Part 1: Disaster strikes new beekeepers in East Texas: Africanized killer bees

WARNING: Don’t read this if you are looking to start keeping honey bees.

We might be done with bees. We’re contemplating knocking over the hive and spraying pesticide in the entrance. Which coming from a girl who really tries do it all ‘NATURAL’ is saying a lot.

We have two hives, this spring we started with two bee packages from a reputable bee breeder in South Texas. One of our hives is extremely defensive, we’ve decided they’re Africanized killer crazy bees. I’m talking mean. They’re nuts.

We follow all the precautions when working our bees, we smoke correctly (like Michael Bush says to do), we have a full bee suits. We talk quietly, we don’t bang our equipment. We don’t stand in front of the entrances. We’re gentle and try not to squish bees! We dot our i’s and cross our t’s.

This morning, when we started working the hive they went nuts, they came out in a huge swarm and went all over Andrew and I. I couldn’t take it and ran out of our bee yard, but Andrew’s much tougher than I. He stayed in there, even though he was getting stings through his bee suit. On his back, head, on his legs, on his ankles etc.

Here’s what happened… Andrew worked the bees while I watched all those nasty killers swarm him and myself (I was about 30 feet away). I had to get out of there. I couldn’t take it.

To save our week hive, Andrew took a bar of  capped brood comb out of the strong nasty hive and moved it to our week hive (which doesn’t have any capped brood or a laying queen yet). Then with bees still swarming him, he finished the job and took three empty combs from the week hive and added them to the end of the strong hive. Because the week (queen-less hive) can’t defend all those empty combs and they need worker bees to survive until their queen comes back from her mating flight and starts laying.

Anyways, I have no idea how Andrew stayed there with those killer bees. The nasty bees found a way into Andrew’s suit between his boots and the pant legs. He got stung so many times. Bees made it in his pants! He had a gap where the leather made a crease and the bee leg holder things didn’t work. He probably got over a dozen bees up each leg 🙁

I wish you could smell the pheromone of stingers and bee guts all over us. Horrible.

It almost makes me nauseous just thinking about it. Andrew was able to get a bar of capped brood out and move over three frames of empty comb from the week hive and then he gave up and we both ran away. Leaving everything there. They were so mean, we didn’t finish our inspection ran into the field away from the hives COVERED in bees from head to toe.  Oh yeah… and our plan was to get back in the truck which was parked close by, because we have a  JERSEY BULL IN THAT FIELD but, we had so many bees on us we would have squished them under our hineys when we sat down!

Our bee yard is very far across the pasture from our house. The bees swarmed us the entire way back to the house, 200 yards! And stayed with us! Isn’t that a sign of killer bees, when they don’t leave you even when you’re realllly far away?

After waiting about 15 minutes, we had to go back and get our equipment, we left everything out, smokers going, our car down there etc. It was the same story when we went back down there. We sprinted around trying to close hives and get our bees stuff. But, we couldn’t get the truck because they covered us, AGAIN.

Andrew’s a very strong guy, but I saw him get unglued for the first time I’ve know him. I’m thinking this might be the end of beekeeping for us. Which I am really sad about, because our farm tag line is “the land of milk and honey” .

I know you’re thinking… well, you just need to go in there and kill the queen and put in a new one. Ha, we’ll let you do that. We’ll even pay to do it for us!  You’d need a steal mesh cage 1 foot around yourself to not get 1,000 plus stings in 5 minutes being out there. By the time you found the queen you’d be dead from all the stings or at least need to go to the hospital.

Below is a video I was able to get on my iPhone. It was realllly hard to get, becuase the bees were all over me and they HATE THE IPHONE. My phone is black and a pink rubber cover, that’s just littered with stingers and it was really difficult to push the button to turn the camera on… I kept squashing bees trying to get turn the camera on! You can hear all the mad crazy bees buzzing around me, hitting me and stinging anything that moves.

A side note, those crazy bees are still swarming front and back door of our house, where we dropped our bees suits and ran inside! Our house is REALLY FAR AWAY FROM THE BEE YARD. Probably at least 300 yards. We’ll probably have to wait till dark before we can go down there and get our truck and equipment!

I’m not sure what we’re going to do about this. We put so much time, effort and money into starting beekeeping I’m really sad to be in this situation.

What do you think we should do?

I’d reather not contaminate and mess up our beautiful Goldstar Top Bar hive with pesticide, but I’m not sure how else to handle the situation.

UPDATE December 2012 – We ordered two new queens from Wolf Creek Apiaries. When they arrived by mail a few days later we killed the mean queen and re-queened. It took about 6 weeks, but the whole hive calmed down and everything is as it should be, beekeeping is a pleasure! After talking to dozen’s beekeepers we’ve come to the conclusion that our situation was very very unusual. Please don’t let our experience keep you from trying bees.

Here’s a picture of all the stings on our suits.

