Aggressive Honeybees

Aggressive honeybees can be dealt with by using the following steps:

  • Re-queen
  • Feed your bees
  • Place your hives in controlled environments
  • Keep the environment clean
  • Use your smoker and suit

The transition period from summer to fall is the most common period for bees to be aggressive. What causes this kind of behavior? What makes honeybees aggressive, and how do we deal with this aggression? Knowing the answers to these can make life as a beekeeper much easier.

What Makes Honey Bees Aggressive?

Generally, honeybees only attack to defend their colony when a threat is perceived.

As we all know, bees are highly social insects, and they rarely do anything alone. While attacking, the status quo remains the same — they attack in groups. 

Since stinging is essentially suicide, one bee wouldn’t be enough to defend the hive. Bees also release alarm pheromones to call on other bees to attack the perceived threat. 

The most common reasons why bees might be aggressive are:

  • Genetics
  • Absence of a queen
  • Overpopulation/food scarcity
  • Frequent hive attacks/honey robbing

Genetics

During the initiation of a new queen bee, the queen bee mates with drones she meets at the mating site. 

If, by chance, she mates with a drone that possesses aggressive genes, the offspring she produces will be aggressive. An example of an aggressive bee species is Africanized bees.

Africanized honeybees are known for their aggressive behavior. Their stings are far more painful than normal, and they’re very sensitive to alarm pheromones.

Absence of a Queen

Any beekeeper should know the immense importance of a queen bee. The colony relies on her leadership the same way a ship’s crew relies on its captain. Without her, everything falls apart, and chaos will ensue.

Aside from laying eggs, the queen bee emits pheromones that serve to hold or bind the hive together as a family. It also helps to regulate the hive functions.

When these pheromones are missing in a hive, the bees get agitated and nervous. This puts their defense instincts on overdrive; hence, they become overly aggressive.

Overpopulation and Food Scarcity

Large bee colonies have the tendency to be more aggressive than smaller ones.

During spring, the growth of the honeybee colony is accelerated due to the abundance of nectar. Food is available for more babies to be raised in the comb.

A hive can start at 10,000 and grow to about 50,000 or more during springtime.

When spring begins to come to an end, the growth is brought to a halt. There is less food and a lot of older bees. These bees tend to be overly aggressive.

Frequent Hive Attacks/ Honey Robbing

Bees can’t let their honey stores be depleted without defending it. They fight, often to death, to protect their stored food.

When a fight begins, alarm pheromones are released, causing the bees to become aggressive.

If a hive has suffered frequent attacks from predators, for example, skunks and wasps, the bees would naturally be on high alert. They’d treat anything that approaches their hive as a potential threat. Mammal attacks are usually common on hives that are closer to the ground, making bees in such hives to be more aggressive.

How to Deal with These Factors

There are ways to tackle the factors listed above, so don’t panic when you observe any of them affecting your hive.

  • Re-queen
  • Feed your bees
  • Place your hives in a controlled environment
  • Keep the environment clean
  • Use your smoker and suit

Re-Queen

Re-queen your hive if you suspect that your bees have Africanized bees genes in them or if you find out that there’s no queen.

Get an already mated queen from a trusted breeder. If you don’t, you run the risk of your queen mating with a drone that has aggressive genes.

Feed Your Bees

When the population of your hive is quite high, there will be a scarcity of food in the hive. To not sacrifice your harvest, you should supplement their food storage with syrup.

Place Your Hives in a Controlled Environment

Bees are affected greatly by their environment; you shouldn’t make your decision solely on convenience or aesthetics.

Leaving them low to the ground makes them susceptible to mammal attacks. Keeping them close to the road makes them agitated because of the traffic noise.

It’s important that you think carefully about where to keep your beehive.

Keep the Environment Clean

Keep the environment around your beehive clean at all times. Don’t leave pieces of burr comb lying around and avoid spilling sugar water on or near the hive.

Also, when inspecting the hive, don’t leave it open for too long. This is to avoid attracting robbers from visiting your beehive.

Use Your Smoker and Suit

The smoker is the most helpful tool a beehive keeper has. It makes the bees calm during inspection, which reduces bee deaths.

When you have to approach your hive for either inspection or feeding during their aggressive phase, use a little extra smoke. Give it a minute or two to work before opening the hive.

The suit is protective attire that prevents bee stings from harming you, so wearing it when you have to interact with your bees is necessary. Keep the suit clean because it tends to store alarm pheromones, which only serves to make your bees aggressive.

Conclusion

Aggression is to be expected of bees; it’s in their nature when they feel threatened. From time to time, you’ll experience this while beekeeping, but this shouldn’t dissuade you. Instead, you can control their aggression by ensuring they’re fed, choosing the right hive location and keeping the bee environment controlled. You should also make sure to keep yourself safe by using your smoker and suit to avoid harm.

Leave a Comment