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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I am beginning my 19th year of beekeeping in April 2024. Now there are more than 1300 posts on this blog. Please use the search bar below to search the blog for other posts on a subject in which you are interested. You can also click on the "label" at the end of a post and all posts with that label will show up. At the very bottom of this page is a list of all the labels I've used.

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Robbing and Regrets

Regret is a difficult emotion. My first swarm hive, Hyron, has been colored this entire season with regret. When I hived the swarm colony in their hivebox, it wasn't a nice place. I regreted that I wasn't more prepared for a swarm.

I put them in the box I had set up as a swarm lure box, but it wasn't lovely - there were remnants of wax moth damage on the frames, it was my oldest deep box, it didn't have a screened bottom board or a good cover.

I haven't liked this hive. I tried to inspect them a few weeks ago and the guard bees fastened onto my jeans and stung me more than I have ever been stung on a hive inspection. They have insisted on staying in the bottom box, despite my best efforts to entice them to build upwards.

Toward the end of June I began feeding them with a Boardman feeder so I wouldn't have to open up this angry hive to put a baggie feeder in and get stung just to be nice to them. This, of course, is my latest regret because the Boardman, I believe, was the start of all of my troubles today.

I also regret that I didn't follow my inclinations two weeks ago. On that inspection, I thought I should combine Hyron with Aristaeus because both were slow to build up swarm hives and could complement each other and perhaps get big enough by fall to make it through the winter well. I didn't do that because I couldn't bring myself to the idea of killing one of the queens.

Well, today I stopped at home for water and a break in the middle of my 8 mile walk and glanced out at the bees on the deck to see full-scale robbing in progress at Hyron. I suited up and went out to take off the Boardman feeder (empty by that time). I set it on the deck rail and as you can see below, the bees clustered all around it.

I didn't want the hive to be destroyed, although I may have been too late, so I quickly installed the robber screen I made in 2006. I wanted to completely close up the hive, if possible. I put a top bar over the normal opening of the robber screen and will leave it that way all day.

The value of a robber screen is that the robbers want to enter the hive through the hive entrance. The bees who live in the hive are drawn to the queen's pheromone and will find an entrance to the hive, as they follow the hormone. So the robber screen protects the entrance and provides an alternate entry for the bees who live in the hive.

I think the hive is a goner, though. A few moments ago I saw a bee inside the screen carrying a pupae. Most of the time in robbing, the robber bees rip the caps off of the honey and maybe they also ripped caps off of brood as well.

Despite the robber screen, the bees still cluster all around the hive box in funny places like on the bungee cord (see above). There is one bee sized opening at the upper right (as we face it) corner of the robber screen and bees are coming and going through that. I don't know if they are robber bees or not.

Sad day in my bee yard. All of the other hives are behaving normally.
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  1. Anonymous3:43 PM

    I also ust had a terrible case of Robbing. Started in my weakest Nuc. Found it while changing my baggie feeders. The Nuc was badly devastated, so moved what was left to the Barn about 3/4 miles away. The Robbers just moved to the next Nuc. Moved it to barn. Robbers moved to the weakest of my 3 Hives. Moved it to Barn. Now I've got two strong Hives left and both of them seem, for now, to be able to hold of Robbers.

  2. My other hives all looked quite calm with no obvious traffic coming from the robbed hive into any of them. I am anxious to see how today (the day after) looks in the hive.

  3. We are new beekeepers (2009) in Ky. We started with three hives in March and added one in early June. All appeared to be doing well until the heat (not enuf shade)got to them and we lost two queens. We requeened the hives but these two hives remained small in population. So, unwittingly, we fed the new hives with a hive top feeder which coincided with a dearth of nectar in mid August. This set off a robbing frenzy (from down the road bees). The only way we were able to stop the robbing was a four steps-mix and match. One, close off the hive completely and feed sugar and pollen substitute inside the hive. The robbing continued to the strong hives so we went to the entrance reducer-smallest entrance. Three, we added a home-made robber screen which allows the homegirls entrance from the top slat with the small reducer entrance and greatly reduces the robbers' access to the hive. Four, use a wet sheet over the entire hive. It is so strange that all the books and courses in Frankfort never prepare you for this barbarian invasion which can take things from plenty to nothing in a couple of days. If we were to do things again, we would put the screens up much earlier. We check out bees daily so we hope this has prevented a total loss.

  4. Anonymous5:57 PM

    I'm so sad. last year my bees got something and died (their bodies littered the garden pathway), but i didn't clear out the hive and get a new colony this year. I was in my garden a few weeks ago and saw bees going in and out of the hive so i thought either some had survived or native bees took over, but it turned out it was robber bees taking the left-behind honey.


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