Why Have My Bees Suddenly Turned Aggressive

Some of you might wonder why your bees have suddenly become aggressive. When you started the hive this year the bees were calm, nice, and you can practically open up the hive without a veil. Now you get near and a few comes out bumping your veil and try to find anywhere they can dig their stingers into.

Don’t worry. Your bees haven’t turned psycho or anything. It’s all about the nectar flow. It is already August and though we still do have nectar sources it has slowed down dramatically. The bees are in defensive mode to protect their food source from any predator. This is also a time when robbing can occur, so you might want to put that entrance reducer on if you see fighting and other weird activities at the entrance.

During inspections at this time of the year I do recommend lightly smoking the hive. It’s as simple as two puffs of smoke at the entrance and then two puffs at the top after you have cracked the cover just enough to get the smoke in. Or if you opt not to smoke them then it’s always good to light up the smoker and have it handy just incase the bees become really aggressive.

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15 Responses to Why Have My Bees Suddenly Turned Aggressive

  1. Marius says:

    My hive seems still pretty nice. I just added my 3rd medium. Let’s see if they will use it. They bees seems to still bring lots of nectar in.

  2. Hey Marius, good to hear from you. And great to hear that the Webster Hive that you adopted on June 10th of this year needs a third box. Looks like they are going to go into Fall and Winter super strong!

    Have you ever fed any syrup?
    I remember they had capped honey when I brought them over and we inspected.

    Not all of my 25+ hives are aggressive. But then when you have that many next to each other they do need to be on the defensive side as robbing could happen.

    Send pics with an update on your next inspection.

  3. One of my 3 hives turned a bit aggressive a couple of weeks ago, banging my veil. They seemed agitated before I even opened up the hive. They have a allot of honey available and pollen. They seemed a bit crowded. Added a second brood box to give them a bit more room. See what happens over the next couple of weeks.

  4. David, the aggressive hive, how full were they since they only had one brood box (deep or medium)? 80%, 90%, 100%? Also have you checked to see if they have a queen?

  5. I had on 1 deep brood box and 1 medium honey super. All of the frames in the honey super have honey, about 80% of it is still uncapped.Virtually all of the frames in the deep were covered with bees, the most I have ever seen. I saw pretty good capped brood pattern. I added a second deep and moved up 3 frames with brood to encourage the bees to move up there.

    I could tell the bees were on edge before I even got to the hive. They were buzzing around me and the dog and were were not is sight of the hive. When I opened up the one hive it seemed like this was the hive that was buzzing us. The other two were calm as usual.

    I did not see the queen, but the signs are that she is active.

    After i posted this, i thought of one other thing that could have them on edge. They made allot of drone comb and had too many drones on 4 frames. the bottom 25% was mainly drone comb. I took the drone comb frames and moved them to a new brood box above the queen excluder. I let the females hatch and then opened up the drone cells. The queen excluder trapped the drone that I missed, I was worried about the mite population soaring with all of that drone, especially moving into peak mite season. After all of the brood hatched I removed that box and left the frames next to the hive so they could move all of the honey back into the hive. I guess this could also put them on the look out for honey robbers.

    I am not an experienced bee keeper, this is my second year. But I have become aware when that if the bees behavior is changed, something is causing it. It is not always that easy to figure out what it is,

  6. I’ve seen queenless hives get aggressive but you see signs of the queen so that’s good news.

    So what I think did it is, anytime you go into the hive, disturb them, and/or harvest/remove honey, especially at this time of the year, they will be on the defensive side for a few days to a week. You moved things around and sorta “robbed” them of their honey. Putting the frames with honey infront could have caused additional stress as there were probably bees from your other two hives cleaning it up. If it’s not much it could be ok but if it’s a good amount probably a good idea to put it somewhat further away from any hive. The bees will find it.

