It’s amazing the way a beehive can have a personality. While the colony is made up of thousands of individual bees, it is the overall, collective demeanor of the group that makes it as if you are working with a single organism.
If you have an overly-aggressive hive you can change the behavior of your colony by re-queening.
To learn more about the temperament of honeybees visit my posts:
Even if you started with a nice colony of well-tempered bees, each time the queen leaves the hive to mate with wild drones, she is bringing those new genetics back to the hive. The new generation of bees will carry those new genes.
It is believed that most wild bees are carrying have some degree of Africanized genetics due to widespread breeding.
The time it takes for an egg to develop into a full worker bee is 21 days. So in three weeks, your colony can completely change temperament.
If you find yourself with a hive that is too aggressive for your taste then re-queening is in order.
Below are 10 steps to get a new Queen into your aggressive hive. The new queen from a calm hive will lend her less aggressive genetics to your bees and hopefully in about 3 weeks, as the new generation emerges, you should start seeing a change in personality.
Step 1: Acquire a new queen.
You can purchase a new queen, or get one from one of your other hives. (For more info See my next post Raising a Queen Bee.)
Step 2: Take extra precautions. It takes 1000 bee stings to kill a human. This is a time when you want to wear your veil and bee suit. Move slowly and have an escape plan should you need to run.
Step 3: Smoke the hive well!
Step 4: If possible, depending on your set up and the aggressiveness of the hive, move the problematic hives away from your other hives and away from other residences.
Step 5: Leave the colony be for around 10 minutes. The bees will be reacting to the smoke and trying to figure out where they’ve been moved to. This will distract them somewhat and make them less interested in what you’re doing.
Step 6. Find the queen. This may take some time. I suggest that before you go out to the hives that you spend some time online looking at queen photos so you have a good image in your head.
Step 7: Kill the queen. This can be a bit sad, especially since we, as beekeepers, are always rooting for our queens…worrying that they are happy and healthy.
Step 8: Put the frames back in the box and move it back to its original location. Or, if you have an especially aggressive hive you can help calm the overall temperament by splitting the hive into smaller nucs and re-queening several. Spreading out the colony should have an immediate effect in toning down aggressive behavior.
Step 9: Introduce the new queen in the cage between two brood frames. Close up the hive and move it back to its original location.
Step 10: In a week, check the hive for queen acceptance.