Why are my bees so stingy?

I am not suggesting my new bees are mean but they do seem ungrateful.  Last week I conducted my first hive inspection of the new colony and three bees immediately stung me – through my glove and on the same finger joint too. Fortunately the glove spared me most of the pain but bee stings don’t half itch for days.  Do they not realise that I mean them no harm?  All I was doing was checking they were healthy, starting to expand in sufficient numbers and had enough food.  I had their welfare at heart – honest.  However, as soon as I started poking around in the brood box where the young larvae are being tended, the bees went for me.

I suppose I should feel pleased that they are so aggressive and willing to defend the colony as the previous week I had been worrying that they were too vulnerable to bullying.  I noticed a wasp snooping around the hive and, being carnivores, they are dangerous to bees.  I then spotted a bumble bee enter the hive and reappear a few minutes later unscathed.  The sentry bees were obviously sleeping on watch!  I was therefore concerned that my young colony might be easy prey to intruders looking to rob the hive of its stores or in the case of wasps, bee larvae.  I therefore closed up half the entrance to reduce the size of the open goal so to speak.

This spell of warm and mainly dry weather is just what the bees need.  As nature seems to have gone straight from Winter into Summer there is a plethora of pollen and nectar about and the bees thus have plenty of forage.  I am therefore setting up a 2nd hive in order to double my chances of nurturing a colony through the next Winter.  On my next inspection I hope to see the bees laying down plenty of stores. However, this time I will smoke them before opening the hive. Perhaps naively I have refrained from using smoke to avoid stressing them.  It’s now time to think of my own welfare!