    I need to harvest one more time from this booming hive that now have 6 mediums. I need to do it this month as I don’t like to harvest too late and stress them out before the weather starts to cool down. But when I do go into the hive I will have my smoker lite and on the side just incase. 🙂

  7. Now that they have more room, the hive is back on good behavior. So hopefully they were just a bit crowded and the queen is healthy.

  8. That’s great to hear!

    I’m about to blog about bees not building new comb and watch out, if they aren’t using much of the new box it might be best to remove for the cold season. Then coming out of the cold months add it back. We still have like a month before it really gets cold and wet, although night time has been in the mid 50s already!

  9. That sounds like a good idea. I moved a few frames with brood into the new super to get them started, so I am not sure if I will be able to that. I plan to wrap the hives in tar paper again this year. I think this helps keep the hive warmer during the winter.

  10. Cheryl says:

    we have 2 hives…. our newest hive is having problems. It was full of honey and brood in August, but when we checked a little over a week ago, it was light. Hardly any honey, no sight of the queen, and no brood. the other hive is doing fine. We have been feeding them syrup 2 to 1 . They are really aggressive, chasing my dog and me to the front of our 1 1/2 acre property which we have never seen them do before.We added an extra super to this hive in June since it was so full…. so it has 3 supers. The other hive has 4. Any ideas?

  11. Hey Cheryl,

    First let me ask, what general area/city you’re in? It seems like this year it really depends on where the hives are as some areas were super good while others didn’t do so well for the bees.

    So next, let me get this straight. Problem/new hive (let’s call it Hive 2), What did you see in there when you inspected last? You said very little honey, no sight of the queen or brood. Not even capped brood? Do you have any photos you can send me to get a visual? Some colonies, especially the smaller ones, might be in Winter cluster mode already since the nights have been dropping into the 40s, at least in Los Altos, so that’s why I ask where you’re located.

    Also, about how many frames of bees would you say are still in there?

    It’s hard to guess what happened. Were you feeding both hives or just one of the hives?
    Perhaps robbing occurred and that caused the queen to abscond or even possibly the robbers killed the queen, the colony got weak and became queenless.

    The aggressive hive, is it Hive 2 or the strong hive?

    Hive 2 had three supers and…. 2 deep brood boxes or it was three mediums total?

    If you have not done so already, do go in when the weather is still nice and see if you can find the queen. She could still be in there but not laying due to resources and weather. Normally I wouldn’t ask someone to stress out the bees with an inspection like this during this time of the year but when a hive is already in trouble you need to.

    • Cheryl says:

      We have 2 hives

      Hive 1 = good honey storage, no aggression, 4 medium supers bottom 2 are brood used as
      brood boxes

      Hive 2 – no honey storage 1 deep brood box, 2 medium supers on top.
      -Slight amount of uncapped comb with honey in top super. Bees actively eating.
      -Middle super has no honey
      -Bottom deep super, no honey, no brood at all. All comb is empty.
      -Substantial number of bees in hive. At least 3 to 4 times what was included in the
      -Very aggressive
      -No sign of queen
      -No current photos of situation. Will have to reopen hive to check the status on the
      syrup provided over the last week to see if any has been stored.
      We live in southeastern Pa but just got hit with that snow storm this weekend. Temps have dropped to freezing at night but the last few days has gotten up the the low 60s. We were planning to check them tomorrow to see how they were doing and put in a top feeder. Thanks for any input. We appreciate it!!

  12. Cheryl, you have to remove the empty supers.
    The hive could be in Winter cluster mode or it’s queenless.
    You will have to inspect when the weather warms or risk losing it completely.
    Could have been robbing, failing queen, and combination of multiple things.
    If queenless and you cannot find a mated queen for them, you could merge if you want.

  13. Donny Hay says:

    Thank you. I thought I was going to have to remove my wild bees. They have been peaceful for 10 year then all of a sudden they are going nuts. I can smell the honey from far away and I can see them being hyper protective now as opposed to crazy. -Donny in San Diego

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