What Makes Honey Bees Aggressive? Reasons that Explain Bee Hostility

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We typically see honey bees as one of the most docile insects out there. But that’s not always the case. Since these bugs do belong to hives that have plenty of valuable things that need protection, it’s only natural for them show some hostility.

But how does that happen? What makes honey bees aggressive? Does being a few feet away from a hive make them attack you? Or do we humans tick them off by doing not so honey bee worthy things? To give you a better understanding of this, here are 6 explanations that will shed some light on bee aggression.

What Makes Honey Bees Aggressive? 6 Explanations for Bee Hostility

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Honey bees don’t have a lot of things to get angry about. It’s also natural for them to become aggressive when their hive is being vandalized.

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It’s a large colony

According Dummies.com, bigger colonies are naturally more aggressive than less established hives. That’s because as honey bees grow in numbers, so does their progress in making and storing honey. Honey is produced for eating, specially during times of scarcity like the long months of winter. And these bees become very protective of it.

Obviously, you can tell what a large colony is just by looking at the size of their hive and the number of buzzing bees around it. So if you happen to pass by such an extraordinary nest, leave it alone.

They’re queenless

The next reason that explains why honey bees can suddenly become hostile is the lack of a queen.

For Beekeeping Like a Girl, being queenless drastically changes the hive’s mood. The queen keeps the colony running. She lays eggs and keeps the population growing, keeping the hive’s numbers strong enough to gather pollen, produce honey, regulate water and even resist infections. The absence of such an important figure for the worker bees causes them to be irritable or nervous. Accordingly, subtle signs like making high-pitched whines and low roars can signal that they’re in need of a queen.

To read more about this queenless hives, head to this post. We’ll tell you everything you need to know about this condition.

You’re wearing the wrong color

The color of your clothes matter to bees.

Bee eyes are different from a human’s. They can see colors 5 times faster than us, and they can spot them even while they’re flying at high speeds. That’s like noticing a single flower by the roadside while driving a car.

Because bees use color to look for food, they’ve adapted to put more focus on colors when they’re going about their daily lives. So it’s only logical to think that wearing bright colors like pink and yellow might cause these insects to confuse you for a flower.

As for darker hues, color sensitivity among bees has lead them to associate some shades of red and black to predators because of the colors of their fur. So wearing them might lead these insects to be hostile towards you.

Additionally, if you’re looking for a color that can repel bees, there isn’t one. However, white’s “colorless” appearance can most likely cause these bugs to ignore you. That’s why beekeepers wear it all the time.

They don’t like the rainy weather

Like humans, a bee’s mood is also greatly influenced by the weather. During rainy days, especially the ones that come with high humidity and heat, usually mild-mannered honey bees can become aggressive. Some beekeepers suspect that this may be due to the weather obstructing daily operations inside the hive.

According to the Southern Oregon Beekeepers Association, when bees get too hot they stop whatever they’re doing and focus on bringing water into the hive. The queen stops laying eggs, and honey-making momentarily comes to screeching halt. The honey bees then start to spit water and fan it to cool down their hive. A lot of them even go outside the hive to help calm the increasing temperature inside.

There are unwelcome insect visitors

Naturally, honey bees become hostile the moment they sense predators and scavengers inside their territory. Insects like hornets, ants and even some flies steal honey to survive, especially during food shortages. Hornets, in particular, are bigger, more aggressive and predatory. Just a handful of them can cause an entire beehive to collapse.

Another unwelcome guest for the honey bees are their own kind. That’s right. When flowers that produce nectar become scarce (nectar dearth), bees resort to underhanded methods and start stealing from other hives. Unsurprisingly, this is called robbing. Here’s a rather grim video from BeeGuardian that can show you what it looks like.

There are unwelcome mammal visitors

Insects aren’t the only animals that raid beehives for their honey. Regular visits from bigger creatures like bears, skunks, badgers, opossums, raccoons and even humans can keep the tiny honey bees on edge.

For beekeeping humans, specifically, Dummies.com recommends washing the bee keeper’s suit to get the previous stings and alarm pheromones out. That’s because when bees sense danger, they secrete pheromones that signal the others to fight and defend the hive. This attack pheromone often sticks to clothing and is recognized by the bees that secreted them. So the moment you go near these bugs, they’ll recognize you instantly as a threat.

Of course, there are many other reasons that can answer the question What makes honey bees aggressive? But think about this. Honey bees don’t just attack randomly. They only do it to protect the colony. This means that an aggressive side is just part of the honey bee’s complex nature.