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Comments

  1. What’s the name of the bee suit that failed? Disclosing that would benefit everyone. Let everyone know what manufacturer not to buy from and who has such little regard for its customers that it can’t be bothered to test its products rigorously.

    • The suit failed because of user error 🙂 We had on rubber boots and the pant legs stuffed in there. The bees crawled up the boots and into the pant legs… about 20 bees! Horrible. We fixed this issue this by duck tapping the legs when we worked this hive.

  2. Weaver bees are aficanized and carolinan mix just saying if your queen died and a ferral got a new one thats why your hive went nuts go in there at dark at night and mess w/ them if they are africanized

  3. kyle meinert says:

    pinch off your queen and order a few italian ones put them in the candy and let the bees find her….your hive will be as tame as kittens come a few weeks. It is the queen that makes the afro bees so angry. Again get rid of her get rid of the problem…now how it affected your other hive is questionable. but you can also use some essential oils like honey b healthy and smoke to keep the bees at bay. Also dont mess with them on a cloudy rainy day try around 4-5 late afternoon when they are tired from a days work and either out still finishing up foraging.

  4. How awful! I have been keeping bees for 2 years now. I know, not long, but I finally got honey! I lost 2 of 3 hives last year. Anyway, you are really brave. That hive was nuts. Your suits are amazing. I wish you described how it smelled. I can’t imagine. Also, wow, you are keeping at it. Good for you!

    • Jesse, The smell is terrible. When bees sting they put off this weird pheromone… it’s not like anything you’ve smelled before it’s pretty unique… but times that one little smell times thousands when they’re all stinging you! 🙂 we worked it though and replaced the queen and all’s well 🙂

  5. Wow! I’m from South Texas. Getting bees from down there is seriously risky business. My favorite campground for Girl Scouts had to be shut down because of Africanized bees. I actually came across your blog post because I’m planning a bee-themed birthday party for my daughter in East Texas. Your account sounds terrifying!

  6. Oh…….my…….goodness! I am speechless! I wanted to keep bees, but now……..

  7. I had a hive that I worked all the time. When I got in to medicate in the fall I did not smoke them and they did the same thing. I was only wearing a veil and regular work clothes they must not of been as serious as I only found 5 or six attempted stings. I now wear full suit and I always smoke when working with them no more problems. I did however loose the colony this winter with the brood box and top box still full of honey. I now have a lot of activity trying to figure out if a swarm has moved in or if it is robbing.

  8. patrick sturgeon says:

    I didnt see any smoke,even good bees will do this sometimes if you dont smoke them good, especially on a cloudy day.

  9. patrick sturgeon says:

    I didnt see any smoke,even good bees will do this sometimes if you dont smoke them good, especially on a cloudy day.

  10. HI Well IN that case you did the trick. Killing the queen will tame down the next batch of workers but the mean ones will have to die off . But you did the right thing. Who did you get the new queen from. I use Bee weaver.
    my mean ones came from R weaver also.

  11. Sorry to hear about your problems, I can empathize. I have several hives and started to catch wild swarms in traps in the spring. About 50% is Africanized. I live in the Conroe area. What I have learned about these bees is that they are very territorial when they have a large honey store. I hate to kill them because they will work circles around our domestic bees and are real honey producers, so I just learned from experience on how to manage them. Keep their numbers down by removing several frames of brood. I give these to my week hives. Keep robbing the honey and keep there stores low, this will keep them from being so aggressive. Work the bees at night.

    • Rashel Harris says:

      Ken, Really great advice. I hate to hear there’s so many Africanized feral bees in texas. I hear stories of beekeepers that don’t wear suits or gloves and maybe only get a few stings. We get hundreds of stings in just on one leg. If this is what beekeeping if this is about I dont think we can handle it. It took all we had to Go in there, kill the queen and split the hive, and requeen. Hopefully that did the trick.

      Thanks for the ideas! We never heard about working the hive at night since there population is all there at night. Maybe we’ll try it.

      Thanks,

      RH

  12. ken

  13. Steven Ogborn says:

    Hey, rachel
    Can you get a water hose out to the hive?
    If so, get one of those water hose spray resivoir
    things that gardeners use to apply fertilizers to
    their gardens. Fill it with Dawn dishwashing liquid and
    hose down anything that flies or tries to come out of the hive. Then pull the hive open and spray anything else. The dishwashing liquid will wet the bees and kill them. You can rinse out the hive later and it will be ok
    to use later.

    • I have had some bees just like that and they were not african just plain mean. Turn the hive on its side and let nature do the rest then put you a calm hive of bees in there.

