I could see them bringing in pollen on a daily basis and thus figured they were building honey stores as well.

    Yesterday (April 16, 2012), I opened up the hive at about 11:30am with calm sunny weather, temp was probably in the upper 60’s or low 70’s F. It had rained over the weekend. The hive is shaded between the house and fence which was intentional on my part as summer temps will often stay above 100*F here and I didn’t want to chance the comb melting off the top bars. This may have contributed as the front of the hive didn’t have direct sun, thus maybe not as many bees were out foraging.

    I removed the first few empty top bars with no problem, working from the outside to the middle. As I removed one frame at a time for inspection and got closer to the center of the hive the bees were a little agitated but nothing out of the ordinary. I’m almost positive I spotted a queen, but it wasn’t marked and thus wasn’t the original queen I purchased last spring. There were also multiple queen cells and a fair number of drone cells. The brood pattern was not spectacular – a couple combs had a decent pattern around the middle but none toward the edges, and the other combs had a spotty pattern. There was not nearly the honey I was expecting either – a little bit stored on the brood combs but no dedicated honey combs. Considering the amount of forage in the area and the activity level of the hive, I almost thought I would need to harvest some honey to prevent a swarm (as is recommended with TBH management).

    Then, as I got to the last few frames, I noticed a peculiar smell. This later turned out to be due to wax moths. The TBH design I used has a screened bottom with a removable bottom board so that ventilation can be increased, but it turns out that space between the screen and the removable bottom was the perfect place for moths to breed.

    That’s when things got nasty. As I inspected those last couple frames, the bees went berserk. I don’t have another word for it. They were landing on me and actively trying to sting. I was wearing white coveralls (the hardware store kind that you’d use in a messy work environment) with a hat and veil, heavy leather gloves, and tall boots with everything tucked in, but they were still able to make their way in to the veil. I got away from the hive, but they actually chased me to my back door (about 30 feet and around the corner of the house). The bees didn’t let up and continued to try to sting me. By this time I was panicking and trying to swat the bees so that I wouldn’t get stung any more. I know this probably agitated them more, but I didn’t want to have to use the epi-pen I have on hand for just such an emergency. I dashed in to the house with bees still clinging to me and trying to get at my face.

    They were so incensed that my brother in law was stung once as he got out of his car in my driveway (about 60 feet away and over an 8 foot fence) as well as the neighbor’s dog (about 10 feet away and over the 8 foot fence) and harassed the neighbor (thankfully he was able to get away with no stings). After I was able to collect myself, I took off the coveralls as I had torn them while trying to get away from the bees. It was the first time I had worn them so maybe they had a strange smell from the factory? I put on jeans and a long shirt (which is what I normally wear when working the hive) and taped over all the openings (wrists, waist, legs, etc) and not only tied but taped the veil to my shirt as best I could.

    I went back out just to get the hive closed up, figuring I would give them a chance to calm down. But, they were agitated as I even got close to the hive, and I was barely able to get the cover back over the top before they became too aggressive and were still able to find their way under my veil and were stinging me through my shirt and jeans. I ended up leaving several empty top bars off as I wasn’t able to stay close to the hive long enough to put them back in place.

    I ended up with 12 stings on my face and a few other attempted stings (stinger could just barely get me through the fabric so I didn’t get much venom) on my arms and legs. I counted 20 stingers on the right glove, 25 stings on the left, about 15 on my shirt, a few on my jeans, and a few on my coveralls. That’s at least 60 stings (or attempts), plus the aggression of chasing me in to the house and stinging people over 50 feet away. I later collected more than 50 bees that had followed me in to the house either on my clothes or in pursuit as I opened and closed the door as fast as possible.

    I worked the hive in the same way I always do: very slowly, making sure to brush aside bees and not squish any, and using sugar water spray to calm them. I didn’t use smoke. Here’s what may have been contributing factors:
    * Queen of unknown origin (maybe more aggressive)
    * Presence of wax moths and a few small hive beetles
    * Very low honey stores despite apparent nectar flow
    * First time I’d worn white coveralls instead of regular long clothes
    * Might have been too early in the day (cool overnight temps, hive was not in direct sun so they weren’t foraging yet).
    * More than 5 queen cells – I’ve read this can indicate problems
    * Spotty brood pattern in some places

    Given the level of aggression of the bees and the proximity to people, I knew I couldn’t keep bees any more. Even if this behavior was out of the ordinary, if it had happened with more people around (e.g., even walking by the house) they’d be at risk. I had guests arriving from out of town in a couple hours and knew there was no way the bees would be calm before then. My first child is due in June and I can’t risk him or my now pregnant wife being attacked by an overly aggressive/defensive colony. I didn’t have the space to keep them away from people or the time to let them calm down. If I had, I would have waited and closed up the hive and seen if another beekeeper could take them, but that didn’t seem to be an option. So in that moment I destroyed what I loved. I feel truly horrible about killing the bees as I had spent hours watching them go in and out of the hive. I’m still grieving over the destruction of such beautiful, fascinating, and normally peaceful creatures and feel so guilty about my decision. I’m looking for any info or advice as to whether the bees as I’ve described them were more aggressive than normal or what may have caused this.

    • Follow Up: I went through the entire hive frame by frame and examined each comb in detail. What had looked like an inconsistent laying pattern turned out to be a lack of new brood. There were no eggs and no uncapped brood. There was still some capped brood including some workers and a fair number of drones. As I mentioned above, there were multiple queen cells but many of them looked too small to be viable (maybe one would have turned out). All this points to the queen dying at least two weeks ago and the workers trying to raise an emergency queen. Considering they had no honey stores, pressure from pests, and no queen, no wonder they were so aggressive. There was almost no way I could have saved the colony as requeening would have taken at least a week between getting the queen and getting her installed (assuming one was even available). If I had been more diligent in checking the hive I could have removed the pests and would have noticed the dead or failing queen sooner, but between the day job and the weather (tornadoes a few weeks ago, storms, high wind) I never had a chance. Lots of lessons learned here.

      • Sad, sad, sad story for all parties…
        To us, urban … bee-enthusiasts (for some, myself including – not beekeepers yet), it is a lesson – we always should have plan “B” in case if something went “unusual” with our pets. What if the dog got some infectious disease, which is transferable to humans and already bit the neighbor? What if your cat get mad at VIP at your party and scratch the person to the blood? What if neighbor’s pet(?)-parrot decided to attack your cat? Same with bees – we have to be prepared in the same way as for tornadoes, earthquakes etc. Also, I think, we should be responsible for our pets because they are dependent from us. Jon, my condolence to you.

    • Jon,

      That’s quite a sad story and I really don’t know what to tell you. As I mentioned in the post, short of bad genes, there are usually concrete reasons for aggressive behavior and the behavior usually abates as soon as the problem is resolved. Lack of forage, queenlessness, high humidity, loud noises, intruders, parasites . . . are all things that come to mind. Just like humans, bees get cranky when things don’t go their way.

      I would not destroy a hive if there was any possibility I–or time–could solve the problem. On the other hand, I can’t criticize someone who decides to take that route, especially when the safety of other people is at stake. It would have been nice if you could have locked them down for a day or two until you had a chance to figure out what was going on. But unless you think about it a day in advance, you don’t get an opportunity to close up the hive.

      I feel bad for you and I feel bad for the bees. They were just doing what bees do . . . it’s one of the downsides of urban beekeeping.

  • Rusty, just a quick update. Our bees seemed to have settled down. My son inspected the other hive and noticed that there were no brood cells. So I guess the old queen left with the swarm and the new queen died or was not laying eggs. My son bought a new queen and put her in the hive last Friday. All seems okay now. We live on a small city lot with houses all around and it seems like the bees did not bother anyone but us.

    • Good, Ruby, I’m glad it worked out. There is almost always a reason for aggressiveness, the trick is figuring out what it is.

  • Funny,

    Not quite as bad. But more of a one off. I can walk up to my colonies anytime to see if they are acive or not and usually have no issues.

    So the other afternoon it was nice, warm spring day and I knew the bees were heavily bringing in pollen. So as I got within 4 feet of my colonies one smacked me right in the face. By the time I has turned around and made 2 steps I was stung right below my left eye. I have never experienced that before.

    Later that day I suited up and did an inspection. All colonies are queen right with eggs, open and capped brood. And just coming out of winter there are anywhere from 5 – 6 frames of honey still in the boxes. Daytime temperature was 19.5°C(67°F) And when I did my inspection I didn’t use smoke or sugar water and the bees were not very defensive. It was my first internal inspection for the year.

    Rusty, any ideal what has happened? Or is this strictly a one off. Make the best of it where I was stung on the lower eyelid trying to get the stinger out ASAP I drove most of the venom into my eye. It swelled up good.

    • Jeff,

      I wouldn’t make too much of it. Sometimes you find a bee with mean disposition. If it wasn’t a whole of bunch of them, then I think it’s nothing to worry about.

      But wow, when I get stung anywhere on my face my eyes swell shut. It is really annoying. I’m preparing to speak to a large group of people next week, but I have to hive some new packages this coming weekend. You can bet I will be wearing a suit of armor!

  • Man, that is a horror story. I wonder if having a second colony could have saved the bees. Would combining the troubled hive with a healthy hive solve the problem? Perhaps that’s not so easy to do with a TBH.

    When I got into beekeeping, the first advice I was given was to always have two hives. That way if any hive got in trouble, I could either combine the hives or give a weak hive more brood, pollen or honey, whatever it needed.

    I can understand the decision to destroy the colony, though. With no solution in sight, what other choice was there?

    Starting again (eventually), but with two hives, might be the way to go.

  • I have been noticing the same behavior described by all of you above. Aggressive bees that were normally docile and easy to approach. Yesterday I was attacked and stung on the left side of my face by bees from a hive I used to be able to sit near and watch. I was 50 yards from the hive when stung. The bees have been on alert for the past three-four days. Really helps ease my mind that I am not the only one. I am in southern Colorado, and it has been a vary mild spring. Bees have been active for about 6-8 weeks.

    • Zach,

      Since so many people have found an aggressive hive to be queenless, you should take a look and make sure she’s there and laying. If the queen is okay, the aggressive behavior will probably disappear on its own. Give it a few weeks.

  • I’m not a beekeeper, but a colony has recently moved into an old wine barrel in my yard. I’d like to let them stay, but from the stories I’m reading it sounds like they could become a problem. Do you have any advice for me?

    • Don,

      Think of it this way: the reason people write in about their bees being aggressive is because it is unusual. Most of the time, bees go about their business and don’t bother anyone. I’ve had multiple hives for many years and I’ve only had one aggressive colony and it calmed down after a few weeks. If you read through the comments on this post, you will see the bees generally calm down as soon as the problem goes away–whatever it was.

      I think the decision to keep them needs to be based on how far the wine barrel is from the public. If is right near a sidewalk or play ground, you should probably remove them. If it’s real near your house, you may get stung once in a while, but those of us who love bees just put up with the occasional annoyance.

      If you decide you need to get rid of them, call a local beekeeper and someone will come and get them for free. Do not call an exterminator or pest control company. The bees are a natural resource and should not be killed or harmed in anyway.

      The other thing you could do is have a beekeeper move them into a regular hive for you. In no time, you would fall in love with them and become a beekeeper yourself.

  • Just last week I started beekeeping with a newly established hive from Dadant. I can walk by the hive and stand close without any problems but every time I go to change the sugar water jar from the top of the hive they become aggressive when I take it out. Is this normal? I don’t smoke them when I change out the syrup feeder, but should I be or just deal with it? And does it matter what part of the day I’m changing it out? Because I usually change it out in the morning around 7 am before I go to work.

    • Jamin,

      There is a difference between standing near the hive and actually invading the hive. The bees are getting upset because they see your entry into the hive as a threat to their nest. So, the answer is yes, it is normal.

      Whether you use smoke or not is a personal decision, completely up to you. I don’t use smoke for changing a feeder jar but I’m sure lots of people do. There is no right or wrong answer. It depends on what makes you comfortable.

      The time of day shouldn’t make too much of a difference. More bees will probably fly out when it’s warmest outside, although in the summer they can fly out at most any time of day. You will get accustomed to the rhythm of the bees’ lives as you get more experience, but for now it sounds like you are doing fine.

  • Something else I’m concerned about is that I’m finding some bees on the ground walking around because they have deformed wings and cannot fly. Is this something I should be worried about? Is it OK to see a few as long as their isn’t a lot? And how many is a lot? Is this something that’s informing me that my hive or hives has deformed wing virus and that I have a problem with varroa mites? I have two hives and I want to open them up but I had another beekeeper tell me not to open them up because the hives are stressed from moving them from where I purchased them. He said to wait 2 weeks before I open the hives to check on them, does that sound right?

    • Jamin,

      It is reasonable to wait a couple of weeks before opening your hives. The idea is that you want the bees to adjust to their new environment and accept it as their home before disrupting them too much.

      If I see more than one or two bees with deformed wings, I assume there is deformed wing virus in the hive and plenty of mites. Deformed wings can also be caused by other things, but theses are rare occurrences. If you see several with deformed wings you are most likely seeing just the “tip of the iceberg.” After your two week period (ten days is probably enough) you should probably treat for mites.

  • Rusty,

    How is aggressive behavior in your hives now? Mine are a being very defensive, even 30 yards away, without clear sight of me and I live in Kent. Got zapped just yesterday. Do you think giving them some feed will solve that problem? Sort of to help them become fat and happy?


    • Aram,

      My bees are showing no defensiveness at all; I worked them yesterday with no protective gear. We have lots of trees in bloom down here, which is keeping them busy. Give them feed if you think they need it, otherwise just give them some time.

      Have you checked for a queen? Is she laying? If so, they will probably calm down shortly. They should like this weather.

      • Rusty,

        I have queens but they are not laying. They laid up a storm earlier in the year, but now have severely cut down. Out of 40 frames, maybe 3 have capped brood and 2 are eggs in any hive. They queen is fat and happy, but I think the nurse bees are cannibalizing the eggs, so I am hopeful that giving them syrup will solve the issue. The rest of the frames have either pollen or are empty. Bees are buzzing everywhere, but the supers and brood boxes are not being filled up. I think that I have too many adult bees that have no nursing duties, therefore every little darn thing is getting them agitated. If I can get the queen to lay up another brood cycle before the blackberries come in, that should give everyone something to do, and I should be in a good workforce shape. So I am giving them syrup. My whole family is anti bees now, last year they did not even notice them.

        • Aram,

          The queens stop laying when they are getting ready to swarm. Could that be the problem? Everything is in bloom right now: vine maples, cascara, fruit trees, and all kinds of flowers. You shouldn’t need to feed syrup. In fact, if they take it they will probably just store it in your honey supers.

          Also, your hives should be packed with brood in all stages from egg to capped. Why do you think the workers are cannibalizing the eggs? Have you seen it? It sounds like something isn’t right, although I can’t say what.

          You mention capped brood and eggs. How about larvae? Is it possible they superseded their queen and were without a laying queen for awhile and now a new queen has just started to lay? If the timing were right, that could give you a combination of very mature brood and a few eggs.

          • No, they are not swarming, there are no swarm cells and none of the top supers have been backfilled. I think the carniolan blood makes them very sensitive to flows. Not seeing anything stored leads me to believe that they are using everything that they collect on brood, and if there is not enough to feed all, they just “eat the young ones”. They are taking the syrup quite readily, so I think that my area is not quite as productive as I wish it would be. Plus the queen is very plump, so they are not really thinning her down any. I’ll continue feeding for a week and see if the temperament changes. Otherwise, I’ll need to swith to pure italians.

  • (Apologies, Rusty, to you and your readers for the following long post. I did think people might be interested in the UK perspective weather-wise and troublesome bee-wise)

    Here in the UK, after an unseasonably warm March and two dry winters, we are officially in a state of drought. In my region, East Anglia, we have had a garden hose ban in place as of the beginning of April (as in not using the garden hose for watering plants, washing cars, etc). The day after the garden hose ban went into effect, the rain started with the result that April has been the wettest it has been in 100 years allegedly. Pretty much rain every day of the month. And much cooler weather. May has started off the same way, although this weekend we are having sunny but coolish weather.

    You can guess what this has meant for the bees with respect to foraging. In March they were docile, hard-working, bringing in loads of forage. As April progressed we got warning from the national/local associations to start to feed. We knew that one of our two hives was really growing so we went to ‘brood and a half’ and added a honey super to ensure plenty of room.

    To no avail. Less than a week ago, that hive swarmed, and we lost the swarm because of position and more inclement weather. The next day the second hive swarmed, and then ‘unswarmed’: the bees returned, except for one clump which I think surrounded the old queen.

    Today, the bees from the first swarm hive are in a fairly aggressive mood (not as bad as Jon’s but bad enough). Why? Because we opened up the hive (as well as the second swarm hive) for a thorough inspection, as we have not had a chance to do this since March and we were concerned. And rightly so. I had not put enough frames in ‘the half’ brood box because I thought I could keep an eye on it (did this late March/beginning of April), how they would take to it and add frames later. Of course, then we had the April deluge and we were not able to open it up until yesterday. What we found was an edifice of comb loaded with brood and stores, rising up from the top of the frames of the bottom brood box up into the half, as if they had inserted their own frame.

    Of course we had to remove it (we placed it in a nuc with some foundation as there looked to be the beginnings of queen cells to see what might happen). And, of course, they were distinctly unhappy. Again not as bad as Jon’s but they did follow us, harassing us, and today more of the same if we are within 10-20 feet of the hive.

    Did I mention, because of April they have very little in the way of stores, but many frames of capped brood?

