Thursday, 18 May 2017

What's With The Attitude?

On Tuesday morning I split my overwintered hive of bees into two separate colonies. I found the queen and recorded which box she now resides in. I made sure the queenless hive had plenty of brood, nurse bees and eggs which, when furnished with royal jelly, should produce a new queen. During this invasive operation, the bees were remarkably docile and a pleasure to work with.

One of the hive boxes was a 'deep' or brood box, which contained 9 9/16 inch frames. Because I like lighter boxes and only one uniform frame size, I cut the bottoms off to form medium frames (6 5/8 inches). These cut off portions were empty so I set them a short walk away to await wax rendering.

That evening, I took a stroll out to the beehives to see if everyone had settled into their new digs. As I passed by the little stack of cut-offs, I noticed a fist sized cluster of bees on one of them.  Thinking they were as gentle as they were earlier that day, I picked up the cut-off wax portion, bees and all and walked them back to the hives. As soon as I set them on the board on the hive stand, they let out a collective war whoop and attacked. Last year, I didn't get a single sting but now I could feel a half dozen jabs on my scalp and chin. A quick retreat to the house ended the onslaught. But I was puzzled. What's with the attitude, girls?

This morning I put on my protective gear and checked to see if the wayward bees had found their way back into the hives. They had not! I took a closer look at the still clustered and agitated little group. All was revealed!

Almost all of the stray worker bees on this comb had their abdomens poked into cells and were trying to lay eggs. They had become laying workers! Away from their queen and the scent of open brood within the hives, they decided to become queens themselves. These aspiring little workers could never be real queens. Their unfertilized eggs can only develop into drones, not more workers. Confusion/futility/desperation had made this little band of strays hot tempered. No wonder they had copped an attitude.   

The hive on the right contains a queen. It's neighbour must make it's own.

A frame cut-off has attracted a small wayward band of honey bees.

A close inspection reveals worker bees trying to lay eggs. No future there!


  1. I don't think I could do this! I'm happy to read your saga, though! :-)

  2. oh dear, and do they get placed somewhere else, or disposed of? Can they get educated in any other way? And, I do hope you are not allergic to stings.

    1. Thanks for your query, Jean. Luckily I'm not allergic to stings and the strong winds we had here last night swept the little bee cluster away. They likely eventually found and joined the nearby new hives. The queen's pheromones and the scent of open brood should suppress worker bee ovaries and make them calm down and resume normal behaviour. Order has been restored and I learned yet another lesson!

  3. What an interesting post! So sorry you were stung so badly. Glad you found out the reason and they have calmed down.
    Enjoy the rest of the weekend!


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