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Dealing with Mean Bees

Updated: Apr 30

Each hive has its own unique temperament. Our very first two backyard hives were aptly named War and Peace.

In some cases, a little bit of feistiness can serve a colony well. War's genetics live on to this day, but Peace is long gone.

However, it should never be the case that a beekeeper is afraid to work their bees!

Below, we will discuss some of the reasons behind bee temperament and what you can do with a hive that has crossed your personal comfort line.

Before you can decide what to do with your mean hive, it's important to assess what might be making them behave this way. Ask yourself: Is this a sudden change in temperament or has this hive always been like this?


If the colony has always been too spicy for your taste, then it is most likely because of the breed or race of bee you have acquired, or because of that queen's particular genetics. In terms of bee breeds, Carniolan and Caucasian bees are known for being gentle, while German, African, and Russian Hybrid bees can be a little more feisty.

Other hybrids and 'mutts' can really go either way and the temperament of the hive will be determined more by the specific genetics of the queen.

In cases where the temperament of a hive has been the same since day 1 (or day 1 of that new queen), then changing the temperament of the colony will require you to requeen that colony. But you MUST requeen from a different genetic line if you hope to see a change in temperament.

This is perhaps the most unpleasant job in all of beekeeping. Suit up (I sometimes wear 2 suits when I go in to find a mean queen!) and grab your bee-o-teen (aka. hive tool) and know that you are doing an important job to ensure that you and your bees can happily coexist.

(I will do a post on requeening in the next few days so I won't go into full details here)

Temporary/Sudden Changes

Things get a little more complicated when a change in attitude happens all of a sudden. It is important to recognize that bees have bad days, just like we do. Sometimes, you just need to close them up and try again another day. But if two or three hive inspections go by and you are still not having fun, then it's time to do some troubleshooting.

Two suits might come in handy again here.

  • Look outside and around the hive. Is there evidence of predator activity? Scratching? Wasps? Ants?

  • What's in bloom? Is food abundant or scarce? Are you seeing pollen pants at the hive entrance?

  • Are there any signs of disease in the hive? Have you done a mite test recently? Is your brood pearly white? Is there excessive debris on the bottom board? Can you see any deformed wings? Does the hive smell bad?

  • Is your queen present? Is the brood pattern solid? Is she in good shape (not missing limbs or wings)?

Each of these root causes must be treated quickly to turn bee temperament around.

Beekeeper Factors

It is also important to check you own inspection habits from time to time. The whole banana thing is a myth, but are you wearing strong scents around the hive? Are you moving smoothly without causing too much noise or vibration? Are you choosing good times (warm, sunny days) to open your hives? Are you careful to replace frames in the same position and orientation? Do you work quickly so your bees are not exposed too long?

If the answer to any of these questions is "ohhhh, maybe not.." then make an effort to act a little more mindfully with your bees and hopefully they will respond with fewer stings.

Looking for more?

Looking for more beekeeping education? You can find my virtual, on-demand beginner and intermediate courses at

Or if you'd prefer a more tailored experience, you can join my mentorship group at


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