Aggression in Normally Docile Irish Honey Bees
These past few weeks we have watched our little herb garden bee hive become more and more active….to the point of a little aggressive. Of course, being this time of year our minds went to a few different explanations as we kept our distance to allow them to do their thing.
There are several reasons a normally docile bee hive might suddenly become more assertive – one occurs when they are stressed at this time of year such as a lack of winter stores of food (probably sounds like us all, trying to gather winter food and fuel LOL). However, with the summer we just had, a lack of food stores would hardly be the case.
Unless – they were being robbed of their resources by another bee hive or wasps. One way to try to ascertain if this is happening is to watch the bees coming and going into the hive to see if there is anyone leaving with pollen or if something looks amiss etc.
Another reason for aggression in a hive is when a queen dies and the bees are busy growing another one. Of course, there are also very simple reasons for aggression such as running out of space – and everyone crowded in on top of each other - making them a little testy.
As ever, we were observing and standing at the ready to assist or help in any way….bees would rarely require our help, but because they are in an unnatural environment of the hive, it is our duty to at least keep a watchful eye on things.
So, this past week we noticed with the warm sunny days a bit of a population explosion around the hive…..there were bees everywhere over a day or so. Upon closer inspection this is what we found.
They were building comb on the outside of the hive in an attempt to create more space for their growing population. They were already a good sized hive when they moved in last July (wild swarm), however, we did not anticipate this exponential growth at this time of the year!
So….the only thing to do was take a chance…..we grabbed a larger Top Bar Hive that was complete except for the roof – and working quickly so as not to stress them further, we moved the entire old hive into the bigger box.
In the meantime, Max went to work finishing a temporary solid roof for the new hive – the old box was placed underneath the new one for the bees to clean out and as ever….we just stood back to allow them to get on with sorting themselves out in their new expanded space.
For us it was a learning curve…we have had bad weather and terrible summers for so long we had forgotten that bee populations will actually expand – at any time when food is plentiful and the conditions are right.
Even at this time in mid October, the conditions are still fairly pleasant for the bees with decent weather, warmish days and lots of vegetation close by. So, when the rain holds off for a few days at a time – watch out!
They seem to have settled down again now - and the are back to being their normal docile, happy selves - going into winter in very good shape by the amount of honey we saw in the comb....