….bzzz….what to do when you have grumpy bees….

photo credit: operabug via photopin cc
photo credit: operabug via photopin cc
…aw come on guys, sadly to say, the Christmas and New Years parties are over …now its time to get back into your apiary and check up on your girls!

Yes its true, its time to inspect, do mite counts and decide if you need to treat.

A few Beekeeper friends told me about their Bees being grumpy – normally nice Bees – suddenly feisty~!


KiwiMana Water Feeder SideA bit of research shows that when Bees are dehydrated ie: thirsty, they can be more aggressive than normal.

Recommendation is to add a water source right near your hives.

We use light blue trays – Bees love blue – we add some sticks and stones…oh and water.

We also have another tray which has accumulated earth, leaf-litter and debris from falling trees, the girls really love this tray – my thoughts are that its because it has some minerals which the Bees can use to keep healthy. We left a mineral block out for Louise (our angora goat) who didn’t even look twice at it…but the Bees, after a rain shower, I noticed they were all-over it…and this continued even after the rain….who’dda thought ay?!


kiwimana Meshboard Inspection Tray OpenAnother reason for ‘grumpy Bees’ is that they are too hot in the hive. I have inspected hives which have solid-bottom boards and there is brood dead in the cells because of over-heating.

We use meshboards on most of our hives to prevent this occurrin’. Meshboards provide air which the Bees can circulate (hot and cold) in and out to create good ventilation, and ‘no’ the meshboard does not mean your Bees will get cold, even if you leave it on all year round.

Our kiwimana Meshboard has an inspection tray which can be easily slotted-in, if you feel its too wet or too cold for the colony.

Recommendation: Meshboards can be left ‘open’ all year round.

Note: I have noticed in the hives we have with solid-bottomboards, we have wax-moth.
Gary Inspects Hives


There is always the weather-affect. Bees are so in-tune with the weather and know when storms are coming, so if you suspect a storm is on its way, avoid an inspection that will create a fear within the colony as rain is a killer of Bees.


Bees can become ‘grumpy’ if they are not inspected regularly – through Summer – go into the hives fortnightly, move capped or nearly capped honey frames up and add new frames so there is plenty of room.
Over-Smoking; an older Beekeeper said that the Bees can sometimes react to ‘over-smoking’, he says ‘…smoking the Bees should be a gentle one or two puffs to start and leave them for a couple of minutes, then open the hive. Only puffing over the frames every now and again…’
Handy hint; when opening up the hive, take lid off BUT LEAVE the hive-mat on, place lid upside down on the ground and then re-stack hive going down to the first box and start your inspection there.


Inspect from the rear or side of the hive, keep their entrance clear, don’t obstruct with hive gear and beekeeping equipment, keep out of their flight-path while working the hive.


The Queen from Honey 1 - Can you the eggs?…your colony has a ‘grumpy’ queen! …if you think this is the case, you could requeen the colony with a ‘nicer’, new season queen.

Gotta love Bees – they keep us constantly challenged and are always one step ahead of us!

Happy January 2014…


5 thoughts on “….bzzz….what to do when you have grumpy bees….

  1. Avatar photo
    Robert says:

    Hi Margaret,

    Is it possible to tell if brood died due to heat at all? Or is it just something you’ve put two and two together?

    • Avatar photo
      Margaret Groot says:

      Hi Robert,
      Generally the Bee inside the cell is ‘whole’ and ‘developed’.
      I asked an older Beekeeper who said ‘chilled’ brood and ‘dead from heat’ brood look similar.
      The cell is generally in-tact – the worker Bees don’t generally put a whole in the cell cap as opposed to a diseased cell – Degradation of the bee in the cell, is a whole other kettle of fish! Its also a visual thing, if you know whats normal then you’ll spot the difference. Inspections where you open and check cells is where I have discovered dead bees, know what is normal, then you will learn when cells, larvae, pupae or Bees are ‘not-right’ – a bit of experience does help, and this does take time to learn. I’ve seen AFB and its not pretty, chalkbrood and sac-brood are probably the other two which are common. Dead developed Bees just in a cell is more a result of starvation or ‘hungry Bees’. Regards, Margaret

  2. Avatar photo
    Matt says:

    Great post Margaret. Really useful ideas there. I also find mine get grumpier as their honey stores grow, the more stores they have the more defensive they get. Natural enough I guess, trying to defend their precious stores from thieving Beekeepers!
    Cheers. Matt

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