Monday, May 1, 2017

How hot are my bees?

Invariably, there are two questions that new beeks unaccustomed to working with honey bees ask:

  1. Are my bees aggressive?
  2. What do I do with them?

It's important to know whether you have mean bees or simply defensive ones because pleasant bees will greatly enhance your enjoyment of the hobby. 

In evaluating your bees, be aware that there are certain things that will make even the sweetest tempered bees temporarily crabby. For example:
  • A dearth
  • Bad weather (rain, snow, cold, etc.)
  • Attacks from predators
  • Being relocated (e.g., shipped in a package or hauled in a vehicle)
However, if your bees temper doesn't improve within a couple of weeks, or if they get noticeably worse as their colony size increases, it might be time to re-evaluate.

With that said, as I was organizing some bookmarked pages, I found a chart that was very helpful to me a few years ago. However, there were a few lines that I felt were a little confusing or that I disagreed on. For example, I'm not sure that an aggressive hive automatically needs to be destroyed. Yes, drones from a nasty hive will spread their DNA, but from what I've read, some of the hardier races of bees tend to be a bit on the less workable side, so maybe they have something worth keeping in the gene pool. Also, I feel there is something of a sliding scale when it comes to aggressive bees. For example, I've had colonies that would swarm me, stinging as often as they could, for more than 100'. However, with enough layers of clothing, it was possible, sort of, to inspect them. They were definitely hot, but they weren't like the bees that cover every bit of your veil until you can't see. 

So anyway, here is my re-worked version of the chart. 

If you've had experience with aggressive bees, how have you dealt with them?


  1. That's a nice handy chart. You are always a wealth of good information!

    I feel fortunate that so far, all my colonies have been 5 or less and mostly in the docile category. Of course, now that I've said this publicly, I'll probably get a swarm that is like your beasts!

    1. You are a lucky man to have such sweet-tempered ladies around you! Or perhaps they're simply responding to their beek. :-)

      Yeah, those packages I got a couple years ago were a full 10, but they mellowed out to about a 7 after I let them make new queens a few times, so they were bearable if unpleasant. Thank God they died!

      I still have one hive that's about 6 or 7. Of course, I'm not happy about having to wear a jacket and veil for every inspection these days, but at least they're bearable.

  2. My bees are all docile. Though I do wear protection, including gloves, every time I open a hive. Can't bring myself to not have it on. I get a little bumping sometimes and occasionally one or two will try to find a way through the veil. Hopefully they stay that way.

    1. You're so lucky. I hope that stay that way for you, too!


Thank you for your comment! I can't wait to hear what you think!