    And that they might be waiting on a virgin queen to kick things back into gear? There has been some pollen collection today, although it doesn’t seem as much as what I saw in March. So, she might be there.

    I am very sorry for this long sorry tale! Part of the reason is anxiety because the farmer who owns the field in back of our house has decided to mow with the tractor today, and our only close neighbor is out mowing his lawn. SO, thanks for letting me go on a bit!

    I know why these bees are in a bad mood, but after all this my question is: should we have waited a week or two before opening up the hive?

    • LJ,

      There’s lots going on here. If I understand correctly, the first hive swarmed but you were unable to catch it. Then the second hive threw a failed swarm that subsequently returned to the hive. So the two hives you refer to as “swarm hives” are the original hives–not hives that swarmed from the original hives. Is that right?

      A swarm often returns after it realizes it doesn’t have the queen. A swarm can’t survive without a queen and if the queen doesn’t leave with the swarm, if she gets lost, or she gets eaten, the swarm will return to the colony. You mention a little ball of bees, but I doubt the queen was there. A little ball is usually lost somehow.

      Either of your hives could be cranky because they are queenless, because of the weather, because of lack of forage or many other reasons. I don’t think you opened too soon. You said you did a thorough inspection. What did you find? Is their a queen in each hive? You mention capped brood, but how about eggs and larvae? You need to figure out if you have queens or not.

      In the hive that successfully swarmed, there must have been virgins ready to hatch. If that is so, then it takes a while for her to start laying. Assume 3 or 4 days maturation time, then a week for mating or longer if the weather prevents it, then another 3 or 4 days maturation time, then she should start to lay. So you should see eggs within 2 to 3 weeks of the successful swarm.

      The other one is trickier. If the queen is okay, the hive may try to swarm again. Assuming they were ready to swarm before they tried, you may have more than one queen in there, or you may have none if the original queen killed the virgins, or it may be just like your other hive with no old queen and a virgin queen trying to mate. Your best bet is to keep looking for eggs. If you can’t find eggs after a couple weeks you will need to re-queen.

      By the way, bees often build up when there is not frame to build onto. What you saw there is perfectly normal.

  • Hi Rusty

    Thanks for your very considered reply. We seem to be in a bit of a holding pattern right now as the weather is still very unsettled: cold, wet, windy. In other words, not good for bees who either want to forage for pollen or swarm!

    Apologies for the confusion over hives. We have two: one which is our original, sometimes called our main hive, and our second hive which we often refer to as the ‘swarm hive’ because it is a colony we rehived from a swarm from the main hive last summer. It is this second hive that swarmed and then unswarmed (leaving the clump behind it). It had the original queen from the main hive, about four years old. Going into the winter we were afraid that it would not last as it was very small and didn’t have sufficient stores. Obviously, it has more than survived. The colony has tripled-quadrupled in size. There about 6-7 frames of mostly capped brood, very little brood in other stages (which leads me to believe we are between an old queen and new queen). There seems to be some pollen gathering (there is a glut of sources, some right in our yard), but it doesn’t seem to be significant at the moment.

    The main hive has now swarmed twice within a week (both cavorting about the countryside). This is or was about twice the size of the second hive, and why we went to brood and a half to try to forestall swarming. Huh! State of brood about the same as in the second hive, with both main brood box and ‘half’ filled with capped brood, some larvae but not a lot. We found three capped queen cells and at least one which looked as if a queen had hatched. We are thinking that one took of with the secondary cast.

    In our three years of beekeeping, we have never been able to identify and mark our queens (even had an association guru out to help us when we were only at one hive, and even he couldn’t glimpse the elusive creature). So we have gone by the stages and amount of brood and the regularity and quantity of pollen gathering. Has worked so far, but difficult if you want to try a split or artificial swarm, which is why we have been reluctant to apply these measure. In fact, I don’t think our attempt on Friday has produced any results.

    Bees in main hive seemed to have become less aggressive. There seemed to have been some pollen gathering yesterday, but with the weather being so unsettled it’s hard to tell.

    Thanks again for your help.

  • In fact, it is teeming down with hail right now. One can only wonder what all this unsettled weather is doing to the bees here in the UK!

  • Hello all:

    I just built my hive and got bees on Memorial day.

    The weird part was that I bought a colony of 4 frames. Only 2 were delivered initially. The bees were docile. Then a few days later the beekeeper brought me 2 more frames. Many more bees and big attackers resulted. I was standing back watching him install them for me (part of the price) and I got chased. I stood there while one bomber shot right into my eye. Not sure if I swatted him or what, but I got a sting there and one on the face. I also had one in my hair that didn’t sting.

    Yes, the beekeeper was wearing a veil for this 2nd delivery…I guess I should have keyed into that and worn one too.

    Anyway, later in the day my neighbor wanted to check them out. I said I don’t know but it shouldn’t be a problem…sure enough, they attacked my neighbor and my hair again.

    I am hoping to get into that area to organize a water trough which gets filled with drip irrigation, but will definitely wear a veil. I will check for the queen and productivity in a week or so. Hopefully they calm down in the meantime.

    I ordered another hive kit so am likely going to get more bees soon but will request that all 4 frames come at the same time instead of two disconnected deliveries.

    Any errors to my ways (besides not wearing the veil initially)?

    I’m looking forward to the honey next year, having been told that I wouldn’t get it this year because I’m starting late.


    • Bannon,

      Well, something isn’t right. It sounds like the seller brought two frames from one hive and later two frames from another hive. Then, when he put them together, they fought. It’s not at all surprising that they were testy. I hope the queen wasn’t killed in the foray.

      Normally, you wouldn’t just throw bees from different hives together. You would introduce them gradually through a slit in a piece of newspaper or something.

      That said, I’ve known beekeepers who just take a frame from here and a frame from there and put them all together and hope for the best. Still, I don’t like it.

      If he’s your only source of bees, tell him you want all frames from the same hive next time. It seems like a ridiculous thing to ask for, since one would assume they all came from the same hive, but then obviously that’s not always true.

      You didn’t do anything wrong; he did. Like you say, in a few days check to be sure the queen is laying. In fact, make sure she is there. She could have laid eggs in the few days before the second group came and then got killed. So wait three more days and then start looking for eggs and/or the queen herself. If you can’t find her or eggs after three days, I think your seller should replace the entire mess.

      Be sure to write back and let us know what happens.

  • Thanks for the comments. It’s good to do a sanity check especially for a complete novice like me.

    Just an update on the hive I started with last week…

    I found that on the first day they were really pissed, then the entire hive settled down.

    I was working around the hive (arranging a water barrel within 5 feet) with no hint of trouble.

    Yesterday I was able to sit within 10 ft of the hive and watch the activity. It looked like a busy parking lot. Bees coming and bees going. I couldn’t tell if there was pollen weighing them down but I felt good that they had settled down and gotten to work. I was told by the bee guy to wait 2 weeks before opening it up. I’ll wait til the weekend and see what progress has been made. You better believe I’ll be wearing a veil and learn how to use my smoker by then!

    I agree with your reasoning and will be asking for 4 frames from the same hive–delivered at the same time for my 2nd hive.

  • I asked if bringing the African honey bees here to America could create a problem, with the known aggressive killer bees being bred with the non-aggressive honey bees. It seems to be a problem in the making and can be serious. I understand that we need bees and that the pesticide companies have caused the bees to die as well as other factors. I certainly hope the bees that are so aggressive can be controlled! I understand in other parts of the world humans and animals have suffered and even died from the aggressive killer bees! So even the money issue as well as the farmers who need bees need to weigh the problem and ask some very important questions!

    • LuAnn,

      We didn’t actually bring Africanized honey bees to North American, they spread all by themselves from Brazil where they escaped into the wild in 1957. They crossed our southern border in 1990 are now in at least ten states, including California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas and Florida. People as well as animals have been killed in the United States from Africanized honey bee (AHB) stings.

      The AHB is not a separate species but a hybrid between subspecies. The African honey bee (Apis mellifera scutellata) crossed with various other subspecies such as Italians and Carniolans to produce a hybrid that is extremely aggressive—what we now called Africanized honey bees. Since they are all of one species, there is really nothing we can do to stop the spread. Beekeepers, especially in the affected states, are aware of the danger, and some beekeepers have left the business because of it.

      Beekeepers had hoped the aggressiveness would become diluted in the larger gene pool, but that hasn’t seemed to happen. The aggressive bees will probably continue to spread. As of now, they don’t do well in colder climates. But, as with many genetic limitations, that may change over time with random mutations and gene pool shifts.

      • Do you know how common (or uncommon) an occurrence of death-by-AHB is? Saying people and animals have been killed by them sounds awful and I can hear the worried mothers now.

        • Sarah,

          It’s not many at all. Something like 15 people since 1990 in the U.S. Animals get killed more frequently (I’ve heard of dogs and cows) but I haven’t seen any numbers on that.

  • Wow, reading all this makes me very worried. I just started beekeeping in May with 2 hives. My neighbors, suburban, are about 20 feet from my house. Hive #1 is on the side of my house 3 feet from my house and 8-10 feet from my backdoor and about 10 feet from my fence. Hive #2 is about 15 feet from my backdoor and about 8 feet from my chicken coop and about 10 feet from my fence. I feel like I should get them out of my yard this week after reading about others being chased and going into neighbors yards. All the beekeepers had said how passive the bees are and I could keep them there with no problem. I don’t want to take a risk but don’t know where else to put them.

    • Susan,

      Usually hives are docile and are easily handled in a small suburban yard. Sometimes they act up in the fall for a few weeks due to nectar dearth. But this year I have heard story after story about aggressiveness and I think it is due to the unusual weather in many parts of North America.

      I agree with Phillip that it is hard to have piece of mind if you are constantly worried about your bees intimidating the neighbors. Maybe you will be lucky and have docile bees, but maybe not. If you are at all worried, see if you can find a place to keep them out of town. Many farms and nurseries, for example, would be happy to give you free “space” for the summer. Also, if you are in a bee club, maybe a club member has room for more. In some places you can get a permit to keep them on state land, such as state forests. I think if you ask around you will find a solution. Good luck with it.

  • Thanks for the great ideas. It is very convenient for taking care of them. I just don’t want them attacking anyone and it seems I have little control over that. I did put feeders on this morning. I also had bought a Carniolan queen in hopes of docile bees. The other queen however is Italian.

    • Susan, in my little urban beekeeping story, I mentioned that one day the bees got caught in the hair of my next door neighbour. But that wasn’t the bees’ fault. The problem was that I had my hives too close to my neighbours deck. I would guess less than 20 feet, possibly 10 feet. That’s way too close. I had to do a full inspection of a 3 deep hive and some of the bees inevitably got a little riled up. They were docile, but they were flying around the vicinity more erratically. And they got caught in my neighbour’s hair.

      I don’t think I would have had any major problems with my bees if I’d kept them farther away from my house and my neighbour’s back deck, even if they did get a little aggressive / defensive from time to time. I’m actually considering setting up one or two hives next spring at my house but in a more out of the way location. (I miss having the bees close by.)

      I think urban beekeeping can be safe, but you need nice neighbours (my immediate next door neighbours are not nice people) who you can talk to about the bees, have them over and show them the bees, etc., and the farther away the hives are from humans, the better. There’s more to it than that, but I think it can be done.

  • I have a hive that has become very aggressive over the last month or so. The hive seems to be doing extremely well, but while harvesting honey, they repeatedly stung me through my suit and it took me 30 minutes to get them off of me and back in the house. They were buzzing around the screen door for hours afterwards. It’s been very warm and dry here, so I’m wondering if the nectar flow is non-existent. I just went to water the garden this afternoon (~20 yards from hive) and they were instantly buzzing around me. Not sure what’s going on, but if my beesuit won’t protect me . . . what will?

    • What state do you live in? Are you feeding them sugar syrup? if so, are they taking it? Is there a water source nearby?

      • Massachusetts. No syrup since spring. I have a swimming pool (not adequate obviously) and a bird bath that we try to keep full. Also, neighbors across the street have a waterfall-pond feature that they frequent.

  • I’m not sure what Rusty will say about this, but last year one of my hives got extra defensive after I tried to harvest some honey. I just opened the honey super, pulled out the frames and brushed the bees off. No smoke, no nothing. I probably should have smoked them or at least used a bee escape and taken the honey a day or two later.

    The bees will defend their honey stores, but when you’re not nice about the way you take it, they can get even more defensive.

  • “I still can’t believe a day after getting into the hive, they’re still coming after me.”

    I can believe it. It took my bees about three days to forgive me.

    • Yes, usually 3 days or sometime longer. But, it is all our mistakes – if we provide minimal disturbance to the bees, they are much more forgiving. When I just started bees (see my posts at the beginning of this thread), after every inspection bees patrolled my backdoor for days. Now, sometimes, I have no blockade at all! As Rusty properly explained, there are many factors, which could make bees moody. Sergey

  • Just got stung again trying to water the garden . . . 2 days after honey removal. I’m not sure that I can deal with this type of aggression. I need to tend to things outside and this is a nuisance. I’m debating splitting to help my weaker colony along with buying a new queen, or totally destroying this hive. I’m at a loss as a 3 year beekeeper.

  • Boy did I make a mistake. Just spun out my honey and figured what the heck, the ladies have worked so hard for the golden goodness why not just put the empty frames out in the apiary for them to clean off and store the excess for winter? Big mistake. I have accidentally promoted aggressive behavior and now have a 3-hive mess on my hands. My solution will be to suit up, smoke the area out, and remove the frames. I will rinse them elsewhere and sun dry them out to prevent any mold, and store them wrapped for next year’s use. I actually put a set of frames on the top of each hive figuring the bees would go the most available honey source. Nope, they seem programmed to fight for all of it, everywhere. My strongest hive is super active and I feel pretty bad about all of the dead and dying workers lost to my ill-conceived plan. So it goes.

    • Michael,

      I put the empty frames back in the super and put the super back on the hive and close it up. That way the bees can clean up the frames inside the hive and not be so vulnerable to robbers.

  • Okay guys, I’m in dire need of advice. My two-year-old is highly allergic to bee stings, so I have always made sure I keep plants that are pollen-free so not to attract them. But the past 3 days he has not been allowed in the garden because I have honey bees that seem to be guarding my back door. There is only about 7 that hang around at once so knowing nothing about bees doubt that is enough for a nest to be present. They seem to just hover and attack any insect or fly that comes near the garden. Once they have chased insect off they return to where they were before visitor arrived. I really don’t want to use chemicals to kill them because they are very useful creatures that help pollinate and make honey, but I love my son too much to risk his health. Do you think they will calm down and move on at any point soon, or do I need to grab a can and get spraying?

    • Kaylea,

      In my opinion, the attackers sound like some kind of wasp. Honey bees are not territorial except right near their hive, so I’m guessing they are not honey bees. To avoid using chemicals, I would catch the insects in a butterfly net and kill them (assuming there are just a few) or you can try hanging a wasp/yellow jacket trap in the garden. These traps do not use poisons and they are readily available at grocery, hardware, and home improvement stores.

    • Kaylea
      Allergy reaction to the bees venom is serious because your son could meet a bee or wasp practically anywhere, in the kindergarten… in the parking lot… you name it. You need to ask your doctor for consultation with allergologist. Allergologist may suggest the course of decincibilization against the bee venom. Desincibilization is sort of reverse to allergy, it is effective in many cases. I do not know if they do it for young kids. Sergey

  • Okay, thank you very much. Will buy a trap asap and assume they are wasps, which I’m sure you’re correct because like I said in last thread I know nothing about bees. I realize I’m now on the incorrect thread but once I get rid of the unwanted wasps is there anything wildlife and child-friendly of course that can be put in a garden that wasps and bees will avoid as I feel so cruel killing them. I would much prefer to prevent this situation again. I realize this is probably a long-shot question and am sorry for being a pain.

    • Kaylea,

      First off, you are not being a pain. Answering questions about bees—and sometimes wasps—is pretty much what happens around here.

      That said, a garden is going to attract bees and wasps because it is a garden. Off hand, I don’t know of anything that will repel both bees and wasps. In fact, I can’t think of anything short of the kind of insect repellent you rub on yourself (like DEET) that might keep them away.

      It seems I’ve heard of a bee repellant, but I can’t think of it.

      Readers, does anyone know of a bee and or wasp repellant that would keep them away from a garden? Any other ideas for Kaylea?

    • Kaylea,

      Absolutely not! Many of the mint family plants are the all-time favorites of bees. I plant mint to attract bees.

  • Thank you very much, Rusty. I doubted there would be anything that would repel both but you have been very helpful and understanding 🙂

    • Our honey bees have certainly kept me running in house for last 3 yrs. From front of house to back deck. They are not very close to the house &even moved them further away but still aggressive. I have quit wearing any lotions, perfumes, hair products if I know I’m gonna be outside. Bees love sweet odors.

  • Great site. I am in southwest N.H. and have been dealing with a very aggressive hive for over one week now. They are all around back door were our dogs came arunning in after being stung many times, one we had to take to vet. I just brought down 2 containers of water and got it once about 30 yards from hive. How long will bees stay aggressive? We opened hive a few days ago to take some honey and check on it and its been crazy since then. I believe it must be the heat. Thoughts and suggestions would be helpful, Thanks. Boy its been hot!

    • Hi Peter,

      In my opinion, they will stay aggressive as long as it stays hot and nectar is in short supply. I think they get extra defensive because they are short of winter stores and they know it. They will go a long way to protect what they have left.

