Saturday, October 20, 2014
Some rules you just don’t think about until you break them. And once you experience the horrific results, you never break them again.
I made the horrible mistake of scraping out burr comb that contained honey and laying it on top of an adjacent hive as I was inspecting. Within minutes, the comb had attracted hoards of bees, and so began a robbing frenzy. And why not? We’re in the midst of a fall dearth, the bees are hungry, and a bounty of food has been revealed to them.
Any food, sugar syrup, honey, etc. left near a hive can yield devastating results, from attracting animals to attracting robbers.
Stop the Madness – IMMEDIATELY
When robbing begins, stop it immediately. Sure indicators of robbing is dramatic increase in bee activity, including fighting at the entrance and groups of bees crawling around the hive boxes (all sides) looking for ways to enter. Don’t get confused with orientation flights.
Robbing can be devastating to a hive, resulting in destroyed comb, loss of bees, and loss of stores. Some steps I took, good and bad…
1) Close all entrances, except for bottom entrance.
2) Reduce bottom entrance to smallest size
3) Cover entrance w/ robbing cage – essentially covered front entrance with window screen, allowing only a small entrance on the side for resident bees.
The idea is that robbers will fly directly into the entrance from the front. If the can’t enter through the front, they’ll often give up. The resident bees, on the other hand, will make the effort to find the alternate entrance and will adapt to that entrance. Bottlenecking will occur, but they will work it out.
I have an alternate robbing cage idea for next time, but as this one was in place and was working, I left it as it was.
4) Place a damp sheet over top of the hive
Not towels, like I did I my photo at top, although this did help some. But full white sheets that actually cover the hive. Again, resident bees will figure it out, but robbers will be discouraged.
Always Bee on the Lookout
Within several days, the robbing had subsided and I removed the barriers. That same day, they began robbing again. You have to watch them. Bees have good memories.
Two Weeks Later (Oct 4, 2014)
Two weeks after, I still have robbing cages on the hives and they’re all doing well. Now that the weather is changing and I’m feeding 2:1, I do plan to remove them and enter the hives to see how they look, ensure they have stores, and condense them down for winter.