Bee Keeping here I come!


Thats why the saying tall fences make good neighbors came to be lol.


The only thing better than keeping your own bees is knowing someone who keeps bees…


i REALLY need a little bee keeping advice so hopefully some of you can offer advice or information.

Today is the first day I look in my hives for about 2.5 weeks. And I clearly have SOME kind of problem. There seem to be a healthy number of bees in each hive and I see no signs of hive beetles or anything else unusual. But I have a quite a few frames in each hive that just aren’t being used. Many of those just have a wax foundation sheet, and those have been in place since April. It’s almost August, so if they are ever going to draw out and use those empty frames you would think it would be by now. The frames that are being used seem to have a decent amount of both brood and honey cells-much of the honey still being uncapped though. MOST of the empty frames are on the outside edges, which is a little more normal to me, but there are also some frames right in the middle of the boxes that have drawn frames on both sides but nothing on them. Its as if some frames have something that is repelling bees, but they have all been together for more than a year. They are all medium boxes. One is only 2 boxes high and one is 3 boxes high. Even the little 2 box hive has undrawn frames with empty wax foundation. I haven’t added new boxes because I’m trying to avoid the “chimney effect” that you folks taught me about last year. But its almost August and my bees won’t even fill up 2 medium boxes? WHAT IS GOING ON HERE???

One other thing I hope someone can explain and which is probably unrelated to above but I just have to mention it. Today I opened my 2 box hive and pulled several frames, found the queen, etc. I even took my glove off to make photos and all was fine… But as soon as I took the cover and inside top off of my 3 box I had an experience that has never, ever happened to me. All of a sudden, what must have been 1/2 of the bees in the hive came pouring out and completely attacked me. I had a bee suit on (thank God) and they just COVERED my from the waist up. And it wasn’t just curiosity or because I had queen pheromones or whatever…they were on the attack. Wen it was all over I could literally see dozens if not hundreds of stingers all over my suit and gloves (which of course means I lost a lot of bees) I took 12 stings myself and it was the first time in my whole life that I actually had a small alergic reaction (hands swelled a little and I itch all over). But what I want to know is why today - a nice sunny day- when I did the same thing I’ve done many times before- did my bees act so incredibly aggressive?

I sure hope someone can help with one or both of these situations. thanks


Did you the smoke them first? When i get into my hives i give them two nice puffs of smoke at the entrance and then wait 60 seconds before slowly opening the top. That gives the guards plenty of time to communicate to the hive that a forest fire is near and they should all focus on filling their honey stomach. I also use hive drapes to cover each box and the only frame exposed to light is the one im working on. My bees are always mellow if i follow this approach.


Great advice


I suspect that your lack of drawn comb and honey is due to your bee population being to low to take advantage of honey flows when the occur.


They must have had some thing upset them, either in the environment,on you, or they had become hot for some reason. Two things come to mind, the manner in which you were handling them ie no smoke, being rough, or problems with the queen. I don’t know the geography of the US at all well and I also wonder if you are in an area of possible africanisation… just a thought.



I added 4 Mason bee houses to my backyard this summer. I was planning to let a friend set up a honeybee hive here but my neighbour’s set up a daycare next door (shared backyard) so decided not to risk it. Now with 6 Mason bee houses I should have lots of native pollinators. Good luck thcityman with your new hobby.



Yes we all have those neighbors from hell. I built my greenhouses 9-10’ tall so the back neighbors can’t even see into our yard anymore. They would complain about everything to the city.


thecityman, it could be the bees in the 3 box hive smelled the queen pheromones from the queen in the 2 box hive, and they REALLY did not like it.

About the empty frames, since it is hard to know how many bees are actually in the hives, it is hard to give advice. But if it were me, I would put most of the brood in the bottom box, leaving one pulled frame on each side. If there is extra frames of brood put them in the center of the upper box and put the empties around them. And if there are not a lot of bees in the 3 box hive I would do it the same way and remove the third box if you have a lot of empties/flat. Let them both build up with brood and starting to cap some honey then add the 3rd box. If I remember right you started with nucs again didn’t you?
Like I said, it is really hard to estimate bee numbers. What you think is a lot I might think is not so many if I could see them. Pictures might help.