  • I have talked to several beekeepers in our city and they have all experienced a radical change from a docile hive to a very aggressive hive. All have similar stories about being stung when mowing. My hive used to not care at all if I mowed. Now I’m getting stung and, worse yet, my neighbor is getting stung. Any help appreciated.

    • Chuck,

      Bees get defensive in the late summer when nectar becomes scarce. In the spring and early summer they are busy collecting nectar from a seemingly endless supply of blooms, but when the flowers dry up, the bees aggressively defend what they have already collected. Robbing bees will try to steal their supplies as well as wasps and other predators, so they stay on the alert for trouble makers. Loud noises such as lawn mowers are perceived as possible threats. Typically, things that don’t bother spring bees definitely bother fall bees. Your situation is very normal. The bees will stay inside the hive once winter comes, and in the spring they will seem like their old docile selves. In the meantime, there is not much you can do except keep the lawnmower away from them.

    • It depends. If you spill any syrup outside the hive, it can cause a robbing frenzy. If you are careful not to spill, late summer feeding can keep your bees happy.

  • Kaylea,

    I have a concoction that I have made and we are going to try to use it when we go out. Our bees have decided to attack us every time we go outside. They are swarming around my neighbor’s porch and fountains and stinging them. The neighbors are not happy with me. The concoction is called, “Vinegar of four Thieves”; it is a mix of vinegar and herbs. You might want to try and google it. Otherwise I know you can buy all the ingredients and instructions on the web site, http://www.bulkherbstore.com. Good Luck.

  • Well yesterday I experienced agressive behavior in one of my hives. This is my 1st season of beekeeping, and I have 2 hives. I’m trying to inspect and put screened bottoms on for the winter. One hive that had swarmed in June is very docile, and still needing to build honey stores;they have let me add the new bottom, feed, and medicate,but the healthy hive wouldn’t let me near them. A few made it up into my veil and stung me twice. After leaving the scene, and returning to close up the hive, they wouldn’t let up. I’m trying to put in top feeder (which I did), but couldn’t even attempt to add the screened bottom. Any advice on being able to add the bottom for ventilitation just before I winterize? I’m in northern Idaho.

    • Paulette,

      Wait a few days and try again. Sometimes bees can be testy for no apparent reason and completely docile a week later. You can also try to do it early in the morning while the bulk of them are still in a cluster and not yet flying around. Are you using smoke? That may help as well.

      If you don’t have to inspect frames and are going to just add the screened bottom board, it will probably go much smoother than it did with the inspection.

  • Hi everyone
    I just read everyone’s comments and also have concerns about bee stings…I don’t know much about bees or wasps. I’m supposed to have my daughter’s birthday party outside this week (in North East) and am afraid about the bees. My brother is severly allergic to them. Should I move the party inside?

    • Liz,

      I would have the party outside and keep your brother away from the bees. A party outside is so much better and at this time of year you are unlikely to be bothered much by bees or wasps of any type.

  • Hello, Love all of the information here. Please forgive me if this is the wrong place to ask questions. I have an old house that has had one or more large hives in it for twenty years now. Never even realized they were honey bees. Just last year or two there has been a huge pile of dead bees on the area around these hives and was curious; I figured it was some sort of spring cleaning or such. I am also very interested in beekeeping and any information would be helpful especially in proper removal of the hives (hopefully intact).

    • Darwin,

      The presence of many dead bees around the base of a hive is not unusual. In the summertime a large hive may lose 1000 bees a day, and these are easily replaced by the colony. If the colonies in the house still look and sound normal, they probably are.

      Removing a colony and installing it in a hive is tricky if you’re not an experienced beekeeper. It requires cutting the combs out of the structure and tying them onto frames or top bars. Alternatively, the area can be closed off and the bees trapped as they leave the colony or return.

      I think your best bet is to call a local beekeeping club and see if someone will help you do this. At least they could come out and look at the colonies and give an opinion on the feasibility of moving them.

      Best of luck.

  • We live in the Texas Hill Country. Our honey bees are NOT being aggressive, except at their hives, of course. However, they are congregating at every door into our house. Just this morning I captured and put outside at least 25 bees. Of course, who knows how many got in when we opened the door to release the captured ones! They are not at all aggressive when I am outside around the house–more nosy and interested. It seems they are everywhere in the immediate 2 acres around the house–in the vegetable garden, courtyard, on everything that is blooming and hanging around the doors in an attempt to gain entry. If anyone knows what causes this, I’d love to know!

  • I am new to beekeeping, so need some advice here. Yesterday I inspected the hive, pulled a few frames in my supers to see how the girls are going, they were quite docile. One bee managed to get into my suit and crawled around my neck, finally in went the stinger. I had to keep going as I had the hive apart but the bees very quickly got agitated and flew at me crashing into my veil.

    Now a day later when I go near the hive there is one that comes crashing into me and burrowing into my hair, buzzing like mad. It chases me back to the house. I already have a nice big itchy welt on my neck from the bee that got into my suit and I don’t need another. How long does it take for the bees to forgive me and also what is an average safe distance one can go near a hive (unsuited) without getting attacked?

    • Glen,

      When the first bee stung you, it released pheromones that alerted other bees in the hive that danger was about, so they came out to defend the hive. If a bee gets in your suit, it is often best just to pinch it right through the fabric. If it stings you it will die anyway. If you kill it before it stings you, all those pheromones won’t be released.

      You have some bees in the hive that are more defensive than others. Remember, although all the bees in the colony have the same mother, they have different fathers, which means they have different genes and different temperaments. Usually the bees calm down after a few hours or sometimes up to 12 hours. It depends on many factors, including temperature, weather, presence of robbers and predators, etc.

      You don’t say where you are, so I don’t know how cold it is, but by this time of year you really shouldn’t need a suit, especially if you approach the hive and open it from the back.

  • I have been reading all the posts and don’t understand the problem. I have a water feature about 20 feet outside my patio door with a rag hanging over the side for the bees to get water. Even now on a nice day here in North Las Vegas, NV the bees will be all aver the rag getting water.

    I’m in and out picking up land mines and tending to my covered beds and the bees totally ignore me. I have three hives at the side of my house and never had a problem with bees attacking me. I normally work my hive without gloves or a veil we get along real well. Although I did get stung a couple times this fall by that one pesky guard that just had to make that ultimate sacrifice 🙁

    • Larry,

      The aggressive thing happens once in a while under certain circumstances. It is an exception, not the rule. Most bees most of the time behave just like yours.

  • I am taking a long shot here. I was wondering if someone could help me. I live in Arizona and moved into a new house that backs up to the mountain 8 years ago. I have lived in Arizona for 37 years and have never experienced what I am now. I do have a pool, but I also had one in every house I have lived in and have never had the problems I do now. I have very low or no flowering plants in my backyard.

    What I am experiencing and have experienced since I moved in, is erratic bees that zip all over my yard all day, all the time. They don’t get a drink and they don’t go to the few flowers I have. They literally zip around my yard crazily. They don’t land, except sometimes on my cool deck or wall. I have had a bee company out and they found no hive. I also have regular pest control and they don’t know what is causing this. My children and I cannot enjoy our backyard for fear of being stung because they seem to be kamikaze bees. Can anyone tell me how to get rid of them? They are very, very aggressive and I can’t figure out what they are doing in my backyard! Thank you very, very much! Susan R.

    • Susan,

      I don’t know. You say they are zipping across your yard and they don’t land, but they are aggressive? How are they aggressive? Have they chased you? Have they stung you? Have they flown into you? I don’t have a picture of the aggressive part so I can’t really say what they might be. Are there any readers in Arizona who recognize this behavior? Let us know.

      • Hello,
        Yes, they have chased me and my kids. Luckily we have not been stung. They try to fly into us and when we run inside they bump against our patio door window. They also bump into other windows in my backyard.

        • Susan,

          You’ve convinced me they are aggressive. No doubt. Next question: is it possible to catch one and take a photo of it? Do you have a butterfly net or something similar? It doesn’t matter if it’s dead or alive as long as it’s not squished. If we could figure out what it is, we would have a better chance of figure out where it’s living.

  • Hello, so my parents and I just moved into a new house in February, and for about 2 weeks now we noticed there’s a beehive somewhere on our house. Also, the bees seem to be living or are trapped inside the walls of our den. Is this dangerous or should they be ok? We definitely do not want to harm them or anger them, and we walk in and out of the den and backyard and they seem to be nice to us but in any case we do not want to get stung or be a threat to them, and they be a threat to us. Will they eventually leave over time, or are they going to live in our walls for… ever? 2 days ago, though, they seemed to be very angry with each other and at the front door of our den there were approximately a few hundred bees (maybe I’m exaggerating but there were too many to feel safe) but they calmed down and there’s just about 20 flying around the roof and who knows how many are in our walls.. BASICALLY what should we do about this situation? Should we worry or let them be?

    • Narine,

      It is impossible to tell if they are bees or wasps just from your description. Both honey bees and wasps are known for making nests in walls. It sort of sounds like honey bees, but I can’t be sure. Do you have a photo you could send? They behave very differently. Honey bees probably wouldn’t bother you much if they were left alone, but wasps can become pretty cranky. No matter what they are, bee hives are hard to get out of walls.

  • I should also mention I am having a birthday party tonight, and I’m worried that the loud music/bass will disrupt them.. Do they get angered by loud music?

    • Sometimes bees and wasps both get upset by loud music, but they are not apt to fly around at night. If the party is after dark it is probably not a problem.

  • Hello everyone. We are from Indiana and are trying to relocate to Tennessee. We found a house we REALLY want but my 11 year old son is allergic to bee stings. Not all types but the doctor says they are not sure what kind. the place we found has a Honey Bee keeping operation on the property. I was wondering if it would be a bad idea to live there. We think it would be ok as long as my son stays away from where the bees are being kept but I am not sure and would love some advice.

  • I may have discovered something else that makes bees become extra defensive: transporting the hive down a bumpy road.

    I recently moved four of my hives to a new location. I took them on the road in the back of a trailer for about 30 minutes. Since the move (3 or 4 weeks ago), the bees in one hive have become incredibly defensive. All I have to do is walk within a few feet of the bottom entrance and they immediately dart out and try to sting my legs. I’ve never seen anything like it (in my three years of beekeeping). The slightest disturbance and bees virtually start pouring out of the bottom entrance.

    Until I have a chance to requeen the colony, I’ve decided to move the hive far off into the wood away from my other hives (and me).

    Slightly off topic: Could the disruption of being transported trigger the swarm instinct? I barely fed my colonies this spring and didn’t see any signs of swarming in them — until I moved them. Being transported must feel like an earthquake to bees stuck in a hive. If it seemed like my house was built on a fault line, I’d probably want to move too.

    • I don’t know, Phillip. It seems like they would calm down after a few days, let alone weeks. Maybe something else in the new area is making them defensive. Do you have skunks, racoons, or opossums trying to break in at night?

      As for swarming, maybe there are richer food sources in the new area? Hard to say, but interesting.

    • One thing that I have discovered is that nuc colonies can be very gentle but 3 deeps worth of same bees will be defensive. So will the same hive that was moved from shaded location to a full sun (maybe not a factor of a bumpy road). I got flow everywhere now in South Puget Sound of Washington State, but all of my huge colonies are just slightly more edgy than they were even a month ago. Small nucs I work without smoke and veil. Must be a factor of number of guard bees being proportional to the size of the colony.

  • I am new to bees and getting my first hive. I have two location picked out but having trouble picking one. The first on is about 20 feet from road with trees to the sides and 3 foot vegitation in front. It faces the house which is about 150 feet away. Morning and evening sun facing south east. #2 is facing south about 30 feet in woods. Dappled sun throughout the day. Facing the driveway. Which would be a better site?

    • Either site would probably work just fine. I have my bees in the woods, dappled shade most of the day, and they have done fine for years. I like sites not clearly visible from the road, so I would probably go for the woods . . . but every situation is different.

      • Thanks Rusty. How high would you say their flight path going out is? I’m just thinking if I walk down the driveway I don’t want to be in the path. From the driveway you can’t see the hive so I should be good. Comments?

        • They ascend steeply. I have one hive about 15 feet from the driveway, and it’s never been a problem.

          • Rusty

            Thanks again for the reply. This is a great site full of information! I’m looking forward to my new hobby!

  • Hello Rusty,

    I’ve just found this site by accident searching for the reason why bees are suddenly buzzing in circles around a spot under the roof tiles of my bungalow. I’ve been sidetracked from my quest though because I found it all so interesting and entertaining to read – so thank you for that. We are being encouraged here in the UK to look after all our bees as they are struggling with various problems at the moment and, although I have no space or intention to keep honey bees, I do want to help whatever visits my garden in any way I can. I do actively search for and plant anything which is known to attract them to feed. I’ve ‘rescued’ a few (I hope I did anyway) when I’ve found them on the ground in early spring because they’ve run out of fuel – the advice here is to make a small amount of honey or sugar water available for them in such a way that they can’t fall in or get covered in it – they seemed to like in anyway. I’m just waiting for the first feeder, designed specifically for bees, to appear in our Garden Centres – it won’t be long I’m sure!

    I still don’t know exactly why these bees are doing what they are but they are not aggressive so we’ll just leave them to it. I hope to visit you again when I have more time just to read what’s going on.


    • Celia,

      Here in Central Texas I’ve heard advice against feeding bees honey, except that which comes from your own hives. Since you don’t have hives, the best approach is to make sugar syrup, but ONLY if there are insufficient flowers in bloom. Mostly here in Texas they need supplemental water.

      We take a shallow tray—like a saucer from under a flower pot. Place in the middle of the saucer 2 or 3 small blocks of wood that are less tall than the saucer is deep. Fill the saucer with water to just up to the edge of the wood blocks. Then fill a quart jar (Mason or Ball jar) with water and use a thin piece of plastic or similar material to cover the opening. Flip the jar upside down and place the rim over the blocks, carefully sliding out the plastic.

      It may take the bees a while to find it, but they will come and being creatures of habit, they will return again and again. Oh, I put sea shells or rocks in the saucer so the bees have something to land on; otherwise, they do the backstroke until they can get out! Fill the jar when it empties and enjoy watching the bees!

      OHHO Apiary

      • Hello Joann,

        Thank you for that information and I will certainly bear it in mind. I would guess you will probably get much higher temperatures to deal with in your part of the world than we ever do though. Having said that we have just experienced a reasonably lengthy heatwave here. There was a maximum of 34degsC somewhere in the UK the other day, which is unusual to say the least, but we only just reached 30degs here in the Midlands – and that’s way too much for me!

        We do have several birdbaths which are kept clean and well filled and I have seen wasps and other insects visiting them – so hopefully the bees do use them too – though I haven’t actually seen that happen. Spring is mainly when we non bee-hive keepers see bees in trouble in our gardens here. If there has been one of those early warm days that wakes them up but there is very little in flower and only a short day for them to feed you find them ‘conked-out’ on the ground. The BCT (Bee Conservation Trust) is very active now in trying to educate people as to what they can do to help.

        Best wishes,

  • Aggressive bees is what worries me most. My city ordinance states that all hives must be no closer than 50′ from a neighbor’s structure, and even though I have a 1/4 acre lot, the ordinance forces me to put the hives right on my property line…with a neighbor who’s allergic to bee stings. I put up a fence and hope bees abide by out-of-sight-out-of-mind. One sting, and the bees will go the way of the dodo…at least in terms of my back yard. I think I need to find an out yard somewhere.

  • Thanks for this tread. We never had a problem with aggressive honey bees until recently.

    We live in Northern California and have a house that belongs to our family that is vacant. It has a long driveway lined on one side with old olive trees. Two of the trees have wild hives in the trunks that have been there for years. We often walk down the driveway and sometimes watch the bees and they have never been aggressive.

    We like honey bees and don’t want to destroy them but couldn’t find any local beekeepers to ask if they wanted them. I did look online and learned that it’s hard to get them out of tree trunks anyway.

    We decided to just leave them alone since they never bothered us. However the last two days when I walk down the driveway past them one of them at least one of them acts very aggressive and chases me quite a ways trying to get into my hair. This only happened one other time a few weeks ago.

    It sounds like since this is later in summer (although it doesn’t get cold here until late Oct of Nov) could be the reason for aggressiveness. I hope it does stop soon because I would hate to have them destroyed. We need to use the driveway almost daily.


    • Ron,

      I hope you don’t have to destroy them. This type of behavior happens in late summer when the hot weather had depleted the supply of flowers with nectar. If it starts to rain enough to give you fall-flowering plants, the situation should ease up. Often things like goldenrod, asters, dandelions and similar blooms are enough to dispel their mood. Good luck with it. They sound like great colonies.

  • Hello! Great site, interesting thread.

    I have created a problem for myself. Last night I prepared my two colonies to move them from my backyard in Winnipeg to a field of buckwheat seven miles out. My method is to split the colonies in two, with a cover on the brood chambers and a bottom board on the lower of the two supers and a cover on top, so I have four x two boxes. Then everything is stapled. This way I can lift them (I am not that big or strong) with one other person and also fit them into my hatchback. It’s klugy, but I can’t do it any other way and it’s worked for me for five years now; a hassle but do-able.

    So here’s the thing: Last night, I pulled out five full frames from each colony (mistake #1) to lighten the load and then banged in the staples (mistake #2). At sundown (mistake #3).

    I left the 2 x 5 pulled frames (including bees) in my backyard in boxes (no choice here) with covers on them and planned to take them out tomorrow when I reunite the upper and lower halves of each colony.

