A small swarm of Africanized bees tried to enter and invade one of our European honey bee hives. This is the second time we have been able to witness this interesting and natural phenomenon. The first time we witnessed a swarm trying to enter a hive was a year ago.
When we arrived at our bee yard and got out of our truck, we were met by a few aggressive bees. We thought this seemed odd since our gentle honey bees usually don’t chase us unless something is wrong, so we continued as usual to inspect our hives.
We opened up the first 2 hives and everything looked normal – the bees were calm and we saw eggs, a sign that the hives had a queen. We closed up the hives and moved along to our next set of hives about 25 feet away from the first set. Within about 10 mins I saw bees swarming – a cloud of bees flying around.
We rushed back over to see what was going on, and found that one hive was being attacked. There was a gathering of bees on the back of the hive and bees in the front of the hive were fighting.
As my husband took a closer look at the bees gathered on the back of the hive, he saw a queen! This was the queen from the small swarm. What are the chances we would see that!
I caught the queen to make sure she would not enter our hive and try to kill our good queen. In the meantime, the worker bees continued to fight. I put the queen to the side and after about 15 minutes the swarm gathered around the trapped queen and things started to calm down at our hive.
As I walked around I found where the swarm originated from in a small tree close to our hives. Africanized bees usually have small swarm clusters that are capable of invading established hives and taking over. This is part of their natural behavior.
Since the swarm was close by they probably smelled our hives when we opened them up for inspection and were attracted to them. Before we left, we had to take care of the swarm queen. In order to make sure she would not invade our hive we had to kill her. Sad, but necessary to protect our hive.
So much drama! The two types of bees look very similar in colour, which surprises me. Glad you spotted the Africanised queen in time.
To the naked eye they look very similar, but there are certain behavior traits that differ from the European honey bee. Africanized bees are more aggressive. They also swarm more frequently, up the 16 times a year, much more than European honey bees. For this reason we tend to see small swarm clusters because of the frequency in which they swarm.
Up to 16 times – wow! They must cope better with varroa then.
It was really lucky you noticed the bees attacking your hive. With that amount of swarming I suppose you must be extremely vigilant and be on the alert. It must be really dramatic to see one of your hives under attack.
Yes, we happened to be there at the right time. I always feel bad for the poor bees that die defending the hive, but that is nature. We check our hives often and monitor their behavior for any suspicious signs. Calm bees = happy beekeeper. 🙂
I am soooo glad I’m north far enough (so far) not to have to worry about Africanized bees. What are the chances I’d spot the queen ? Probably none. Nice going!!