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  • Writer's pictureLinda

Gently does it!

Cliffe Castle Bee Blog #15 2023

Our little colony at Cliffe Castle is so calm and good tempered that Lee and I completed this morning’s inspection bare-handed. We found eggs, larvae, and sealed brood on 5:11 frames. There are sufficient stores of both nectar and pollen with plenty of space for our red queen to lay.

The house bees have completed drawing comb from the two frames of wax foundation we added recently. They benefited from being left undisturbed last week. We will reduce visits to fortnightly now, to let the colony get on with its main tasks for this part of the season – making sure there are enough bees and food supplies to survive the winter.

What makes honeybees bad tempered?

Generally speaking, a honeybee colony should be calm and even tempered, just getting on with completing the jobs they need to do to survive. However, there are a number of things that may cause a colony to become tetchy, cranky or even downright horrible!

  • Weather can play a part - maybe a drop in air pressure and an approaching thunderstorm, strong wind or if the colony is disturbed when it is chilly.

  • Clumsy handling – frames jolted or dropped; a hive being bumped or banged (deliberately or accidentally.

  • Hunger – if the colony is running low on stores

  • Sudden change in nectar flow - a well-known beekeeper from North Yorkshire tells of having to lie flat on the ground on the moor to avoid his bees that became exceptionally bad tempered when a strong heather nectar flow stopped suddenly

  • Strong scents/perfume seem sometimes to agitate bees. Some people just have a natural body smell that honeybees dislike!

  • Getting in the way – standing in front of a hive entrance or in the direct flight path of busy foragers

  • Being without a queen - colonies that have lost their queen are notorious for being bad tempered. They are no longer receiving reassuring signals from the scents/pheromones that a queen emits and so feel anxious and under threat

Ultimately, the queen dictates the temperament of the colony. If all other factors can be ruled out, it is likely that the queen’s genetic make-up is responsible for consistently bad-tempered bees. In this case the only solution is to remove/despatch the queen from a grumpy colony and give the bees the means to raise a replacement from fertilised eggs of another, gentler, colony - or introduce a new queen from proven, gentler stock.

Beekeeper by the Hive

Once again, this year we hope to have one of our Airedale beekeepers by the Observation Hive on Tuesday afternoons during the school summer holidays. This is a chance to meet a beekeeper who can explain what you can see on the frames and answer your questions about honeybees and other foragers. Remember, the Cliffe Castle colony goes back to our association apiary for the winter at the end of the school holidays, so do make sure you call in to see them while you can!



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