    However one remainder box (still in my yard) is spitting mad at me now, and I can’t even pick my beans. I’m not too afraid to get in there and move them anyway, in my suit, but how long will this fury last? The parent colony out in the field isn’t much happier, but I need to reunite everyone asap. (and somewhere in there I have to start extracting 60 frames, cuz I have no empty ones!)

    How long can/should I wait? The ones in my yard are of course queenless which doesn’t help. Keeping them here (on the down-low, by the way) is basically inviting them to go sting my unsuspecting neighbours. But I want them to calm down! Will they be like this forever, especially if I move them again? Any tips, tricks and suggestions would be very much appreciated

    Thanks in advance for your advice,


    • I don’t know how long they will stay feisty, but I would be careful about reuniting them with their original colonies. Bees realize they are queenless after just a few minutes, and putting them back together after being apart overnight is asking for trouble. I would use the newspaper method or some similar technique to protect your queens.

    • Hi Louizbeez.

      I read your situation from last summer when you made your bees upset.

      I too have pissed off my bees. Accidentally overdosed them on formic acid. Long story but the hive is queenless and my bees don’t want me in my own back lawn. One stung my little neighbour in her cheek while she was playing in her own back yard. Others chased my opposite side neighbours off their deck. I live in the city so good bee PR is critical. Any suggestions? Thanks so much!

      I’m getting a queen to install later today. How was your experience?

  • Just curious, I have spotted what I guess is a hive way in the top of a tree on my property. I can’t tell much other than seeing the bees flying around the top of the tree. (Im using binoculars) I am in Tn and the tree is along a river bank. What type of bees are they likely to be? Honey bees? Are there any other species in Tn that would nest high in a tree?

    • Raymond,

      It could be honey bees; it could also be wasps (yellowjackets) or hornets. The shape of the nest would be a good clue to their identity.

  • I am a newbee…I have 2 hives….one is stronger than the other. I began feeding 2:1 sugar water a week ago in a quail feeder. Problem when I lift off the top board there are so many bees and I seem to be unable to easily lift out the feeder to add the new feeder without smashing bees. Should I be lifting off the deep first, then smoking or brushing the bees away to remove and add the new feeder? Now today there are so many bees aggressively flying around both hives and clustering at the 4 corners, front and back of deep containing the quail feeder. Could these be robbers or are the bees just aggressively mad at me?

    • Joan,

      If you can’t set the feeder in place, smoke the bees down first. Or just lower it very slowly until they move out of the way.

      Bees at the corners of the super containing the feeder definitely sounds like robbers. They follow the scent, and if the scent is wafting out of that box, that is where they will try to get in. I would be very careful when adding syrup and be sure to reduce your entrance until it’s about 3/4-inch so the robbers can’t get in as easily. Use a robbing screen if you have one.

  • What an amazingly popular topic. Come to think of it, I think I found your site researching this very same subject.

  • Thank you for your response…..I put in the reducers and today there are thousands and thousands of bees bearding all around the one hive. Many have pollen and don’t seem to know where to go as the entrance is reduced to about 3/4 in….It is very hot and humid in PA today with storms predicted late and cool coming by Tuesday, The 2nd hive appears normal looking. I have seen bearding several times before but never like this….wish I could send you a pic…I don’t think robbing is going on…..should I leave the reducers in? I’m still a newbee. Thank you.

    • Joan,

      Take out the entrance reducer on the stronger hive, especially since you don’t see robbing there. On the weaker one, where you suspected robbing, leave the entrance reducer in place. Some bearding in hot and humid weather is normal, but the stronger hive shouldn’t have a problem with robbing in any case so you can just increase the entrance size.

  • Wow. This is my fourth year of beekeeping and my first year to experience the aggressive behavior. My new colony is Italian and really friendly, the colony I have from last year I think are African and really mean. I had one hive fall over onto the the other hive and while trying to right the boxes bees got under my veil and needless to say had many stings on my face and head. That was on Friday and Sunday while trying to grill they were still really aggressive. My husband wants the bees to be gone, and now I’m worried about taking the honey this fall. Is there a better time to take the honey? What are the ideal condition for taking fall honey?

    • Lora,

      If you live in an area with Africanized bees, you can send them in to a state agency and have them checked. But if they are just aggressive due to the summer nectar dearth, they will soon get over it. This is traditionally honey harvesting time, but you can wait until the weather gets colder if it would make you more comfortable. Check your suit before you start, smoke them good, and them move the frames of honey away from the hives as soon as possible.

  • A beehive formed in a bird box that we have in a tree in our backyard last year and again this year. We do not mind having them there, about 20 ft from our house although they swarm at times and we just keep away. Since I am not a beekeeper I wonder if I should call someone to do something about the hive, or should I just leave it alone. I have many flowers in my patio, and in Miami many bloom all year long. Your advice is appreciated.

    • Norma,

      I can’t tell what kind of bees they are—or if they are bees—from your description. How big is the bird box? Unless it is huge, the inhabitants are probably bumble bees, not honey bees. If you can live with them, why not? They like the flowers, no doubt, and if you plants lots of flowers you can expect lots of bees.

  • Hi. I found your awesome website because I am curious why one of my hives is completely docile and the other nothing short of vicious, chasing me for a distance if I work with it.

    The docile hive was a split off the aggressive one early in the year.

    I realize now in fall lack of nectar can be a problem, but am struggling to understand why two related hives could behave so differently. Even in mid summer when I took some honey out they were like this. It’s so extreme that I almost feel like getting rid of the one hive.

    Any ideas? Thanks for your time!

    • Brynn,

      Even though they are related, the queens mated with different drones, so you can get significant genetic variability. If they are like this all the time, and not just in the autumn, I recommend ordering a new queen to replace the one in the temperamental hive. No sense getting rid of the whole thing; as the old bees die and the new ones become numerous, the overall colony behavior should change.

      • Thanks so much for the reply, Rusty. Yup they are still aggressive, and if still like this in spring I will consider a new queen. I never thought of the fact they have different fathers. So much to learn!

        Keep telling myself to be brave and calm, but the thought of opening that hive and even finding the queen freaks me out. The other hive I’d face with bare hands.

        Thanks again

        • Just came across this thread again and thought I’d add that this aggressive hive died over the winter when a raccoon knocked it over during a really cold spell while I wasn’t home. Feel sad for bees, but kind of embarrassing to say, I’m kind of relieved!

  • I am a newbie and my hive has always been very calm and gentle. This last week I can’t get near it without them trying to sting me. I want to do a hive inspection but they want no part of this. The one frame I was able to pull had capped brood and honey. It is a nice warm day today and I thought they would be in a better mood. I tried on Sunday but they were agitated that day also. I don’t see any signs of robbing. I see bees coming in with pollen. Any thoughts or suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks.

    • Kathi,

      I don’t know where you are writing from, but you are probably in a nectar dearth due to warm and/or dry weather. They will calm down when fall flowers become available or when it cools down. This is a common late summer/early fall behavior.

  • So I am at a community garden near my house and there are at least 7 bee boxes that are close by, maybe like 20 feet away from our plot. It was weird; we were working on our plot all morning and then around 11 this morning was when they started getting into our hair, and then kept landing on our faces and basically seeming like they would just attach themselves on our faces, no where else on our body. We would hit them off then they’d just keep coming back and then were like swarming my dog.

    We ended up killing like 15 just because they were harassing us. It’s just weird cause we have been here before and this has never been as big as a issue. The started after us after we were laying down horse manure, I am not sure if there is anything that triggers bee in that. But there were 3 other gardeners out and our area was the only one being attacked. And one of the boys got stung right on his face under his eye. Kinda scared me. So what causes that kind of behavior and why do they keep going into hair?

    • Jordan,

      I’m guessing here, but I think the smell of the manure warned them that danger was nearby. Bees have evolved to be wary of large and furry animals like bears, and they will harass those animals to try to get them to go away. Probably the smell of the manure combined with your family’s hair led the bees to believe you were something that needed to be chased away. As the smell of the manure abates, I’m sure their behavior will return to normal.

      • Ask the beekeeper to check if the hives are queenless due to swarm or other causes. This time of the year it is kind of unusual for aggressive behavior. I literally just fixed an aggressive hive that turned out have been queenless by adding a queen. They became a lot more on task of honey gathering, than protecting the queen cells against horse-predators. No guarantee that that’s the cause, but do ask the beekeeper.

  • I have one hive that made it through a very tough winter. About two weeks ago, four swarms showed up – one did not settle and flew away, one I gave away, and two I kept. So now I have three hives, but one acts very differently from the other two. The bees cling together with their legs even in the hive when I try to pull out a frame. Also, they fly around the front of the hive more actively, almost like robber bees. The other two hives, situated within a few feet, are fine with normal bee activity – very happy and productive. I’m wondering if I caught a “wild” bee swarm. They’re not aggressive – I walk up unsuited, and even added an entrance reducer to see if that would help while wearing normal shorts and a T using a light colored ballcap just to hide my dark hair. Any ideas?

    • Diane,

      I would say they just have different genetics. The clinging together (festooning) is normal behavior, especially during comb-building. If this particular swarm has more younger bees, you may see more festooning than average.

      The flying in front sounds like orientation, and I’m sure some colonies do it more than others. If they are not aggressive, and you are not seeing fighting at the entrance, I would just assume they are normal but with different genetics than your others.

      Could it be a feral swarm? Sure. And if it is, their genes will most probably be a boost to your apiary.

  • This is my second year. I inspected the hive as usual and now they are aggressive. Sad as I could go out in my boxers to inspect and never have a problem. I have a new carniolan queen and my bees are blacker than most but I have notice now, some golden bees in my colony and I’m not sure if I have a new queen or if my queen mated with another drone from another hive.

    • David,

      Your queen mated about 12-20 times. Each father (drone) will have different genetics and may yield different colored offspring. You need to read “Why are my bees different colors?” But after her mating flights, which last a couple of days at most, she will never mate again.

      Aggressive bees often occur in queenless colonies. You can check to see if you still have the queen you purchased or if she is missing. Other reasons for aggressiveness are in the post.

  • I’m not a beekeeper but we have some bees in trees next to our driveway. I walk down the driveway daily without a problem.

    Today one of the guards chased me for a pretty good distance. I guess heats makes them grumpy just like people. Our normal temp this time of year is about 70 and today it must be at least 90.

  • Hello, thanks for the information. Today in my neck of the woods it has been a little rainy, overcast, and slightly humid. I noticed that my bee’s have covered the outside of the hive today, and really acting aggressive, something I have not seen often (this is my second year of beekeeping). So, I figured it was due to the weather. I’m saving your site for future reading. Thanks again.

  • I have been running a piece of heavy equipment about 30-50 ft from a hive in the side of a bluff. These honey bees are getting upset and coming after me! I would just like to know why, if it is the vibration or sound of the equipment or what? Why do they attack my face? Is it my breathe or what?

    • Roy,

      Yes and yes. Honey bee colonies are known for disliking loud noises. Lawnmowers, leaf blowers, tractors . . . anything like that will set them off. Once the bees get close to you, they detect your breath and go for your face. I’ve read that they sense the carbon dioxide when you exhale. I’ve tried blowing on a calm colony of bees and it really riles them up.

  • Rusty your are my hero! Last Friday I just saw exactly what you are describing with the robbing! I called the beekeeper associate, and he said he never heard or knew of anything like what I had just described! Dead bees on the ground, more aggressive bees, some of them fighting.

    Yesterday one of them sting me on the tip of my nose! Ouchhhhhhhhhh it hurt! Thank GOD I am not allergic, it did not even got swollen, (imagine me going to work the next day, with my face blown up!!) lol.

    The bees are now coming into the garage, I have to get them out of that wall! But, its not cheap, I just ordered the beginners kit from Brushy, rats! $350 with the shipping. Darn bees, they are leaving me without my hair cut, tint and pedicure for the next 6 months!

    They better give me some off their gold stuff!

    P.S. Sorry for that! Just getting use to how to use this site!

  • My bees continue to be aggressive. Each of the three hives has a queen, ventilation, honey stores, cells full of pollen, space, etc. My borage field is blooming right next to them. So … I thought about when and where They go after me. Not when I am seated on the bench facing their hive. Always when I am behind the hives, and near where I burned the frames early this year when the hives all froze. Could they be reacting to that? Variable: I am usually sweaty when they mess with me – due to gardening chores. Do they not like sweat? Curiouser and curiouser.

    • Michael,

      Sweat is a possibility, but I don’t think the burn area is. Another possibility is temperature: they often get more temperamental in really hot weather or excessively humid weather. Or perhaps you got some feisty genetics? Did they all come from the same place?

  • This is my third year of beekeeping near Chicago. I have two hives in my backyard. They are carniolans started from nucs spring 2013. The one hive requeened during the spring this year. They were very aggressive during that time but calmed down once the queen was established. They were only aggressive when I was disturbing the hive. The other hive is very easy to be around.

    Now, approximately two months plus later, the one hive is aggressive again. I understand when I am in the hive them defending the hive but I cannot go into my garden or backyard without 2-3 bees being in my face. I thought it might be a few rogue bees but that is not the case.

    The calm hive has a weak queen and I will requeen as soon as my new queen gets here. I cannot afford to have such aggressive bees in an urban environment as other posts have stated. I have never experienced aggressive bees away from examining the hive.

    We have had a pretty mild summer with plenty of rain until this past week. This week it is hot and humid. I have not extracted yet but plan to soon.

    Thanks for any thoughts anyone has to offer.

      • Rusty,

        A follow up to my earlier post: I decided to requeen the hive that was so aggressive. As I was going through the hive, smoke did not seem to have any affect on the bees. They were all over me and bumping away at me. I found the queen quite easily since she was so big. I replaced her and closed the hive.

        Unfortunately, I chose to do this on a Sunday afternoon. My neighbors two doors over were entertaining and three of their guests were stung. Another neighbor that is behind us and three doors over were grilling and two of them were stung. Before, their aggression was limited to our yard.

        I had about two dozen bees follow me and had to finally take a hose and make like a spray over me to get them to leave so I could get into the house. I talked to a few other beekeepers that were surprised at how far the bees went with their aggressiveness.

        The neighbors were very nice and understanding. Hopefully a steady supply of honey will help.
        The bees are Carniolans. I thought they were supposed to be less aggressive.

        • Croc,

          It will be interesting to see if the new queen’s progeny are more amiable. I’ve had hives produce “chasers” but I’ve always found they calmed down when the nectar started flowing again.

          It sounds like you have amazing neighbors. Most aren’t nearly so accommodating.

  • Croc, I know exactly what you are saying. Except mine were doing the same thing about this time of the year and they were Italians. Replaced with NW Carniolans and have never ever had the same issue again. It was as if the workers became neutered. 2 weeks after the new queens entered the hive, the old Italian workers walked over my hands buzzing in excitement. The behavior like you are describing is not unusual for honey bees, but it is very annoying. Check out their behavior with a replacement queen in 10 days, the difference should be that immediate. I would not raise any of your own queens this season, if you are into that. The drones from the old queen will still be around.

    By the way, I caught 2 Italian swarms this year. Both went nuts on me. Replaced with my carnies, calm as kittens. I have no idea what gets the workers going, but the right queen and her young larvae seem to really calm them down.

    Also consider that tall hungry hives are always more defensive. Cut them down to a deep and a medium, give extra workers to weaker hives and things will calm down.

  • I guess misery does enjoy company! I too have had my bees act more aggressively over the past month. I used to be able to stand within a few feet of my hive and watch them with no issues. Now if I come within 20 feet of the hive a guard will come out and start attacking. They will also pursue me to my house which is about 60 yards away. I have noticed that they will always send a couple of bees out when I fire up my riding mower; they don’t get upset with the push mower, just the riding mower.

    I have noticed that they are most aggressive after a hive inspection. It usually takes them a week or so to calm down and not chase me when I come near the hive. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it), they have had plenty of forage in the nearby alfalfa fields and have been producing honey like crazy so I have had to add a new super every third week to keep up with them. I just added a 5th super. On one hand I am concerned about their aggressive behavior, but on the other their production has been through the roof and it is a really strong hive so I anticipate they will make it through the winter.

    I guess I need to take the good with the bad. Having an occasional bee come after me is worth having a healthy hive that is producing excellent alfalfa honey. My hive last year didn’t fare so well and ended up losing its queen during fall wasp attacks, then eventually died during the winter. I am optimistic that they will calm down and be less aggressive as fall settles in and cooler weather starts.

  • I have had my hive just since April. All during spring and early summer I could inspect without any problems. Lately my husband and I have had a few bees come after us when we were 30 to 50 feet from the hive. Recently I have begun feeding because of the scarcity of nectar. and each time I changed the feeder and walked back to the house with the empty feeder several bees would follow me and hang out by the back door. Today I changed my route and left the empty feeder a distance from the house intending to collect it this evening. The bees still followed me and are flying around the smoker which I left outside the back door on a table. They will keep this up for 3-4 hours which makes it difficult to use the back door. Can you explain this behavior? I am thinking about giving up on the feeding. I live in an area of inland of San Diego and it gets pretty hot in the summer.

    • Mary Jane,

      This is completely normal behavior during a hot weather nectar dearth. The bees are searching and searching for some new food source, but they are not finding anything, so they keep investigating. Feeding usually makes this worse because bees from other hives may smell it and try to rob the lucky hive that just received food. All the bees will go back to normal once the weather cools and fall flowers begin to bloom. It is just a normal part of beekeeping.

      • Hi Rusty,

        Do you think I should discontinue feeding them? Also where I live (east county San Diego) we are in a drought and other than a few of my non native plants that are still blooming, all the native chaparral plants are dormant and we won’t get anything flowering until late winter, January or February. A beekeeper friend of mine was going to try leaving open containers of sugar water a bit of a distance from her beehives with small blocks of wood so the bees won’t drown. She knows it will also attract every wasp and yellow jacket and I imagine ants as well. What do you think? At this point going down to the hive to change the feed every 2-3 days has become an ordeal!