  14. email me mdm106@yahoo.com

  15. Where are you located Im willing to come help. Im in Tyler Texas

    • Michael,
      Thanks for your offer to help! We’re going to leave them alone for several weeks and see if they calm down. We killed the queen that was laying all those mean bees. We requeened them last week, hopefully, they’ll accept the new queen and all will be well again. We’ll see! Thanks for reading our blog 🙂
      Rashel

      • HI Well IN that case you did the trick. Killing the queen will tame down the next batch of workers but the mean ones will have to die off . But you did the right thing. Who did you get the new queen from. I use Bee weaver.
        my mean ones came from R weaver also.

  16. Dont let this get you down . Just close up the hive and let the sun kill them out. Or get a local beekeeper to requeen for you. I work my bees with no veil or shirt it is a real joy when you have nice bees. They are not all that mean. Dont give up. Where are you located. If you are close enough i can help

    Mdm106@yahoo.com

  17. Anonymous says:

    I believe these Africanized bees are here in Hype Park in Cincinnati Ohio. I was attacked, recently, merely because I stood in front of the opening to their den. And because I tried to cover the entrance with a large stone after being stung once, they came out of the den in swarms and swooped down on me with a vengeance. I managed to get back inside the building where I live with only four stings. Four too many for me….

  18. I also meant to write… The “All-American” is supposed to be an Italian breed variation. We’ve had Italian honey bees (in Ohio) and they were pretty docile; no Africanized bees that far north. This year we picked Buckfast and they seem to be pretty tame. We are in Houston County.

    Please let us know what the inspector says.

  19. Rashel, I am sorry to read this. We have a Langstroth hive and I am not familiar with the top bar hive. But I would recommend not using pesticides, as that will permeate your wooden ware and make it worthless.

  20. If you want to save the hive, you can re-queen it. This is done all the time to save hives that went feral.

    • Dave, thanks for the re-queen idea. We decided to take this approach and killed thee queen and put a new one in there four days later. We scrapped all the supercedure and swarm cells we found in the process.
      Thanks for the comment!
      Rashel

  21. Joe Weaver says:

    I’m thinking seal the hives off with plastic bags at night and let the summer heat finish them off the next day?

  22. Saw your entry on biobees – very exciting.
    Always fun to have a little drama in the life. First time getting hit hard by the bees can be disconcerting. Check out the entries on the Perone hives over at biobees. It might be the right idea for your situation. It is the direction we have taken.
    I hope you get a chuckle out of the adventure within a few days.

  23. Cherry Moore says:

    Wow! Rachel! That is terrible! Get rid of the bees!

    • Yea, I think we’ve come to that conclusion, especially with that hive. After getting so many stings and traumatizing with nightmares, those mean African bees need to go. We’re just not sure how to do it yet. We’re checking with a few people first.

  24. I vote nuke ’em … seriously, that can be an extremely dangerous situation for you and Isabella. Not worth it, in my opinion …. which is worth not too much!

  25. Rashel, I’m so sorry! I wondered about Africanized bees after reading your last post. I would hate to see you give up. Have you talked with someone about the problem? Keep us up to date on the bee saga!
    Regina

    • Regina,
      Yea, we’re talking to some great friends that are giving us all different advice. Today I’m going to check with the Chief Apiarist in Texas as well as the breeders where we got the bees from to see what they think.

  26. That sounds horrible! Do you know what variety of bees they are? Like Russians?

    • They’re suppose to be “All-American”. Whatever that means. We got them from a reputable breeder in South Texas. I’m going to contact the breeders today and see if they have any ideas.

      • You might want to ask as you are talking to the experts, but if I remember right, the Russian bees are very mild. Perhaps you need to make sure to get a mild breed if you try again.

      • The all american are notorious for being crossed with african. I only buy my bees From Bee Weaver. My mean bees came from R weaver.

  27. Do you suppose it was the electro pulses from your phone that attracted them to you in the first place? I have been reading about electromagnetic fields in general, google it and see if there is any info on it. I’m just wondering if the signal might have attracted them to you and then tried to kill the pulse, not you.

    What a bad day, I am really sorry about this. We lost our hives to the fire ants and just gave it up. I have found really good organic honey here in CA and will try and set up a supply line. They even have blackberry which is awesome. Several different varieties and everything grown in the area is certified organic. Nathaniel and I just went and snagged some walla walla onions to can and freeze. The smoke is too thick to try and pick peaches.

    • Cindy,
      I don’t think it was the phone. They do the same thing to a manual camera we brought down last week 🙁

      Yeah, it was a horrible day. The worst part is that we may quit beekeeping from this experience. And we don’t know what to do. Andrew can handle anything, but millions of bees all over stinging him is beyond what he can handle. Shoot, I still want to keep bees… but not like this 🙁

      We’ve put so much money, time and effort into getting started 🙁

      • Oh yea, that honey sounds amazing! It looks like we might be buying honey in the future… if we don’t figure this out.

      • Dont let this get you down. you just need to get rid of that one queen. I am in east texas and I tend my bees without a veil or shirt sometimes.
        they are not all mean.

What are you thoughts?