I very, very much appreciate everyone’s advice. I you are all going to jump on what I’m about to tell you as being the cause of the attacking bees…I didn’t use any smoke at all when I opened it and they all attacked. BUT HOLD ON…the thing is, I really never use smoke. I have a smoker, and I used it when I started, but I could never tell any difference in the behavior of me bees so I stopped using the smoke. I’ve opened that same hive several times this year and the bees never stung me or my clothes-not once- nor did they ever act aggressively. SO I just don’t think it was the lack of smoke that caused them to go crazy. But I’ll start smoking them again now.

I appreciate all the tips and information in the responses. @tessie5 ’ s recommendation was especially helpful and I’ll try what you said, Betty, but the problem is that none of my frames are all brood or all honey. Most of them are roughly half of each. Not split evenly, just a few brood cells, then a few honey cell, then more brood, etc. This must be uncommon because I always read people talking about Brood frames and Honey frames as if they are 2 separate things, but mine never are. Oh well…I’m obviously still in the learning curve here. Thanks all.


My opinion is that you are partly correct. You never know what was going on with a hive prior to your arrival. Was it disturbed before you opened it in some way that you weren’t aware of. A couple of bumps on it’s side prior to your opening it could have them agitated and they just took it out on you. A few nuts or pine cone falling from a tree could disturb them. They could just be having a bad day. My approach before opening an occupied hive was always to use two light puffs of smoke in the entrance then wait 2-5 minutes and then open. Even if they are already agitated the smoke helps. Smoke indicates a fire (survival mode) and they load up on honey thus resulting in a less aggressive hive of bees. These are not all the reasons for aggressiveness but a good place to start. A few bee stings is a great teacher. Best of luck. Bill


I was hoping I could find a picture on my computer of a frame of brood but I guess my pictures are on film. But anyway the whole frame won’t be all brood, on a perfect frame there should be brood in the center with pollen and honey all around. There can be empty spots and there may be empty space in the center of the brood where they have just hatched or there are new eggs.
I did a search of images for “beehive brood frames” and found a lot of good pictures, would give you an idea of what frames should look like.


THanks so much for clearing that up! Once in a while I will have a frame that is 100% all capped honey cells, and somehow I got in my mind that brood frames should be the same way except with larvae or eggs. But now that you have described it, I know that my frames are more typical of what I should expect. I’ll google some photos to be sure. Thanks again, Betty, for your help.

And thanks, @Auburn for your input as well. After reading your suspicions about why my bees attacked me, I think I probably have solved that mystery. I didn’t think much about it at the time, but looking back I distinctly remember that I did cause more than a little commotion before I opened that hive that day. I remember that I got the main, outside plastic cover off with no problems. But then when I went to pull the inner wooden top off, it was stuck pretty bad. I tugged on it a few times, then I had to use my little bee-hive “pry bar thing” (I suspect there is a better name for it! ha) and sort of force it into a couple locations. The result of all this is that I did bang on my hive one way or another a few times before I opened it. THis usually isn’t the case. So from what you are saying, I bet anything that’s why I got 11 stings and countless more stingers in my suit. Those buggers were just relentless that day- my first ever “attack”. The managed to crawl under the elastic band on my gloves and sting my arms, go up my pant legs and get me on both legs, and hit me on the head a couple times by just stinging right through my face and head gear onto where my face and head sat right against the material. Those head stings were the most painful. WHen it was over I actually had some allergic reactions for the first time in my life. My hands were slightly swollen and red (not from direct stings) and my palms itched like crazy. I had some itching all over, and even my lips swelled a tiny bit. None of these reactions were anywhere close to being severe, and 11 stings seems like quite a bit, so hopefully my reaction wasn’t too extreme. I had Benadryl on hand but didn’t even take it because it makes me sleepy, but if things had been worse I would. THe only thing that worries me is that I’ve read that the more times you get stung, the more likely it is you will develop a bee sting allergy. It seems like the opposite would be true. With snake bites I always heard that the more a person gets bit over time, the more their body develops resistance. Seems like the more times I get stung the more used to it I would be. Which is true?


Glad your okay. Bee suits are extremely hot to wear this time of the year so it is a decision whether or not to wear one. As hot as they are I always used one and if I were allergic it would seem even more important in my opinion. I think if you stay at this hobby and continue to learn it will eventually be a source of enjoyment. Bill


This is not absolutely scientifically proven and is just based on my experience and limited reading of literature. It really seems like allergies are connected to the adrenal system, so whether small doses vaccinates or aggregates depends a lot on your reaction to. Since you had a minor reaction, you definitely need to be more careful. Don’t obsess about the sting spots, and don’t DON’T DON’T put yourself into another situation where you might get stung if you’re nervous. Bees definitely can smell the cortisol in your fear and react poorly, and there SEEMS to be a correlation between fearing the reaction and having the reaction.