        • Mary Jane,

          I’m not a fan of open feeding because it can cause fighting, spread disease, and may initiate robbing. Also, if there are a lot of insects eating from it, you can go through a gallon of syrup in an hour.

          I would base my decision to feed on how much stored honey your bees have. If they have enough to get them through until the first of the year, then they are fine without. If they are short of stores, then I would go ahead and feed (inside the hive).

          Or, if they have enough food for a month or so, you can delay feeding until the weather cool downs and they are better behaved.

          I understand your weather; I lived in El Cajon for several years.

  • Just found this site and have enjoyed the discussions.

    We are in Southern Cal. and have been experiencing the worst drought in many years. We have a small farm and have tried to plant things that will provide food into late season for the bees we have on site (currently 7 hives). This year it may not be enough. After an inspection it was apparent that 3 of the hives did not have enough stored honey/pollen to get through the winter, so I started feeding with top feeders. This afternoon I noticed massive activity on the back field with bees clustered on the seams between hive boxes. I do have entrance reducers on the hives being fed, but there is a jam up of bees at each entrance. Going to check for signs of fighting tonight after things calm down a bit. What do you think about taping the seams up? I think the robbers are smelling the honey in the hives and trying to get inside any way they can.

    • Jim,

      Bees at the seams are a sure sign of robbers. And you are right, since the bees don’t live there, they don’t know how to get in. They follow the scent until they get lucky and find the entrance. Feeding always increases the chance of robbing. Even if the syrup isn’t laced with an attractant, just opening the hive and disturbing things releases odors that the bees find.

      For the most part, a small entrance is defendable by a normal-size colony. For very small colonies, I like to use a robbing screen that fits on the front of the hive. It moves the entrance away from the regular entrance so it is away from the smells emanating from the hive. They work really well.

      Just a theory, but I think taping the seems would be a bad idea. The only place left for smells to come out would be at the real entrance, so I think that would lead them to the entrance sooner and more reliably. I would (and do) let them waste their time at the seams.

      • Update to bees robbing at the hive box seams. I will follow your advice and not tape up the seams. An early morning inspection showed no dead bees at the entrance and I already have it reduced to about 1 inch. I think the seams are too narrow to allow entrance so I will let them burn out their energy there.

        Thanks for the quick response. It is nice to know there are resources out there!

  • I am a small beekeeper in central Florida. I have 2 hives at my home with Italian queens, which are really calm. I don’t even use smoke normally on them; I use sugar water, which they love. A quick spray when I open the hive and everybody is busy licking each other off. lol I recently purchased 2 new hives with hygienic queens for a friend’s grove close by. They are MUCH more aggressive than my Italians. Anyone else found that with the hygienic bees?

  • I live in SW Oklahoma and we do have Africanized bees here. I captured a colony from a farm building this past June. The owner told me he had an African colony in a tree on another farm. He was trying to remove it when they attacked him. He is a disabled man and couldn’t walk on the rough ground. He got off his tractor and was in trouble. He managed to call his wife. She was able to rescue him and get him to an ambulance. The medical people estimated 2500 stings. He was okay the next day and went home. They are awfully defensive. From the reading I have done, they are more aggressive in everything they do. They mate with the queen ahead of all others. They make more honey, they make more comb, they hatch sooner etc. All the bees I have captured, I have re-queened. I am thinking I just need to do this. $25 is cheap for a hive of bees. I will spend the money to keep the genetics out of my hives. The tendencies are always there, they tell me. They never go away and they never dilute. I am certainly no authority on this but I am cautious. I order queens that have been in a controlled environment.

  • Just an update from East County San Diego. I have slowed down on feeding the bees as we are busy getting ready to go out of state for a wedding. But my bee friend just invested in a type of bucket feeder (Collis) that goes inside the hive. I was wondering if you were familiar with that style of feeder. Even though I try and alter my route after changing the feeder, and leave both the smoker and empty feeder a distance from the house I still have several bees follow me home and they hang out by the door for hours, and if I go outside they actually harass me. Its kinda discouraging, and my husband is getting annoyed. Do you think this behavior will eventually subside?

  • Hi there

    I live in eastern South Dakota and have kept bees since 1995. I bought three nice colonies from a keeper who brings his colonies up north via California and Lufkin, Texas. These bees are the hottest colonies I have ever had the displeasure of working with. Just pulled three full supers of honey from each. They are big strong colonies. But they are unmanageable in every other way. Cannot break open the brood boxes without a full on attack. They patrol the area and are located a 75 yards or further from the property owner’s house. They have stung lately by the house. I added formic a couple weeks ago, Mite Away, but to be honest I could not entertain the idea of requeening due to the defensiveness. My thoughts are AHB. Just knowing they came through Texas makes me wonder about the genetics. We are going to have highs in the low sixties and lows in low 40s soon. Any thoughts Rusty? I called the guy I bought them from to get his take on it.

    • Alan,

      AHB came to my mind as well when I read your description, especially when you add together their origin, the defensiveness, and the good honey production. But even if they are not Africanized, it seems prudent to re-queen with milder bees. If you keep bees for enjoyment, but it becomes uncomfortable, re-queening is probably the best option.

      I certainly understand your anxiety at having to find the queens in super hot hives, but I’m thinking that is exactly what you have to do. On the other hand, if they are not Africanized and are just being aggressive due to high heat and/or a dearth, they might be easier to re-queen once the cooler weather comes in. You could wait a couple weeks and look for a change.

      I’m interested to hear what the seller has to say.

      • I did something similar to a hot hive by breaking it into 3 and re-queening. This does work but it is getting late in the year for it. Not enough time left (at least in Central California) for the bees to build up for the winter.

        • Jim,

          That is true, but I once split a hot triple-deep hive in order to find the queen. As soon as I replaced her, I immediately recombined the parts of the hive with newspaper. It’s a lot of work, but it solves the problem and you don’t need time to build up because you’ve got a triple-deep hive again.

          • I like that idea, Rusty. The main idea is to get the hive down to a size where you can find the offending queen and then do what you need to do to replace her.

      • If I could even work with them long enough to put an excluder in, that would be a major coup. The worst part is that I have a really gentle colony I caught as a swarm in early August. I would like to kill the queen in at least one of these hot colonies but that prospect seems unmanageable since I cannot even do a simple operation like find the queen without a major onslaught.

  • Rusty, if you don’t mind a shameless plug here, but I do have 2 laying Northern queens left from this year, if Alan cannot buy one locally. No AHB blood in those.

    • Hi there:

      I would sure appreciate the queens if you still have them.

      Alan Montgomery
      520 North Prairie Avenue
      Madison, SD 57042

  • Aggressive honey bees can often be caused by the crossing of the dark honey bee, Apis mellifera, and the lighter honey bee, Apis lingusta. In order to get gentle bees a program of breeding needs to be done. Any colony that is aggressive should have the queens replaced as quickly as possible. Read Ted Hoopers book, A Guide to Bees and Honey.

    • Hi William:

      Just trying to find this queen results in a massive outpouring and lots of pheromone (banana smell) being emitted en masse.

  • Alan,

    Plug the mean hive and place the “kind” hive in the “mean” hive’s location. Move the mean hive further out. The foragers will move into the kind hive after liberation. Hopefully both hives are currently close enough to each other that the kind foragers can easily relocate.

    All you’ll have left is young bees in the mean hive. They are generally less mean than older foragers and there will be less of them. Now you can go through the hive to find the queen. If you spike them with sugar syrup the foragers will go out for a clensing flight and relocate. Rusty has discussed many methods of finding the queen without too many manipulations. Apply as needed. Good luck.

    • Hi Aram:

      Nice…when you say “plug” do you mean seal off the entrance to the mean hive? I will duct tape it. I like this idea. Will return with a report.



      P.S keep me in mind for queens

  • Alan,

    For some reason I visualized that you had a central hole (holes) in your deeps that you could plug with something or other to keep them inside. But yes, I meant seal off.

  • A note from Tasmania, yes Australia.

    My experience shows that these factors may also promote aggression

    # Human nervousness
    # Strong odours like petrol, deodorant and exhaust fumes
    # Wind and sharp movements of the hive
    # Dark colours
    # The beekeeper obscuring the sun or causing a strong shadow on the active bees

    But the rewards are great…great web site folks

    • Emily,

      My last name is Burlew. Here’s a hint to help you with names: oftentimes you can scroll down to the bottom of the home page and find last names in the copyright notice.

      I would love to hear about your project. Why don’t you write back and tell me about it.

  • Rusty,

    I wanted to comment on the wind and strong odour factor contributing to aggression from our Australian neighbour Rob. I have two new hives which I have been feeding, salting, and putting water out for. No complaints from our fat and happy Italian bees until a few days ago we had some strong wind gusts and I was dressed to go out and decided to check on them and was chased about 60 yards then after about 20 minutes getting into my truck had another give a hair attack. The next day with no cologne on and less wind had no problems standing next to the hive even with a red wasp flying around them.

    • Todd,

      My guess is the wind bothered them, especially if it was causing noise. Cologne incites curiosity more than aggression, but wind noise can be very disturbing.

  • I am interested in the alarm pheromone, as I had not heard that bees have such a pheromone. A few days ago, I checked my bee hive, an there were very few bees (3) coming or (7) going over the 10 min period that I was observing them. Was it because they were all in for the day as it was 5.40 pm and the sun set? I listened closely at the back of the hive, and I could barely hear a hum at all. I wondered if it was because the temperature was about 25 degrees Celsius and were the bees not hot and not cold and therefore happy and not fanning or creating a fuss. This afternoon about 4.30pm I checked them again, and this time there were a few more buzzing in and out which was a good sign but still not like the activity even just one to two weeks ago. I was able to listen to a slightly louder hum than last time which told me there were a few more bees present and at least they had not all absconded, if indeed that is the reason for their low numbers or inactivity. Then I moved to the side of the hive, level with the front opening, suddenly there were a couple of dozen bees emerging too check me out and I withdrew behind the hive. One got caught in my long hair, so I went back to the house for someone to let the bee escape as no amount of shaking would set the bee free. None of the bees bit me, but I was surprised at how quickly their numbers increased, and the alarm pheromone would explain this sudden increase.

    • Merilyn,

      I’m not sure I understand your question. Sometimes the bees are just more docile than other times. The alarm pheromone can be released for different reasons, and one example would be a sting. Once one stings, they all want to sting (or so it seems) and that is a result of the alarm pheromone signaling a danger.

  • Rusty,
    I moved to my new house in December. It is suburban but with a small wetlands behind. My next door neighbor has a hive from which he took honey this afternoon. The bees came after me and my dogs, stinging us until we could get inside. I asked my neighbor about this. She said they only harvest once a year but after today would relocate the hive to their farm north of here (coastal Florida panhandle). Will it be safe to leave my dogs outside tomorrow when I go to work? Also, is it possible that the bees were not interested in my cat who did not even twitch his tail during the action? Thanks for any information.

    • Cindy,

      The bees will calm down, probably within 12 hours. The bees most likely will not bother your dog or cat. My dog has chased and snapped at bees for years. He’s been stung a couple of times, but that’s because he catches them in his mouth.

  • I think that sometimes the bees do get nasty for unknown reasons.

    I am in Texas, triple digit August temps and not a flower in sight. Our hives are in a recovering forest fire zone and I have internal feeders in most of them. We are trying supplemental feeders dispersed around our acreage and when I was going to refill one today boy did they get mean. Several individuals attacked and ran me off. One nailed me right under the eye.

    My guess that food is so short now that any source, even remote from the hive, can trigger an aggressive defense if they think it is jeopardized.

    Then there is the possibility of African contamination, making the little dears more”sensitive”.

    Anybody else have problems with remote bulk feeders?

    • No but those Texas genetics are not nice. I had three colonies with plenty of food last summer and all I got was trouble like you are reporting. Africanization is the cause. I know because I now have acceptably gentle bees and they are nothing like the hoard from last summer. I will not take any nucs that have been split in East Texas or anywhere in Texas. California or
      survivor stock only. It’s not worth it. They are impossible to enjoy and who wants property owners stung etc…

  • I’ve had bees for 7 years. They have always been friendly. I used to get a glass of wine and park myself 8 feet from the hive and just watch them zooming in and out. I got to the point that I would do small hive work (restock feeder, change hive door size) in shorts and a tea shirt.

    This year starting in May I started getting stung 10 to 20 feet away. Last week I was stung and pressured 50 feet from the hive. Yesterday they came after me about 70 feet from the hive, one stung my face and another was in my hair. This morning my wife got it while walking the dog, one scalp sting and one on her hand, she was about 50 feet from the hive. We live in eastern Colorado, having a cooler and flowerier summer than usual, go figure. The distance from the hive and the way they chase, so far up to 150 feet from the hive has really got me worried.

    • Scott,

      I would start by re-queening. The queen or a drone she mated with has a nasty set of chromosomes. If it’s not heat or lack of flowers, then genetics is my next choice. This year, I have high heat, extreme dry, extreme dearth and bees that are as gentle as lambs. Like you say, go figure.

  • I’m considering buying two of those honeyflow bee hives for my backyard, which the end of is just about 60 ft from the back of my house. Naturally I’m reading all I can about this stuff and stumbled upon your forum/thread here. After reading almost all the comments here I looked at the date this thread started because it was mentioned that all this nasty behavior just started happening and it was suggested it is just a strange trend and should go away. I’m looking at the last comment here dated in August 2015, that’s more than two years after the thread started!! Does this mean its not just a fluke hot summer or odd trend, and that its something that is now normal?

    Also, what do you guys think of the HoneyFlow hive system? Looks pretty cool to me, thats what got me interested in this.


    • Heinz,

      You have to understand that these comments come from all over the world, and someone, somewhere is always having a hot and dry summer. European honey bees are normally quite docile creatures, but sometimes something pushes them over the top and they get cranky. It usually doesn’t last very long, but it’s often unpredictable. This year, it’s my turn to have a very hot and dry summer, and yet my bees have remained gentle as lambs. Fluctuations in temperament is something you get used to. It’s a normal part of beekeeping. If a particular hives gets too hostile, you can always change the queen which, eventually, will change the character of the colony. You hope the change is for the best.

      Flow hives are fine if you are okay with extracted honey and if you realize that the Flow honey super is just like any other honey super as far as when to put it on and when to take it off the colony. It changes harvesting technique, but it doesn’t change basic beekeeping practices.

  • We installed one package of bees mid-April. So far they have been doing very well and have been very gentle. We also just had a honey flow. Now a nectar dearth has just begun. Our bees still seem gentle to people and mind their own business. I set a Boardman feeder about a yard from the hive. Now I have many different types of bees fighting over it. They are not robbing the hive thankfully. The bees that are fighting over the sugar water are very angry and more interested in people. I was walking up behind our hive and I had a bee fly up and sting me. Should we just be very wary when we walk nearby the hive? Should I not refill the feeder any more? I thought about putting it inside the hive, but I don’t know how to do that with the other bees there. What do you think?

    • R,

      I don’t particularly like open-air feeding because of the things you mentioned: you get many kinds of bees and they fight and get cranky. To prevent that, I would feed inside the hive. But if you feed inside the hive during a dearth, be careful not to spill any syrup in the area or you can start robbing. You should also consider reducing the entrance to the hive so they can defend it from potential robbers.

  • Thank you, I will try feeding inside once the other bees go away. Hopefully that solves the problem. I did see one bee from a different colony try to get in, but they fought him off easily.

  • Greetings Rusty, thank you so very much for all the information. Ok, I was gifted a hive, that was collected from a swarm. After a few weeks we realized no brood was being made, no honey either. They are very docile. We began feeding 1:1 and also a what I can candy bar. So as time went on, Yesterday we installed a mated queen in hopes of this hive surviving. We will check it on Monday. However, I know it is the time of year for the drones to be kicked out. But we have many drones and also many dead bees in front of the hive. Now next…while we were powdering a hive, One hive over, came pouring out like a water fountain. They were not agressive, We realized as they gathered in the pine, they swarmed. So I got broke in, we gathered the swarm, took two attempts and last attempt was sure we got their queen as the bees we did not get in the containers were trying to get into the container. So a hive was set up. We kept is closed and fed them we put in 4 frames that comb had already been drawn and then added the remainder of 6 frames 3 days later. Not concerned for that hive. Now the hive that swarmed, we found no evidence of a queen. So we also placed a mated queen in there when we did my BEE Happy Bee hive. So I guess my question is, with it being so late in the season, is it possible she will lay and they make it through the winter? We are feeding. I am in Illinois northern part. Thank you for your time and sharing of experience.

    • Crow,

      Yes, I think it is possible. Be sure to feed them, and make sure there are enough bees in there to keep the colony warm. Even if the queen starts laying right away, it will take time to build up the colony size. You might consider equalizing the population between hives.

  • I recently put a couple of hives in my yard. A friend of mine moved them from his house as he was moving into an apartment. I figured the bees might be a little mean for awhile because of the move. I placed the first hive in October or so and the second one in January. We had a very mild winter here in Virginia Beach, Virginia and the bees have been out quite a bit collecting pollen. The bees have actually chased my dogs around the yard. I have been sitting about 40 feet away in a chair watching the hive and had them fly around my head and land on me. Usually when I brush them away they will buzz around me even faster. Sometimes they will go away back to the hive, other times they have stung me while sitting still. I have had bees just fly up to me and sting me while I was digging in the yard. Three at a time. Not sure what to do but re-queening seems like my next step to try before warmer weather and the kids are all outside playing.

