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Monday, August 15, 2011

The Ravages of War

Last weekend I brought two frames of honey home from my old house to feed Topsy. I also made some syrup to put in the Rapid Feeder on top of the inner cover inside an empty hive box. I put all this on the hive and robbing began. As my grandson would say, it was a battle royale. I covered the hive with a wet sheet, but the bees were attacked viciously as other hives wanted to rob this very weak hive.

Bodies were strewn all over my backyard. The hives border a concrete basketball court so evidence of death was everywhere and more easily seen than in the grass.

Just look at all these dead bees. I wanted to cry.



Many of the bodies were ripped in half. Bodies were all across the concreted area covering about a 10 X 20 foot area.


If you click on the picture below, you can see many dead bees.


It's harder to see, but I stepped back so you could see how extensive the area of death is.



I believe at this point that Topsy is no more.  I am sad to see such a persistent hive bite the dust, but that is what has happened here.  Bang the drum slowly.

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9 comments:

  1. That's sad to see. I have 2 hives that I'm feeding and I make sure that they both have food at all times, I'm afraid of robbing because one hive is markedly weaker than the other. Were the other hives being fed? If not, do you think that might have set it off? Anna in MD.

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  2. I try not to feed my bees as per the Sam Comfort school of beekeeping. So no, the other hives weren't being fed but had plenty of stores. I don't know how to think about this, but know that going forward, I'll continue to think as does Sam that the strong will survive and that I probably should not have fed Topsy rather than that I should have fed all the hives.

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  3. I completely agree. The hives I'm feeding are nucs that got a very late start, one was queenless for over a month and had maybe a frame of bees before it got a new queen and some more bees added to it. I actually fully expect to combine the two hives but am trying to keep the 2. I hope to never have to feed again and to harvest minimal honey. Any excess I get I plan to store in the freezer for dearths. I hope it works! The genetics of these bees are wonderful.

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  4. I had this happen last month to a split I tried to make. One of my strong hives started robbing it blind and killed almost all the bees I initially put in the split. I simply walked over to the hive that was doing the robbing took out two frames of brood (one capped one open) and placed them with attendants inside the new split and then sealed the entrance off completely. They had access to syrup and a screen bottom and it hadn't gotten overly hot yet. After a day and a half I removed the entrance block and by then the robbers that were trapped inside had become a part of the new hive split. They raised a new queen and she started laying this week I think.

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  5. Good for you! I need a success story like that. I haven't made a successful split this year

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  6. I'm curious, did the robbing start within a few minutes, or did it take an hour or two for the stronger hive to start robbing them?

    I haven't experienced robbing yet, and I'm hoping to use your experience to (hopefully) prevent robbing at my hives.

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  7. The robbing started almost immediately when I turned away from the hives to go inside. I had a contractor working outside my house and just as I had come inside, he came in and said, "Linda, I'm worried. I'm up high on a ladder out here and the bees are going crazy." I went right back out to find robbing in full swing.

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  8. Robbing is so very heartbreaking to see-- so many dead bees and so much chaos. It can start from exposing hives and their honey during inspection as well as during feeding. Bees pick up the irresistible smell of spilled honey immediately!

    If you see robbing start, close the top & bottom entrances completely. If you don't have screening to put in (like a moving screen, or a piece of window screen shaped in a V), stuff the entrance or reducer opening with grass. leaves, anything at hand. The inside bees will be working on getting out and they will clear the grass in a few hours or overnight. If there's still too much robber flight then (zigzagging, being challenged by guards at entry), close it up again. Hive foragers who get stuck outside will be pretty calm and waiting on the landing board, working on removing the grass in small groups-- and many will have pollen loads that robbers won't. Robbers will be flying erratically and checking every crevice. Sometimes you can follow their flight and see what hive they came from-- close up that one or all others in the apiary too for awhile till they calm down. All being said, it is very difficult to stop robbing once it starts. If you have more than one hive in an apiary, it's a good idea to put on robbing screens during a dearth just for insurance. (Directions for screens are on a number of sites.)

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  9. I have built robber screens (http://beekeeperlinda.blogspot.com/2006/06/building-more-sophisticated-robber.html) and so I put them on the hives when this started. I also set up the sprinkler and ran it for about half an hour. Both of those moves pretty much stopped everything. But of course, the death and destruction had certainly been rampant already.

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