Personally, if I was bound and determined to keep bees, I might numb my arm a little and deliberately get stung periodically to keep my adrenaline response to the pain as small as possible.


[quote=“thecityman, post:534, topic:4536”]
stinging right through my face and head gear onto where my face and head sat right against the material.
[/quote] Why does the material touch your head? I don’t understand why your hat isn’t holding the material away from your body. Use shoe strings or something to tie your pant legs closed, they still might get you on the ankles. Extra rubber bands around your gloves, do what ever it takes to keep them away. And they will still get you sometimes. I use to use wide masking tape all around my netting where it fit around my neck and chest. I didn’t want them crawling under and stinging my face. Had that happen once.

I started raising bees with my mom in the 70’s and decided to quit about 2008 when a couple of stings sent me to the hospital, bad case of hives and itching. I had a few smaller reactions before that, but decided not to take the risk anymore. I still have bees around but I stay out of their space when they are in the garden. The nuc I bought last year my son and his wife take care of. I do miss getting into them.

Your reactions this time don’t seem too bad considering how many times you were stung. Hope it is never this bad again.


@MisterGuy what you said makes a lot more sense to me than some things I’ve heard and read. I will be more careful and fortunately my experience wasn’t bad enough to instill any serious fears.

@tessie5 you bring up an outstanding point/question that I’ve often wondered about. Often when I see photos of people in bee suits they DO have one of those round hats that sort of look like a safari hat and the bee suit goes over and/or attaches to them. My bee suit doesn’t have that. Basically, in terms of head gear, my bee suit top/hood just goes directly onto my head. So yea, if a bee stings the very top of my suit it is most likely going to go right through the material and into the top of my head. The face net is a little better in that it sort of sticks out 1/2 inch or so from my face, but much of the time it-too-sits right on my face. I can sort of pull the whole head cover unit out away from my face by pulling it tight from the front- thereby pulling it tight against the back of my head and neck but this makes the net sit about 1/2 inch to 1 inch in front of my face and nose.

I’ve done an awful job describing the top of my suit, but my point is that I don’t have the hat/helmut. I have worn a ball cap or even nit cap under it and while safer, its not comfy at all that way. Point is, I’ve always wondered if my bee suit is missing something on top, but I’m just not sure. Thanks for that good question, for telling a bit of your own story, and for your concern with my situation. All is well, though. Thanks.


And again, I don’t want to horrify any doctors by implying that conditioned response is the ONLY mechanism by which allergies work but it’s certainly appearing to be ONE possible mechanism.


Sorry to hear about your bee fountain. You’re fortunate to only get a few stings.
Kevin, I’m sorry about this, but sometimes you can’t help but spank a puppy. The first thing you do before you get ready to do bees is…light your smoker!! Not only do you put yourself at risk, but passersby, family, friends, and any one around your bees are at risk for sometimes days when you work them w/o smoke. What happened was the alarm pheromone started in the first hive and was carried to the second hive and when you opened it, pow bee fountain. 50-100 stings are a typical result of bee fountains. You had a normal reaction to that many stings, I will take 2 benedryl and the swelling and pain will be gone in a day or two, the itching will remind you to use your smoker.
At this time of the year and you only have 2,3 medium boxes of bees, something is very wrong. You should open those boxes and the bees should boil out of them, there should be big beards of bees on the fronts and bees hanging from the underneaths of the boxes. Most likely both swarmed and were late requeening. When you examined the colonies did you find eggs and brood in all stages of development? Did both queens look normal, no missing parts or small or misshapened parts? Are you seeing normal drone brood patterns, pollen, nectar, and honey patterns? I don’t think anything is wrong with your frames/foundation, just not enough bees. Bad temper can also signal queen problems also.
Sorry to smack you about but I hope your misfortune saves some one else who might not have a good bee suit on.[quote=“thecityman, post:538, topic:4536”]
my bee suit is missing something on top

It is. Dadant makes a nice, inexpensive straw helmet and a veil they call a special Israeli veil, I’ve never been stung through that combination when properly tied down. You will have to talk to the Keokuk, Iowa, Dadant store to find that veil and they may protest some but they do carry it. It has elastic top and bottom and I’ve used mine for 10 yrs.