    • John,

      That’s odd behavior since honey bees usually don’t go looking for trouble. But because the weather has been unusually mild, it sounds like they are acting like bees in a nectar dearth; that is they are flying around without finding anything sweet to eat.

      The pollen is a good sign, since it means spring is coming and nectar usually follows within a few weeks. My guess is that as soon as your nectar flow begins, the bees will switch their attention to foraging and leave you and the dog alone. You can try re-queening if you want, but I think their behavior is more a function of the weather than the temperament of the queen.

  • Hi Rusty! Just found your site, fabulous info.

    We have one hive (started with two last year, but one did not make it). Have two more arriving this week. We’re in extreme southwest NC, and it has been very warm and spring came much earlier than usual. Today we were out setting up the bean poles, and wandered close to the hive to check on them. I was no closer than 30 feet, maybe more, and several came at me and I got stung once in the face. Wow! That is the first time I’ve been stung since we started beekeeping.

    Now, we have been feeding them down at the house with 50/50 sugar water, and they are very docile and non-threatening at the feeder, but the hive looks (and sounds) like an angry mob. Should we stop feeding them? How am I going to install two more hives if I cannot get close to the one already there? Should I wait until dark to install the bees? (Still getting down to about 40 at night). Any thoughts would be much appreciated… thanks!

    • The sugar water isn’t affecting their temperament. Honey bees can be defensive around their hive, but they are not defensive when away from the hive because out there, there is nothing to defend.

      The first thing I would check for is queenlessness. Go through the hot hive and look for a queen or signs of a queen (eggs or young brood). You are going to have to get close enough to do an inspection, so just suit up.

  • Hi Rusty,
    I just discovered your website after searching “aggressive guard bees.” Great info but now I’m worried. Here’s my story…
    Here in the Los Angeles area, we’ve had a very docile wild bee colony living under the ice plant on our hill for the last 3 or so years. I’ve been able to sit w/i 10 feet and even build a stone stairway right next to the opening with no problem. I had never been stung.
    About 3 weeks ago, the colony sent out at least 2 swarms in as many days. Not being a beekeeper myself, I called a local beekeeper who calmly took care of the swarms. He even remarked that they seemed very gentle. He was interested in the wild colony and asked if we would be interested in doing a cutout. I’ve been toying w/ the idea of beekeeping so I told him we would like to when he had the time. In the meantime, my husband and I have bought the necessary hive equipment. Our city has recently approved beekeeping. Our hill backyard makes it tricky to follow the rules but we think it’s doable.
    This week, my husband noticed that the bees have seemed more agitated than before and that they’ve been flying around his face when he goes in the backyard. Today, I went outside several times to watch them but had the same thing happen. The foraging bees on the opposite end of the garden were not disturbed by my presence. However, the bees near the entrance to the hive seemed more concerned. Trying to work on my compost heap which is about 8 feet below the hive, I soon had several bees flying near me. There seemed to be one bee, I’ll call her “Beelzebub”, that particularly seemed interested in getting in my face. Literally. She kept after me until I was at least 30 – 40 feet away. Eventually, after several attempts to garden, my luck ran out and I was stung on my thumb. Then, nearing sundown, things seemed to quiet down so, foolish me, I climbed up the steps by the hive to clear some space for future steps. A bee came to investigate my face so I buried my head in my shirt and climbed down the steps. I freaked when I realized that the bee was still on my shirt and near my ear when I got in the house. No sting but one frightened person.
    I think I’m still interested in attempting beekeeping but I have a couple of observations that I’m wondering about.
    1. Does this agitation sound normal for this time of year? I honestly don’t remember the bees ever acting this way.
    2. Several weeks ago I found multiple drones w/ deformed wings wandering around outside the hive. Mites? This last week, workers are dragging more drones out, some of which seem to be okay.
    2. Today, I saw several workers wandering confusedly, convulsively, on the ground below the hive.
    Would you recommend trying to start a hive from these bees? As I mentioned before, our city has recently approved beekeeping but we don’t want to anger our neighbors with angry bees. Any input you might have would be welcome. I apologize for the lengthy story.

    • Candy,

      Everything you say here makes sense. Queenless colonies become defensive quite often. If your colony just swarmed it is most likely queenless, at least for the moment. When a new queen is mated and starts laying, things will calm down again. Now your other questions:

      1. This is the time of the year for swarms, so yes. It is normal.
      2. Deformed wings are a sign of mites. The drones that looked okay to you might not have smelled or appeared right to the bees.
      2 (Second number two). Workers convulsing usually means they got into pesticides somewhere.

      “Angry bees” is really a misnomer. Colonies have moods just as people do and an upset colony doesn’t necessarily stay that way.

      I don’t recommend beekeeping to anyone because it is a big commitment. Rather I try to help those who already have made the decision.

      Btw you say, “The foraging bees on the opposite end of the garden were not disturbed by my presence. However, the bees near the entrance to the hive seemed more concerned.” That’s the essence of a bee colony. Honey bees are never aggressive or defensive away from their hive because, out there, there is nothing to defend. Near the colony entrance, they are interested in defending their home and their offspring. They defend where there is something to defend.

  • Thanks so much for your response. I’ll keep my eye on the bees from a distance for awhile. They seemed calmer today but I still had one guard bee escort me a good 20 – 30 feet. I’m hoping for the return of my calm friends.

  • I’ve been reading everyone’s experiences with great interest. I recently had an ill turn of health and was not able to work my bees then unexpectedly wound up hospitalized. Once I was home and thought I was sufficiently recovered I went to the bee yard and oh, it was a disaster! My bees were flying firecrackers! Anything that could go wrong went wrong! Touchy, defensive, changed bees! I finished up my chores rapidly and retreated back to the house nursing stings on my neck…through the veil! And my upper arm through my suit! As I was holding my pity party I realized that the thing that had changed was me. I hadn’t suited up like I normally did. I forgot my tools and was improvising. I was clumsy and my movements weren’t confident.

    I went out to the bees today in much improved health wearing shorts and flip flops, did my chores with much more dexterity, and the bees didn’t even look at me once.

    Maybe it isn’t always the bees. Maybe sometimes it’s you having an off day and the bees reacting. Just my experience.

  • I’m new to beekeeping also. I have two hives one was installed in early April and I just installed another a few days ago. They are both Buckfast bees from different distributors. A few days before I installed the second package my husband was mowing but not anywhere near the hive and he noticed thousands of bees flying around and came to get me. It appeared that the hive had swarmed and were balled up in a tree, within 30 minutes they went back into the hive. I inspected it and had 3 queen cells that were capped. The hive had plenty of honey, brood in stages and pollen. I went to install medium super to give them more room and noticed that they were covering the inner cover solidly and while walking away my clipped queen was on the ground dead surrounded by bees stinging her. My hive has calmed down after a few days and my question is do you think that I have a new queen? I hate to open it up again for another inspection so soon. Pollen and nectar gathering has continued with very little aggression.

    • Angie,

      It is always speculative to answer questions without seeing the hive, but if you found capped queen cells it does seem like the colony tried to swarm, which is somewhat unusual for a colony less than a month old. A swarm normally won’t leave without their queen. Since your queen was clipped, she couldn’t fly, and the bees returned to the hive because she wasn’t with them. Some of her own may have then killed her because she was “defective” in that she couldn’t fly.

      I assume you didn’t clip the queen yourself. In any case, I think wing clipping is a barbaric practice with very little benefit. Although it may have prevented the loss of the swarm in this case, you lost the queen anyway.

      Pollen and nectar collection will continue normally even if the virgin queens have not emerged. Be patient and remember it takes a while for a virgin to mature and mate before you will see eggs, perhaps two to three weeks.

    • Andrea,

      1. Swarming is colony-wide reproduction. If your bees left soon after the queen was released, the colony didn’t swarm. Instead, the colony decided it didn’t like its new home and absconded. If it had swarmed, you would still have roughly half the colony remaining.

      2. I think that if the bees begin to build in the tbh, they will build parallel to the Langstroth frames. I envision a huge mess. Better to cut them off the frames to begin with. Also in a doing a split to prevent a swarm, I find it helps to move the queen to the new location and leave the queen cells in the old hive as would happen in an actual swarm. It can be done the other way, but I find it a little easier to imitate nature.

  • Rusty, can lawn mower noise make bees aggressive??? Many thks for your response… doug. 03 june 2016

    • Doug,

      Absolutely! Bees hate lawn mowers. We always mow around the hives when most bees are out foraging.

      • rusty, many thks… a neighbor put 4 hives about 15ft from our garden… there is a tall thick hedge in between hives and our garden… maybe that will keep things calm… let’s hope so… again, mny thks… doug

  • Hi Rusty et al:

    Thank You for a great website! My only comment for improvement would be to sort by the most recent info first, as it’s most likely more relevant.

    We’ve just gotten our first hive of Italian bees from a reputable bee keeper a couple of months ago. Until yesterday, everything went fine, but then, after taking our course in beekeeping, my husband decided that we needed to check mite populations and also put another brood box on to give the bees more room. Long story short, what he did was overly ambitious, it took too long and he royally pissed off the bees. Unfortunately, by the time he noticed that they were becoming aggravated, the hive was in pieces and it took some time to put everything back together. The bees were so upset that some would follow you for about 100 feet or so, away from the hive. One of our farm helpers got stung 5-6 times. We decided the best strategy was to let them calm down. I checked them today, and everything was fine for most of the day, but then – very strangely – around the same time as the incident happened yesterday, we had a few bees chasing us for a couple of hundred feet again. This implies almost some kind of memory as to when they thought their hive was under attack the previous day! I’m considering buying a bottle of Nokout or similar non-toxic scent removal and spraying around the hive during the night, if they keep this up. Has anyone else observed similar behaviour? It would actually be quite amazing if they correlated time of day with a previous event (somewhat disconcerting as well, because that means they’re smarter than we think…). The weather hasn’t helped either – very hot and humid today, but it was like that all day and they didn’t become aggressive again until late afternoon.

    • Jacqui,

      I’m confused. Everything on my site (blog, archives, tag lists) are all sorted by most recent first.

      You say your husband disturbed the bees one day and you checked them the next, but they were still upset. That is not enough time. I would let them regroup and calm down for at least a week.

  • Hi Rusty,
    First in reply to your reply to Jacqui.
    “I’m confused. Everything on my site (blog, archives, tag lists) are all sorted by most recent first.”
    I always have to go to the bottom of every thread to find most recent posts also. The top is always the oldest.
    I do not know why but constantly when bees swarm anywhere near my trailer house they find a way to go through the underpinning and be under my home. I live in Central East Texas. (and yes they are super aggressive always.)
    Is there anything I can use to deter them from going under the house? An essential oils, a lemon, anything? Are there smells or anything that they won’t want to be near. I have toddlers in and out all day and sometimes no-one can enter or leave my home without getting stung. I have even considered buying a breakout just to wear to and from my car. It is that desperate. Can you help?
    Thanks Angel in Central East Texas

    • Angel,

      Okay, now I see. She’s talking about comments, not blog posts. Yes, the comments are in the order received so people can follow the thread of the conversation in a logical order.

      Are you sure your visitors are bees? The behavior you describe sounds like yellowjackets or wasps. Once you find out for sure, it is easy to install a yellowjacket trap that you can buy at Home Depot. It won’t attract bees, so get a positive i.d. first.

  • My bees have been very very testy the last month or so. I have been having to feed them since I went to harvest at the end of June and the once full honey super only had 2 capped frames left and 4 frames of brood were now in its place. I can only change 1 syrup feeder at a time due to them swarming up when I change it out and they chase me away. I now have to suit up just to change the syrup where I used to walk out there and change it. I am in Central Ga where it have been hot and dry all summer and low pollen counts at this time. They swarmed up on me last evening changing the syrup and attacked my dog that ran through 4 or 5 mins later. I had to brush bees of my poor pup. So my once docile bees are mean as snakes right now, so I understand.

  • Yep, It’s weird. I can be standing between 60′ and 100′ from my wife’s beehives and be stung. I have experimented and anything inside that distance will draw bees within a few minutes. If I do not head for the barn immediately I will be stung. Today it was a direct attack from the front and the little bugger got me on the lip. I was not moving and just watching. As soon as the one got me there were several more around my head. The aggressive behavior has occurred over the last 6 weeks. The weather has shifted from 90+ in Oklahoma into the 80s. It’s October and cooling off but they are still bringing in pollen. The main hive bodies are pretty full of honey and brood. We have seen what appear to be mini swarms over the last three weeks also. They are found hanging on the fences around the property. We think they are dumping unmated queens. Maybe a few hundred to a thousand bees. We did acquire a new complete hive with queen in the spring. We split that one and added another queen. Both are very active and full even into the super while a few of the others are quieter and much less busy. Ideas anyone?

  • I picked up ten live hives from a fellow shutting down operation. 2 of the hives are dead already and I think they were dead when we loaded them. The hives were all ratcheted and secure when we went to pick them up and it was a very cold (15*) and windy day. I didn’t want to open any of the hives to check viability. I brought my stethoscope to check. The power had gone out days before and they were using a big farm tractor as a generator so I couldn’t hear anything. It was a bulk purchase of hives and various other equipment and i had to take them whether or not they were alive. Anyway, the hive that was 2 deep supers only (all others are two deeps and two mediums) was acting bizarre to me. It was freezing out and windy but they still flew around, only at the people, while loading. A couple landed on me but no stings. None of the other hives were peeking their heads out. My eyes water when it’s windy and I couldn’t see a thing so didn’t really pick up any noticeable behavior except they were coming out full force and only towards the people.The dude sort of freaked out when they started coming out.

    When placing them in their new spot in my yard they came out again. The temp was in the 20’s. Last night I took an infared camera and checked on the hives (wish I would’ve thought to take the camera while picking up). The 2 deep hive is jam packed with bees. There appears to be hardly and space at all not occupied with bees in this hive. I can clearly see the other hives’ clusters and they look normal; a nice ball-o-bees.

    Most of the comments on this post are during times of warmer weather. I’m in northern Michigan and it’s freezing now. Do you think this hive is normal? I mean, it’s absolutely huge and no bees should be out flying in this weather. Think maybe the dude I got them from put two together and maybe there’s just a huge battle going on inside or something?

    They’re supposed to be Russian bees. I’ve never had any and they seem to have different quirks than my Italians. Any input would be helpful. Thanks.

    • Laura,

      It may just be that they started building up earlier than the rest. If they are that crowded, I’m not at all surprised they are flying out. It’s probably really warm in there with all those bodies. My fear would be them running out of food. I would immediately add another box to give them more space and feed them. That many bees will require a lot of food to keep going in the cold weather. I think there is nothing wrong with the colony, but they may not survive without some assistance.

      • Ok, should I brave the weather and open the box and make it quick probably killing some, pop the top just enough and super quick to throw in some candy, or wait a few days for decent weather and monitor the heat image for size? Thursday seems to be a warmer day.

        • Laura,

          That’s up to you. If you don’t feed because it’s too cold, you risk losing the entire colony to starvation, or you can open the hive, feed the colony, and lose some bees to the cold but save the rest. I’ve fed bees in the mid 20s. If you have everything ready in advance, you can do it fast.

    • Laura,

      It’s an interesting colony that you’re dealing with. Once it warms up and you can sort things out, I’d like to know what you find. I had a colony that exploded like that a few years ago, but I almost lost it because I couldn’t feed it fast enough. Anyway, I’m curious about yours.

      • I’ll keep you posted. I gave them a ten frame deep box with probably 75% honey 20% brood area and the rest pollen packed. I put a two inch shim on top and then a quilt board then cover. I gave them the best frames of what I had available. Also, the removable mite boards on these hives were still in place, packed full, and absolutely disgusting. I had to break one into pieces to remove it. Meal worms, mouse poop, and other gross stuff. I don’t know why this guy had so many hives when it’s clear he didn’t take care of them. There wasn’t any ventilation except through the main entrance (no mouse guards). I just hope they survive long enough for me to get things healthier.

  • This afternoon I was using a post hole digger next to one of my two hives. All of a sudden, bees started pouring out of the hive and swarming around and on top of me. Luckily no one was stung. I watched has they formed a cloud and started moving out towards the road. They stayed by the road for about 10 minutes. Then they returned back to the hive and all made their way back in. I first thought they were swarming, but since they are a very weak colony and have already swarmed only a few months ago, I knew they weren’t. I have been keeping bees for a year now and have never heard of this phenomenon. I think the post hole digger set them off, as it is extremely noisy. Does anyone know why so many would leave the hive, and then all come back again only after 15 or so minutes?

    • Mark,

      Sounds like a swarm to me. Swarms often leave and then discover that the queen is not with them. In that case, they go back to the hive 15 or 20 minutes later. It’s actually quite common. It is also the reason no one was stung. Swarms rarely do any stinging and behave just as you describe. The post hole digger had nothing to do with it. Coincidence. Bees like to swarm on nice days and people like to dig holes on nice days. It happens.

  • Hi Rusty.
    Since they went back to the hive realizing that there was not a queen with them, does this mean that they didn’t actually swarm, only that they tried to? Will they swarm again in the near future? I hope I don’t lose ay more bees from swarming, as this hive is not very strong at all.

    • Mark,

      Right. It means they tried and didn’t succeed. I’m guessing they will try again. It’s hard to understand, but some colonies seem to almost swarm themselves to death. They swarm until there’s hardly anything left. On the other hand, some colonies only swarm once in a season and are happy with that. I’ve seen both types many times.

