I did not get much sleep last night. I was too sore and swollen from a visit to one of my hives yesterday. I had noticed that my earlier colony was getting more aggressive such that I gave up inspecting the brood chamber on my inspection 3 weeks ago as the bees seemed to agitated. Accordingly I thought it high time yesterday to go into the hive to check if the Queen had stopped laying for the Winter and to dose them with a treatment that kills the deadly Varroa mite in order to safeguard their health for the Winter and next Spring.
As before, I had few problems inspecting the honey store, although I did get stung through my glove on a finger for my trouble. I was pleased to see at least 50 lbs of capped honey stored away and enough to see them through the Winter. The trouble really started when I tried to inspect the brood chamber. It was absolutely packed with bees and signs of prolific honey stores but I had to remove a frame to check for any signs of fresh larvae or eggs.
Suddenly the hive erupted and literally thousands of bees clustered around my face and covered my hands. It was like a scene from a horror film! My hands were vibrating from the buzzing of hundreds of bees positioning themselves to sting. I withdrew well away from the apiary but the bees followed and started to sting with a vengeance. Some managed to sting me through my trousers behind my knees and many more through my gloves. Having by now retreated completely from the vicinity of the apiary I donned a pair of rose pruning gloves over my leather gloves and returned to the hive. I gave up all thoughts of completing my inspection but I had left the hive open so had to put it back together. By now there were perhaps tens of thousands of angry bees flying about. They immediately mobbed me and so many clustered around the veil of my bee keeping smock that I could not see anything. I’m afraid I was none too gentle in re-assembling the hive. Speed was of the essence and I have no doubt I crushed many bees as I replaced each box on top of the other. In the meantime the bees had crawled up a gap between my smock and trousers and were stinging me in the stomach, back, chest and ribs. Others were trying to get underneath the cuffs of my outer gloves to sting me in the wrists. Even worse, 3 managed to get up into my veil, two stinging me on the ear and another tried to sting me on the lower lip. It was now a frightening experience.
A couple of hours later I returned to the scene to collect up my abandoned equipment, unwisely without my protective gear. Even without touching the hive of the aggressive colony I was immediately mobbed again and stung twice more. I later counted 20 stings on my body and removed a further 30 from my clothing where the bees had attempted to sting me but my clothing had saved me. I sought advice from my beekeeping mentor on what could have proved such a frenzied attack. He wonders if the bees have naturally become more aggressive to fend off the numerous wasp attacks on the hive. Certainly on a previous hive inspection I had seen the same colony mobbing and killing two wasps who had penetrated the hive interior. Rather than stinging the wasps and thereby committing suicide, they were using their body heat to boil the wasps’ blood to kill them.
I am not yet sure what I am going to do about these killer bees. I should make another attempt to go into the hive to prepare it for the coming Winter. However, my instinct is that bees used to survive in the wild without Man’s intervention, so maybe I should let this lot get on with life on their own. They seem feisty enough to survive and they have plenty of stores to get them through. In the meantime I am ordering a full length bee keeping suit!