Southwest survivors: how defensive is still manageable?

Hi folks,

Needing some advice (or at least reassurance) from some more experienced keepers.

Finally got my first 2 hives going (from local splits) which are doing well.  One is easy to open and inspect with no trouble yet; but the other is a little “hot” tempered, and I’m wondering if I just need to buck-up as a new keeper and learn to deal with the elevated defensiveness, or if I ought to requeen.  These are all “survivors” from many generations, so they are expected to be partly Africanized and less gentle, but I’m hoping some more of you can give me your thoughts about acceptable temperament. 

As I said: one colony is manageable, but the other is pretty frisky.  They let me get fairly close to the entrance without bombarding me (I haven’t been attacked yet as a result of simply approaching), but it’s a different story when I try to inspect.  I get perhaps a dozen agitated defenders buzzing around my veil and landing on my arms pretty vigorously.  I can see them stinging my gloves; and i did get stung one time through the bee suit, in a place where it fits tight.  I do have a little bit of experience with bees, but as a new hive keeper, the defensiveness is a bit unnerving, and I keep my cool and use smoke without sudden movements… but these belligerent bees will follow me quite a distance after I’ve left the hive, perhaps up to 15 yards, and just won’t leave me.  They keep buzzing around my head and torso. 

Is this normal behavior for our partly Africanized “survivors” in the southwest, or does it sound like I might have a ticking time bomb on my hands?  The defensive colony is getting pretty crowded in their 5-frame and I need to get them into a 10 as soon as I can summon the mettle… Maybe the crowding is making them grumpy too?



  1. Paul McCarty on July 9, 2013 at 3:56 AM

    Put it this way – I do lot’s of cut-outs and ALMOST NEVER get stung, especially in the gloves.Usually it is because I squish them. If you are just beginning – get a new queen before they get too strong and you can’t find her.

  2. Kevin Schwebel on July 11, 2013 at 8:22 PM

    I’d have to agree with Jessie, being a semi-urban beekeeper.  Even if I can deal with the aggression, it’s not worth the risk to neighbors, passers-by, or my wife’s sanity.  She’s not at all comfortable with angry bees.  

    I had some like you describe last year. They would head-bang me and follow me all the way back to the house, but seldom stung…even when I was working without gloves. I grew some queens and requeened them anyway. I think they were that way because I’d let them get crowded. (4 deep. They swarmed once.) I was building up vs.  out because I didn’t want hives all over the property, but in retrospect it’s a bad idea. 

    Nature fixed my issue last fall, so with the new  girls I’m going to keep them in small colonies this time. So far so good.

  3. Paul McCarty on July 12, 2013 at 12:20 AM

    Stinging the gloves and the suit is a non-starter for me. That queen would be gone.

  4. Bella Donna on January 13, 2019 at 6:42 PM

    Africanized bees need managed totally differently than the regular bees we’ve been used to. If you know all the ‘rules’ of beekeeping, with AHBs the new rule is “all bets are off.”

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