  • Thanks, Rusty.
    I will take that into consideration.
    Do you think splitting the colony or weakening it out will help?

  • I’ve been noticing bees being aggressive too. This year has been terrible. On multiple accounts, they have been attacking people around here while driving, and at stores. I don’t know if this is normal, but I witnessed a bee kill a locust. The locust was screaming so loud and the bee took him to the ground and didn’t give until the locust was dead. It was very intense.

    • Jason,

      Bees don’t kill other insects. That would be a wasp that you saw. Probably the attacks on people were wasps, too. Wasps are meat eater and attack living things, while bees are vegetarians that only sting in self defense.

  • I have been a bee keeper for 10 years now aggressive ? Depends on the bee Italian bees they are pretty Dosil have good and Bad Days Depends on what you do to make them Mad I never use protective clothing and ya I get stung my great Dane he always there and they treat him the same as me all the difference is he eats them I do not Russian hybrid honey bees different story smoke them all you want they really don’t care get into their hive and they are calm at first then it doesn’t take long and things heat up really fast time for some gloves and protective Veil these are like people good days bad days

  • Hi Rusty,

    After attending the 2017 Western Apiculture Society conference held this year on the UC Davis campus, one of the speakers, sorry I did not note his name to relay it here in this post, remarked about how we as beekeepers are defining our honey bees species behaviors. I have taken note and have given this thought myself, considering beekeeping challenges here in Southern California and some of us facing constant AHB usurpation. His point was that bees are not by nature aggressive creatures, they are “defensive creatures”, defending what any species would do if they determined their residence was under attack, what we as humans would do too … I thought wow, point well taken for me.

  • Some interesting comments here.

    Aggressive or defensive? This is a point of view to a degree, but if a bee is leaving the hive to attack, that’s aggression! Re-queening would be my recommendation, followers and attackers are a pain.

    Were they the bees left behind? Almost certainly not. My question would be why were they left? Bad practice would be the answer.

    DON’T buy queens from any distance, certainly not from over-seas, breed your own, or get local queens – You are messing with local genetics. See below. You can easily manage your bees genetics to create the type of bee you like (easier with more hives of course!).

    Somebody mentioned noise and hedge trimming. Any work that increases sweating and CO2 output will prompt interest from local hives, digging the garden is quiet, but will do it too! Sitting in the sun with a beverage, less so! 😉

    I like to bee-keep in the stone-age. What do I mean? I’m not a tree hugger, but imagine myself to be a predator e.g. a bear, and consider the bees reaction to me. Just because we have modern ideas and equipment, bees are still ancient animals, and they react to certain stimuli in a predetermined way, and have done so for millions of years! So forget “modern” bee keeping, bee keep in the past!

    Remember that a queen may mate up to 15 times, so we see the colony change in temperament, colouration etc as the queen uses semen from different drones as time passes.

    Swarms around your hives? Swarms from surrounding colonies do seem to be attracted to other hives, however I’d usually look at the local hives to be the candidates.

    Africanised Bees are fascinating in their own right but as mentioned, probably should be destroyed. We don’t have AHB in the UK but I have come across very aggressive swarms (quite rare. Usually have been in the open for several days), so they could be innocent – but ere on the side of caution id you have AHB nearby.

    Note that Africanized queens emerge a day before queens with less dominant African genes, and so tend to dominate. Very cool.

    From what I can tell, American strains are on the whole very gentle, here the the UK, much less so; you can also see changes in behaviour in just a few miles, with “local” bees being quite different from those 10 miles away. However I would put most aggression down to beekeepers!

    I often get asked to look at “aggressive” colonies for frightened BKs, and find little wrong with them, while the BK cowers in the corner. The hives are usually in a mess as the BK is working in panic mode, this makes the next inspection more difficult, the BK gets stung due to thumps, knocks and bangs, and so the cycle continues. Keep your hives tidy and brood frames (especially) properly spaced. Bee-space is very important and often overlooked. (we are going back in time again).

    Going back to bears, ANY tap or bang on the hive will cause a reaction! Try putting your ear to a hive and gently tap once. Moving across the open hive will also get a reaction, anything from a slight movement to aggressive attacks. A panicked BK is not a smooth or gentle BK. I practice ninja bee keeping. If I can help it, they don’t know I’m there, I’m a stealth bear! I would say that bad BKing is promoted by full bee suits, blazing smokers and the wrong hive tool. Most BK approach bees like some roboBK, immune to the bees, who cares if they try to sting me? So they practive poor technique. It is said that we would be safer drivers if a steel spike was set in the middle of the steering wheel!

    Watching youtube video of American commercial bee keepers brutally opening and closing hives is absolutely not the way to learn how to inspect bees! Widespread issues with bees and CCD don’t surprise me at all, with bees being moved willy-nilly en-mass around the continent, by people who have one interest, money!

    I taught my son my method of BKing, and I’d often come home to find him with a hive open, in shorts and flip-flops – nothing else, no smoker (I hardly use one), just a hive-tool!

    It may be contentious, but I’d say that 95% of BK don’t know how to open a hive, let alone work the hive! What they are doing is making a rod for themselves and their neighbours! Stop reading websites by trendy BKs who’ve had a hive for two years. Instead, learn about the bees themselves, what they are and why they do what they do – these questions have one true answer, read scientific papers. Once you understand and practice the real basics, you can then look at the fads, although TBH, you’ll start treating fads as they should be treated 😉

    Happy bee keeping 😀

  • I notice talk about locating the hive above.

    It’s important to maintain the good relationship that honey bees and the public enjoy. I spend a lot of time speaking to the public at large and giving talks, and they are swayed more by their fear of bees (usually a confusion with wasps) than their knowledge, so they often need a little reassurance.

    We don’t have the space that you do in the US, and if you read local by-laws etc. it’s usually technically impossible to keep bees in our small gardens in the UK However…

    My next door neighbour is a copper (policeman), he had no idea that I kept 10 hives in my 10x15M back garden! When I told him that they were on my decking within 1.5M of the back door and we BBQ and sit amongst them, and neither the dog, or my wife get stung, he was amazed.

    Make sure you have a good workspace around your hive. No tripping hazards, and not too low. I like a tressel about 2.5M long 460mm wide (18 1/8″), 500mm high, with two or three hives per tressel, I like the centre free for working and “expansion”. If you size it right, the rails can be used as frame hangers. Ensure it’s strong enough to take the weight of three full hives plus you! You may need to stand on it if the hives are too high.
    Make sure that you can access the rear of the hive, so a 2M sq space per hive is a good guide. (assuming vertical hives).

    The site is very important from both the neighbours POV and the bees, it can make a big difference to the colony. Catching early light is better than late (point east), mid-day shading by trees is okay, but it rains for longer and is damper under trees. Visibility by the public can be an issue, even if the bees are not! This includes bee rustling and peeps complaining about stings – usually wasp! “It was your bees!”
    I would never ask neighbours if they mind me keeping bees, but tell them after the event (with a jar of honey) and look, nobody died!

    I have four out-apiaries plus the garden. The urban bees ALWAYS do better than the ones in the countryside, which today has become a desert with the occasional glut. whereas the urban environment has a virtual 12 month nectar flow.

    As mentioned above, the flight-path of bees can be modified with obstacles and smart planting, The biggest issue in the urban apiary is returning bees in a rush to unload, bumping into moving scenery (you and me) and then causing stings when either they panic, or you rough them up trying to remove them from your hair etc.
    If you have bees that are aggressive or are followers in your garden, don’t wait for problems, re-queen them and if possible, remove them until the trait has gone. The last thing you want is a petition or the local council giving you grief.

    BTW, bees are a great indicator of imminent showers! If we see them rushing home, we bring in the washing!

  • Hi, I’m hoping I can get some perspective on a bee situation in St. Pete, Florida.

    About two years ago or so, my father noticed bees coming and going from a presumably hollow area about 20 feet up on an oak tree in his yard. They never caused any issues and he’s been content to let them go about their business, and all was well. But then Irma came through and a huge section of that tree came down, ripping the power line out of his house and crushing a sizable section of the fence. The entire yard was a mess, littered with branches, and with all the other chaos, we didn’t give much thought to the bees beyond assuming their hive would have been destroyed.

    So, imagine my surprise when we finally got professionals out to remove the fallen limbs and find what appears to be a fully functioning hive inside the largest section! In the midst of chainsaws roaring, branches being pushed and pulled, etc, I was able to walk right up to the exposed cross-section (going slowly and cautiously, mind you) and spend several minutes just watching them.

    At our request, that section was left in our yard and so far, we haven’t had the slightest issue being out in the yard, working near them, or even sneaking up to get photos of the layers of comb. From their behavior, appearance, and everything I’ve found online, they seem to be your garden-variety (haha) European honey bees. However, I know that there are populations with the Africanized genes here in Florida and the official guidance published through the county and university programs is that feral colonies should be removed or exterminated to decrease the risk of possibly harboring aggressive bees in a suburban neighborhood.

    We’re happy to let them be, but I am also concerned that with most of their hive exposed and in much easier reach of potential predators, that there might be issues down the line, as well as the risk of hybridization. I was wondering if you could offer some perspective on the situation, especially if you know of any steps we could take to protect them and help them thrive.

    Any advice you can give would be much appreciated!

    • Rebecca,

      You can leave them where they are or cut out the combs and put them in a hive. How much you want to get into it is up to you.

  • I am new to beekeeping and haven’t even started yet… But, I just wanted to say that this is BY FAR the most constructive and polite internet forum I have ever read and I have been in the IT industry for a very long time.

  • This forum is like talking to the cops after a cop shooting…

    or Judge Judy in court… My little Pit Bull has never harmed anyone!

    Here in San Diego, I have seen 6 personal head attacks away from the hive in the last week.

    My mobile mechanic was working on my car when one came into a large parking lot with no vegetation anywhere and stung him on the cheek.

    I have been living next to this beehive for 20 years with no problems. This year however they randomly attack people whom (who) are standing still, not waving their hands or clothing at them.

    They appear to be the same small body honey bees so I don’t
    think they have been Africanized ….

    Maybe the same chemicals that are killing them all off also makes them attack crazy before they die?

    • Good morning, Cisco. It sounds to me like your neighbors bees have some Africanized honey bee genes. It happens, especially in your area.

      1. This is not a forum. All comments are moderated.
      2. Did you catch the insect who stung the mechanic? If not, how do you know it was a honey bee? Did it leave a stinger?
      3. No one can tell an Africanized honey bee from a regular one without a lab analysis. They look identical and there is no body size difference. Usually behavior is the first clue.
      4. Usually bees that have been poisoned are too physically distressed to sting.

  • We have had a wild hive in our yard for years, with very sweet, docile bees. Over the years, I have been able to do garden work around this hive without ever feeling threatened. In the last few weeks, the bee population of this hive seems to have doubled in size, so that bees are sleeping outside the hive at night since it appears to be too full. I’ve noticed the each day since the new bees arrived that our hive is becoming more aggressive. We have been chased in our yard several times in the last few days, and all of a sudden, unprovoked, they attacked my dogs today. I hate to kill bees when CCD is such a big problem, but I don’t know what else to do. Is it possible to re-queen a wild colony? Is it reasonable to think I could hire a local beekeeper to do this? So grateful for any advice you can offer. (I am in Encino, CA.) Thanks!

    • Penny,

      I’m a bit confused here. You say you have a wild hive. Do you mean wild bees in a hive or an open-air colony in a tree or something?

      Anyway, the population of a colony does increase in spring, so that sounds normal. Temperamental bees often occur if the colony goes queenless, which could happen at any time, or if they raised a new queen that mated with Africanized genes. Hard to say.

      CCD is not a big problem, and hasn’t been seen much in ten years, so don’t worry about that.

      Yes a wild colony can be re-queened, but as I said earlier, it’s not clear to me whether your colony is living in a hive (which would make re-queening easy) or living in the wild, which would make it extremely difficult.

      My advice would be to have a local beekeeper look at it and give you an opinion.

  • Thanks so much for your speedy reply. Sorry I wasn’t more clear. It is a wild hive that was built into a hollow brick column built in the 1930’s. Thanks for the advice. I’ll call our local beekeeping group, The Valley Hive and see what they think.

    Warmly, Penny

  • I wish you’d reverse order your comments to show the newest ones first (instead of the reverse). Takes forever to scroll down. Otherwise, I really enjoy your site. Thank you

  • Rusty,
    I am trying to help a friend who has a hot colony. It swarmed in the spring and has been that way since. He finally decided to requeen, and I am trying to find out how to introduce the new queen.

    Unfortunately the old queen was dispatched 2 days ago and the new one will not be here for at least 3 more days. Will he need to shake all the frames to find and remove all the queen cells they will have started to build (this is what I normally do before introducing a queen)?

    Or, if they show signs of accepting her such as trying to feed her through the cage can he just install her without looking through the whole hive?

    Neither of us has a Snelgrove board, but he does have a shim with one hole. The colony is in a double deep with two supers.

    I’m concerned he is going to lose his new queen, but is going to get nailed with who knows how many bees if he has to shake them all off. Any guidance would be appreciated!
    SW Ohio

    • Alice,

      I wouldn’t do anything about the queen cells. Just introduce the new queen. If they accept her, they will dispatch the cells themselves. If they don’t accept her, at least he will have queen cells to fall back on.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I live in Northwestern Vermont and have a defensive/AGGRESSIVE bee story to add. In the spring of 2016, my wife and I purchased 2 five frame nucs to increase our small apiary. After dark, I transferred them into single deeps along with an additional 5 frames of foundation, and screened them in.

    In the early morning, we put the 2 new hives into the back of my wife’s car so she could take them to Maine. So far so good. Shortly after she left, honey bees were harassing me as I went between the house and shop (about 150 feet). For the next 4 or 5 days, there was a small cadre who insisted on continuing the harassment, bad enough for me to wear a bee jacket as I moved about the yard. It’s important to note that there are no nearby beekeepers.

    With the hives (nucs) resettled in Maine, we noted excessively defensive behavior in one of them. Bees began harassing us in the nearby garden (nowhere near their flight path). Our house is about 50 yards to one side of the bees and we were getting attacked and stung. The final straw came when a bee entered the garage while we were processing blueberries and stung me between the eyes. The hive entrances face south and the garage door faces north. It is 50 yards west of the bees and another 25 yards to the north. These bees were definitely aggressive and sad to say, we had no choice but to euthanize them before we were hit with a law suit by an unsuspecting blueberry customer.

    For what it’s worth the mean hive was more productive than any of our other four. I have often wondered if the meanies may have played a part in 2 colonies that went queen-less at the time.


  • Hi Rusty

    One of my 2 colonies (both started last spring) became more/very aggressive last summer after they (apparently) superseded their queen. The only proof I have of supersedure is that my marked queen disappeared and the hive started to become stronger in early July. When I next saw the queen, she was unmarked. That colony had been the weaker of the two, and then in July it became the stronger of the two. That colony became very aggressive so that they were hard to work with but were a stronger colony, with more brood and more stored honey. I had planned to re-queen that colony with a Purdue queen this spring/summer, but I wonder if that makes sense. The colony is aggressive but successful. Do those traits typically go together? Or does this suggest an Africanized queen?

    Thank you!


    • Pam,

      Those traits don’t necessarily go together, but if I had a good queen like that I would keep her unless the aggressiveness became a problem.

  • We have 1 Warre hive on a semi-rural farm, 4 boxes, originally populated by a volunteer swarm, now in 3rd year. 1st year, super sweet, docile, good honey production.

    2nd year crankier and attacked a helper opening hive (40 stings! he eventually jumped into the stock tank to escape). Sometime after that, part of hive swarmed, but the remainder continued on, apparently fine. They have never liked loud noise (water pump, mower) but used to warn us by buzzing around but without attacks.

    This year acting quite aggressive, with sudden determined chasing to sting, usually with no provocation or even proximity. We are a community farm with frequent visitors, and fear someone with allergies could be harmed (not to mention stings and chasing are no fun!). I would HATE to destroy the hive, any chance we could provide another empty complete hive in case they are overcrowded? Might they settle down if they divide themselves? Few local beekeepers to help or advise, plus right now we are all quarantined with the coronavirus thing. Any advice?

  • My neighbor keeps bees about 100 meters away. I decided to put water around my garden areas so bees would come to pollinate my plants. For 6 months they have been feeding here in my garden and pollinating the plants.

    I put quite a few new plant pots with seedlings in them and just lately there are a lot of bees in the plant pots eating something. Sometimes you will see 6 or so bees in 1 small pot. The last two days, I’ve had an aggressive one trying to sting me. Weird how they always go for your neck or face. Today 1 got me on the ear. It kept coming back at me even tried to get my arm. Eventually, it stung me on my ear I’ve had water out for 6 months and never had a problem I could stand right next to the pond as I’m filling it and they would never have a go at me but before I had no water out 6 months ago and got stung a few times I thought the water had fixed the problem but seems not any advice would be helpful. Thanks

  • I guess the bees at my house are some kind of special. I live outside Dallas and I am being attacked constantly in my backyard. They are raising bees about 100 yards away from me and they fly over my fence for my plants and water. They are so bad right now I can barely mow my lawn. They attack over and over and over like something I have never seen. One bee will keep coming 10 plus times over and over until he stings or I swat him. I have been stung 4 times this morning. Someone should come to study these little mother fers over here. The guy says they need a queen. He needs to get one like yesterday before I call the city. Getting sick of being stung every day while beautiful outside.

