I am strictly a hobby beek. Africanized bees have driven me nuts the past 4 years. Before that I had no problem with them. This year I finally gave up on keeping two hives at my house in town, mostly because I am worried over the liability in an area with so many children and non-beeks (BEEK = beekeeper) near by. The decision came because of an incident, of course. I had two hives at a widow's house out in the country and one of them went insanely Africanized . When I harvested honey, smoke had no affect. So many bees were flying in front of my face I could barely see, and I got many stings through my bee suit, plus several on my face from bees inside my veil. The widow is fine, but my assistant and I were chased for over a mile - that is we stopped about a mile away and got out of the truck to take off veils and coveralls, and got mobbed again. My assistant no longer goes to bee yards with me.
So I moved all 7 hives to a new yard where there is nobody living nearby. The Africanized hive from the widow's place was packed full of bees and had made a lot of honey. I debated with myself whether to simply burn the little meanies, but I opted to re-queen. But even re-queening an Africanized hive is problematic.
- Two new queens arrived from a commercial apiary that specializes in gentle, productive queens.I opened the Africanized hive to find the queen and got mobbed, as expected.Didn't find the queen in the top box and gave up. Instead, I took the advice of an experienced beek and separated the hive into two, hoping to make queen finding easier.
- Returned after 3 days and verified there was no queen in one of the boxes. Queens come in a little wooden box with screen on one side and a plug of candy in the hole where they were inserted. For shipping, a cork is placed on top of the candy to prevent premature release. Normally the cork is pulled as you put the new queen in the hive. It takes a couple of days for the bees to eat the candy, and then the queen can escape into the hive to start her royal life there. I installed a new queen, but left the cork in place so the workers couldn't release her because sometimes Africanized bees are reluctant to accept a new queen and will kill her if you put her in with them too soon. This box didn't have a large number of bees, so I moved the bigger box 30 feet away and put the smaller box where it had been.
- After I moved the bigger box, I went through every frame looking for the old queen. There were a lot of bees in there and I was unable to find the queen amongst all the piles of bees. I am good at finding queens, so I think she was a runner. I needed to spread them out some more, but I didn't have another bottom board. I had a box from a failed split that still had a few bees and some stores in it. I put this deep on top of the Africanized box, with paper towels between (a newspaper combine - where you combine two hives, but separate the bees from the hives with paper so they can get used to each other before they come into actual contact. It prevents the bees from killing each other. After a couple of days they've chewed holes in the paper and the bees mingle peacefully).
- It was five days before I could get back out to the bees. Pulled the cork on the queen cage I'd placed in the smaller box. Looks good for this new queen. She has plenty of bees with her now and good comb to work on.
- Went to the remote box and the entrance looked like there were fewer bees than there had been - a good thing. I smoked the entrance and opened it up. Checked the top box and found the queen almost immediately. Lucky, lucky, lucky. Not for her - she's dead - it was lucky for me because I didn't have to go through both deeps to find her. I figure she ran from the smoke, right into my waiting queen catcher. I returned later that day and put a new queen in the box, still in her cage, of course.
So hopefully I will be back to all gentle bees. The real penalty of Africanized bees for me has been that I HAVE to wear a full suit. We've had record high temps this summer and there I am dressed for a winter blizzard, sweat gushing from every pore. Even my eyelashes sweat. Every time I go out to the bees it takes a day to recover and get re-hydrated. Only a few years ago I enjoyed working bees in shorts and a T, plus a veil. I wouldn't dare do that anymore. I used to get stung only rarely, but now I get stung regularly in spite of the sweat suit. I get stung almost every time I go near bees, and when a hive goes Africanized I get stung a lot - right through the bee suit. I have two veils that I've had for many years. This year I had to buy a new one with elastic to keep it tighter, because when the Africanized bees mob me a few of them will get under the veil when I bend over.
On the other hand, Africanized bees are aggressive about gathering honey as well, and they produce lots of it. I had a great harvest this year.