    • Brain,

      Yes, that sounds bad. If the beekeeper gets a new queen, that should cure the aggressiveness. Just for the record, he bees don’t sting, just she bees.

  • I have a neighbor who just moved in across the street and they placed their beehives in their backyard, which is only 100 or so feet away from our driveway. They rented the house and left the beehives behind. Not sure the tenants appreciate having bees flying around. These bees are particularly aggressive, head butting, and attacking us until we flee into our house. This doesn’t seem like normal behavior for honey bees. We’ve had bees in our yards with no problems until the new neighbors brought in these beehives. We have a pool and I was also wondering reading the sites if that could be the reason they are attacking us in our garage/yard.

    Do beekeepers normally leave their bees unattended like that? I have been near bee hives in the past but never had problems like this. What do I do? I don’t want to be one of those neighbors that complains but I cannot even stand in my driveway without getting butted by several bees. I have always loved the bees and never had problems till this. I am just looking for guidance. I haven’t filed complaints and I don’t know how to talk to the owner as he doesn’t live there and just bought this house within the last month before the renters moved in. I wonder if he isn’t tending to them bees properly and if that is what is creating this problem. I don’t want to be one of those complaining neighbors but if this isn’t resolved I soon will be. Any advice would be helpful.

    • Danielle,

      It sounds to me like the colony might be queenless. If it is, it will probably disappear over time. In the meantime, you could ask the tenant for contact information for the owner. Also, the ownership is a public record, so you could go to your county office and get that information.

  • Hi Rusty,

    First, I sincerely appreciate all of the knowledge that you impart to readers on here. I have certainly learned a lot from you.

    I have three hives in my backyard. I am relatively new to beekeeping (this will be my third season) and up until now, my bees have been relatively docile. Recently, I’ve noticed that for at least a day or two after I open the hives up, I find that that some bees appear to be very curious (flying very close to my face when I am nowhere near the hive) and in some instances, sting unprovoked. At times, it appears that it’s only one or two bees that seem insistent on going after me for at least that day and sometimes into the next day, or until they successfully sting me. Anyway, just wondering if you’ve ever experienced this and if there is a way to deal with it outside of re-queening. Any insight would be sincerely appreciated!

    Steve (from Long Island, New York)

  • If you get Africanized bees or find yourself being attacked by your bees then you should destroy them and replace them. Don’t tolerate it at all. And you should also start a campaign to find Africanized bees in the wild and eliminate them. You may say that it’s impossible to eliminate them but it isn’t. And by not eliminating them because they are ‘your hive’ compounds the problem. Africanized bees are an abomination and a mistake. It was created by a person and only people can resolve it. Destroy all Africanized bees. I wonder if the African bees are actually a cause of declining insect and bee populations. Just don’t tolerate them at all. Bees learn. If you tolerate them they will never go back to ‘normal’. Punish them harshly or destroy them totally and replace them.

    • Not Disclosed,

      You cannot eliminate Africanized bees. The genetics are well-mixed into the wild stocks and they are moving further and further north. They were not “created” by a person, African bees were accidentally released into the environment. You say they will never go back to normal? They are perfectly normal for Africanized bees. You say “punish them harshly.” Are you crazy? They can’t be punished into changing, they are behaving as their genetics dictates. You can’t punish a dog for being a dog. He will still be a dog, or a dead dog, when you’re done.

  • Hi from sunny San Diego,

    I have a question for bee experts.

    Over the past two weeks every time I go on a hike or climbing outdoors, if I stop moving a single bee will come buzzing around my head circling me until I leave.

    This has occurred in the following manner:

    Day 1: 4 different spots in a 2-mile hike, whenever I’ve stopped or set up my climbing gear. I didn’t even get the chance to climb before the single bee was around. I then drove 30 minutes away to another climbing area and had it happen again after changing my shirt and washing off with unscented soap.

    2nd day: after a few days I went back to the same area and had it happen again. Then left pretty defeated feeling.

    3rd day out: The next day I tried something different and didn’t have coffee that morning thinking it was my breath. But it still happened.

    4th day out: took my son on a hike. Didn’t stop moving and it did not happen this trip out. We walked within 10 ft of a wild bee hive.

    5th day: a few days later, today, July 11th 2020, I took my son on a walk up In Mt. Laguna. This hike we stopped to look at rocks a bit off trail. Within a five minute period we had a very fast moving bee circle us, and my face specifically.

    After day 1, I thought it was my climbing shoe deodorant which has lemongrass oil and other essential oils in it. I soaked them in oxyclean and washed them in free and clear detergent 2 times before the 2nd day. Bee still came to get me.

    Day 3 thought it was my coffee breath and heavy breathing during climbs but I didn’t have coffee this day and it still happened.

    Day 4 no bee aggression but I didn’t stop moving and we took our hike at 5 pm instead of earlier when It was hotter.

    Today, the minute I stopped moving the bee came, and I didn’t have the climbing gear with me.

    What could cause this bee-havior?

    When it’s hotter in Southern California do the guard bees patrol larger distances? That first day the wild hives were really far downhill from the boulder I was climbing.

    Secondly, why only 1 bee each time. I feel cursed and don’t want to trigger full Africanized bee attack, the single bees don’t let up, I led walk away and the minute I go back to gather things they each would come back.

    Lastly I’ve been out hiking and climbing for years and never experienced anything like this. Thanks for the replies in advance.

    • Jbells,

      I think you are over-reacting here. You didn’t describe any aggressive behavior, just circling. That circling sounds like bumble bees. When you walk into their territory exhaling carbon dioxide, they tend to circle you to make sure you don’t interfere with their mating territory. They go around and around, but I’ve never heard of one attacking. Just mind your own business and they won’t go further than their territory. Of course, then you move on into someone else’s territory and it starts again. Just chill. It’s normal.

      • Wonder if the “bees” could actually be horseflies/deerflies. JBells’ description sounds just like their behavior.

  • We have 5 currant bushes and have noticed a honey bee guarding the bushes, flying from left to right. Every few minutes, he/she aggressively charges another (others?) bee, and seems to butt it with its head. For the past 3 days, I have sat in a chair about six feet away and watched. They have not bothered me, but seem to be fighting over access to the black currants. We live in Maryland if that is important. Are bumble bees protective over their territory?

    • That doesn’t sound like either honey bees or bumble bees. It actually sounds like wool carder behavior, but it’s not the right season for them. Do you have a photo?

  • Hi from SC,

    My neighbor had 3 large bee hives (going on year 2) and knocked into one of the hives with his mower. It fell over, he got stung and tried to right the issue. Even with protective gear on, they attacked him, defending their own. They got into his suit and he had to get medical attention for numerous stings. After the incident, my neighbor sold the hives and they were picked up by another beekeeper in the middle of the day. Cue angry pissed off bees. They were attacking people and animals across 5 acres. I got stung twice and had to get emergency treatment – allergic reaction.

    On day 4, the beekeeper had to come back and get the remaining swarm as they were congregating in the area that the hives used to be. We are now on day 6. The bees are still swarming (those few that are left), they are attacking our livestock and I feel like I am on house arrest. I have kids, my other neighbor has kids. Her horses and dogs have been stung and so have mine. It has calmed down by her house but due to the fact that the ex-beekeeper neighbor put his hive boxes closer to our property line than his own house, they seem more attracted to coming over and dive-bombing myself and my livestock. Should they still be attacking my livestock? When will this end?

    I’m scared to go outside to feed my animals without getting hurt. Is there a chance they’re Africanized? How do I go about getting them tested?

    • Rose,

      It doesn’t seem right that they are still aggressive after their hive and queen and brood have been removed. They could be Africanized, I suppose, but they shouldn’t persist much longer. I don’t know how determining Africanized genes can help you at this point, but if you want them tested you would need to contact your local agricultural extension office.

  • To write “honeybee” but later question “bumble bee” suggests that you’re too glib w/these names or haven’t seen the bee(s) well: the behavior & season imply neither, but the bumble bee resembling CARPENTER BEE (MALE!). Which, though I prefer to first see their pale eyes (unlike females), one can catch barehanded: no stinger, just sex organ.

    These males seem to have a week or so headstart on the season (early bee catches the female), and they try chasing away competition and meeting the ladies.

  • I was standing beside a “bee tree” (about a 15″ slash into a big walnut tree hollow, which has hosted honeybees in most years since 2009), watching roofers clean up (93 F in shade!!), and feeling a twinge/ping in my shoulder (sigh: injured while watching work!). I did some raised-arm movement to redress that (wasn’t rapid, but). Perhaps that raised the ire of ONE honeybee at the busy tree, and I got “buzzed”, felt something in my hair, got a twig and brushed the top of head, kept getting “buzzed” –I was thinking that the bee would soon retreat, not persist–, and finally made a dash away: ran through a narrow tree-by-fence space and about 20 yards into the front door. Whew.

    But as I was out on my terrace soon after (same side as door), there was again the buzzing, I see a bee on my sleeve, and try to sharply flick her off (intending injury, yes); but she continues flying, into some stuff I had out, and I retreated inside sliding glass door.
    From which I then watched, over a period of about 20min (!), the bee repeatedly search my terrace, go away, & return. I tried a couple times to step out and swat the bee w/washcloth, and after last attempt she was able fly after me INside, then was on the glass, then … sent to bee heaven.

    Wow, I had no idea of such determination & persistence in pursuit! !? (I should remark that I’ve pushed my finger into masses of bees around this walnut tree hollow to see the bee sea part like Moses coming through; last summer, I alerted and assisted a beekeeper who came to sweep up the then various swarms of bees about –we’d no issue w/them. We guess that last year’s colony ended up queenless and died out. This spring, it seemed at first like other bees might be honey-robbing (I noticed fighting at the tree), but at least eventually, a good-sized colony became resident.)


    • Dan,

      Yes, every now and then I run into one of those persistent individuals that will not leave me alone. It’s not common, but I see it once or twice a year.

      • Sometimes I think that one persistent bee is the one that just stung you/me. She’s flying dead, but she’s gonna keep doing her best to drive you away from the colony as long as she can. It’s just speculation.

  • I am still laughing over Not Disclosed, but let’s be truthful the F1 Hybrid did not escape, they were very much let go for testing far too soon. I live in Texas and deal with Africanized bees often, and I yes to an extent by definition they are aggressive. Here let me break it down for you if you grab hold of me and I punch you in the nose, that can be termed defensive. Now if I run two city blocks and punch you in the nose, that would be called aggression. Nothing should ever be dealt with in absolutes. I have re-queened multiple Africanized bees and after a month or so all is good. I will say push-in cages tend to work best if highly “defensive”. It is also worth mentioning hybrids of certain races have been shown to be quite defensive as well, so not all defensive hives are due to Africanization. Down here I am sure almost all hives have a certain amount of Africanized genetics, and hives need to be monitored regularly. I believe the more beekeepers you have in an area the easier it is to keep temperant hives, especially in the south. Love your blogs, they contain a wealth of information.


  • I am not a beekeeper, just someone who is trying to pull weeds in her garden. In early August, both my sister and I got stung by bees while doing this. They seemed to come out of nowhere. I assumed at the time they might have been ground bees, but now I think they are probably honey bees. I have read that ground bee are not aggressive, usually appear in the spring, go away in 4- 6 weeks, and like dry, sandy soil. I would call this unprovoked attack aggressive — you may say “defensive”. But I do think these particular bees must be nesting in the ground.

    Five weeks later (yesterday), I’m pulling weeds again, and on the lookout for bees, as I was in the same area as the last time I was stung, and ZAP, out of nowhere, I get stung on the back of my hand, through my glove, and on my arm, through my shirt. And now I am writing this with a badly swollen hand. Also, my cat likes to lay among the tall ornamental grasses where these bees are lurking. Will they sting my cat?

    I do not want to kill the bees, as I know how important they are to ecology. I just want them to go away from my garden to make their home. How can I make this happen naturally? Sprinkle cinnamon? Spray vinegar? Will they go away on their own? This is the first year that bees have been a problem. It has been alternately very hot or very wet. I live in Maryland.

    Any advice or recommendation on how to make them move or go away (naturally) would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    • Hi Viki,

      Hmm. Hard to say. Your comments about ground bees are mostly right, but there are many different species and some become active in the fall, some do not like dry or sandy soil, but most are not aggressive. What you are describing sounds like honey bees, especially since they are most likely to get aggressive in hot weather nectar dearths such as we experience in August and September.

      However, if you think they are coming out of the ground, they could also be yellowjackets, which also are pretty aggressive in late summer and also have the habit of “coming out of nowhere.” They are also frequently mistaken for honey bees because of their size and coloring. I’m guessing, based on your description, there is about a 50/50 chance of them being either honey bees or yellowjackets.

      As for keeping them away, that’s hard. Yellowjackets and most other wasps will begin to die as the cold weather comes and will completely disappear after the first freeze. Honey bee colonies live on over winter, but they will not be out much except on really warm days.

      I recommend catching or killing one and taking some good close-up photos so the thing can be identified. Once you know what it is, devising a plan will be easier.

  • Hi Rusty.

    I’m hoping you can give me some advice. I’m going to try to give as complete a picture as possible.

    Last year I had a very robust hive that filled up 4 honey supers all by themselves. I put in Apiguard trays for mite treatment, after removing the honey supers and when I went to check on them to remove the trays, they were still going strong and had even filled up the spacer I had put in for the Apiguard with comb and honey. This hive was very gentle, with no aggression whatsoever.

    I also have another hive some feet away that was also very robust. They didn’t produce as much honey as the first, but they too had filled up the spacer. In addition, I noticed that they started showing signs of aggressiveness, as they attacked me furiously.

    In both hives, I did not remove the comb and honey they had collected in the spacer, figuring it would serve them well in the winter.

    A few weeks ago, I went into the hives to check on them and make sure they had food. Unfortunately, I found the bees in 3 of my hives dead, including the very robust one that had filled up the 4 honey supers. They had honey stores so I don’t think they died of starvation, and the winter has been rather mild here in NJ, with the occasional arctic blast and so I don’t think they died of cold. Since their numbers were so large going into winter, I felt they had a big enough cluster. In fact, one of the hives that survived is much smaller than the big one. What do you think could have happened?

    Then I went to check on the one that had shown signs of aggressiveness last fall. I had saved them for last. When I opened the hive, they were almost literally bursting at the seams. The stores in the spacer had not been depleted at all, if anything, there was more. I was also using this opportunity to put in Apivar strips and so when I lifted the top brood box to access the lower box, I found brood at various stages. The state of the hive was more like what I’d expect to find in the middle of summer and less like the middle of February! It was obvious then that not only is the hive not queenless, it seems that she did not get the memo that we’re in winter. And the bees were mad! They attacked and I ended up with a few stings.

    Normally, I would want to split this bursting-at-the-seams hive into 2 or even 3, but I’m loath to do that because I do not want to end up with 2 more aggressive hives that send my heart racing and leave my skin covered in stingers. There is also the idea of re-queening but the hive was already so full, even in February, that it does not seem like a practical idea. Did I mention that the bees are aggressive? I don’t think they’d hover idly by while I search for the queen to remove her. What would you do?

    I’m intrigued by this idea of aggressiveness being cyclic, especially as they were not like this before. Do you think I should wait it out and split the hive anyway? In your experience, how long does the aggressiveness last? I’d really appreciate any insight or advice you can share.

    Thank you.

    • Blessing,

      You mention many issues here. To begin, I find that large, populous colonies in the fall very often don’t make it through winter. With more bees, you have a higher demand for food. But if you think a lack of food wasn’t the problem, big colonies often have disproportionately high mite loads. More bees were produced late in the year when mite counts per bee were really high, which can be a problem. Whenever a colony is that big going into winter, I get worried. No surprise that it failed.

      You also say that the bees in your growing colony didn’t get the message that it was February. But February is exactly the time they should be building up. Remember, colonies increase in population from the winter solstice to the summer solstice (roughly January through June) so February is prime time for build-up. The colony needs to be ready to pack in food and perhaps swarm by April and May. By the middle of summer, those colonies should begin shrinking again.

      I would definitely go ahead and split. You won’t necessarily get aggressive colonies from an aggressive colony. The new queens will need to mate and their offspring will not have exactly the same characteristics. If after queen rearing, you find the offspring are indeed defensive, then you might want to change queens.

      When someone describes bees as aggressive, it’s hard to know exactly what they mean. Some people have much more tolerance for assertive bees than others, so it’s hard to tell exactly what you have. Remember, honey bees are usually least aggressive during a nectar flow, so they should be calming down soon. If they don’t, you will know.

      Make sure to wear adequate protective clothing. You’re dealing with bees, so you need to be ready.

      • Hi Rusty.
        First I want to thank you for responding to my post and addressing my concerns. Sorry I did not respond back sooner, I was out of the country. I did not take my laptop with me and although I was able to read your response on my phone, it wasn’t as easy to craft one of my own.

        I have since split the hive and both parts are doing well. The aggressive behavior I had described has diminished significantly. Plus, I got a new bee suit!

        I have a follow up question, if I may. You mentioned that large colonies have a high mite load, but shouldn’t that have been mitigated by mite treatments? I use Apivar strips in the spring before the honey supers go on, and then I use Apiguard for fall treatment. Is there something else I should have done/ be doing?

        Thank you.

        • Blessing,

          It sounds like you are doing the right thing. Colonies have especially large mite loads in the fall because that is the time of year that bee populations are dropping while mite populations are still increasing. When you have large colonies, the sheer number of mites is enormous, so in the fall the number of mites per bee can increase rapidly. Because of that, mite treatments should be timely so your bees can raise a healthy population of winter bees that can care for your colony into the spring.

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