Tag Archive | mistake

Stopping the Robbing

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.




Combining Hives – What NOT to do

Sunday, September 7, 2014


Mistakes are Good…sometimes?

“Mistakes are good,” says Michael Bush, author of the book “The Practical Beekeeper”. But when you’re the beekeeper mucking up royally, and the bees are suffering for your stupid mistakes, it feels horrible! If you’re a beekeeper, then perhaps you’ve experienced those dysfunctional episodes where we decide to take on too much at once, we don’t do our research or plan our steps, then find ourselves running amuck in our white suits, surrounded by angry flying bees darting at our heads, with boxes disassembled and lying about.

That’s what happened to me. I inspected Pink Hive, which swarmed over 3 weeks ago, then returned to their hive and at some point swarmed again. I checked the hive about 3 weeks after the initial swarm, and the frames contained a small amount of older brood, no stores, nada. Like it had emptied out and dried up.


Mint Green Hive is strong, but the hive’s location is horrible as it sits 4 feet in front of the other hives and faces the asparagus, which is now a fern-like forest. Being the adaptable little creatures they are, they simply changed their flight path to the side rather than straight into the forest. Regardless, this seemed like a good opportunity to combine the weak hive with a strong hive AND move Mint Hive all at once.

Dumb, Dumb, Dumb

First, I should know better than to come home from work at 6 PM and go out and take on a major bee project when the evening is quickly turning dark. I managed to condense Pink Hive. Then I put a sheet of newspaper on top and proceeded to disassemble Mint hive and add those boxes on top of Pink Hive. In the meantime, Mint Hive is waking up and starting to wonder “what the heck?”, and their foragers are returning and flying around in space (where their home USED to be just a few minutes prior) wondering “what the heck?”. I realized the magnitude of my mistake about the same time I realized I was wearing shorts and Mint Hive decided to attack my legs.

I ran through the yard, guard bees in hot pursuit, through the garage and into the house. Bees started buzzing through the kitchen and the cats came to life. My husband chased me out of the house and through the window I saw him waving his finger and giving me the parental head shake before he joined in with the cats to catch the flying bees.

When I was finally clear of bees, he let me back in the house to swap shorts for long pants and sandals for muck boots. . I ventured back up to the disaster area. I looked at the three boxes of angry bees on top of pink hive, then back at the lost bees flying in space, and determined that I had to move Mint Hive back to its original location. Ugh, it was getting dark fast, and they were MAD!!! I was also covered in attack pheromones, which didn’t help matters.

I worked as quickly as I could. I pulled the Mint Hive boxes back off. Of course, the newspaper stuck to the bottom box. I was working alone. I tried to pull off what I could, but it was stuck. I was surrounded by crazy bees and had to run for cover a few times, but I kept returning and finally managed to get Mint Hive reassembled. It wasn’t pretty. I went back to the house, still pursued by guard bees, some of which found their way inside my suit and were stinging me. I finally stripped off my gear, left it on the patio and ran in the house .

The next morning I gathered gear from the patio and walked up to see the state of Mint Hive. Those poor bees looked as though they’d been out all night trying to patch up the disarray. The boxes were misaligned, extending at least a half inch on some edges, legs and body bits extended from the seams, and a good 2/12 inches of newspaper flapped around the perimeter of the box. They saw me approach and immediately became defensive. The guilt was overwhelming.

Lesson Learned

Another lesson learned the hard way. NEVER ADD THE STRONG HIVE TO THE WEAK HIVE!!!! Condense the weak hive to one box. Open the strong hive and add a sheet or two of newspaper on top. Add the weak hive on top of the newspaper. Then add sugar syrup on top of the entire hive. If I had researched this first, I would have saved myself and my bees A LOT of stress and stings.

Combining the Right Way (technically)

I successfully combined Pink Hive on top of Purple Hive the following week. They were still stressed, and sadly the newspaper had somehow punctured, enabling Purple Hive to enter Pink Hive much faster than planned and resulting in fighting and a pile of dead bees at the base of my hive.


By morning most of the fighting had ceased, and by evening the combined hive appeared to be at peace.  Thank goodness.  I suspect that I will be combining many hives down the road.  I can certainly say that I won’t make that dumb mistake again and my sincerest condolences go to the bees who lost their loved ones in the midst of my error.  But I am a better beekeeper, and as a result, future generations of BooBees will benefit from their sacrifices.  Amen.

Breaking the Cluster


Winter Newbie Mistake – January 5, 2014, Sunday

With a forecast of sub-freezing wind chill temps nearing, I got anxious about adding a solid bottom board to Blue Hive 3 (BH3).  Keep in mind, temps were still darn cold – 30’s and 40’s.  I did add mite boards in the bottom of Green Hive (GH1) and Yellow Hive (YH2) to close off any bottom drafts, but those hives are larger and stronger.  BH3 is a little guy that so far (knocking on wood) has survived this cold snowy winter.

The intent was to lift the hive and slide a board beneath it.  Bad idea.  I pryed the bottom with my hive tool and jostled the top of the hive trying to remove the wind barrier frame.  Suddenly bees began coming out.  I began apologizing and willing them to go back in.  We stopped, put the barrier back and dispersed.  Another lesson learned the hard way.  I thought for sure I’d lose BH3 over this one.

The BH3 Verdict – January 20, 2014, Monday

Our first semi-warm day, mid-50’s, since the jostling incident.  I was on vacation, but the hubster kept watch over the hives and reported that bees were indeed coming out of all three hives, including BH3.  GH1 was going nuts.  Tons of bees out and about relieving themselves.  YH2 was also awake, but not nearly as much activity as GH1.  I never know what to think of YH2.  They’ve never been as active as GH1, and just when I think the worst, they prove me wrong.  Best news – BH3 had bees coming out. Yay!  All three hives are still alive for the time being.  I left them plenty of honey stores, and they still have plenty of candy to supplement their feeding.  I shall leave them alone til our next 50-something degree day.

Lesson learned:  Best to leave the bees alone in cold temps.  Any rapping or tapping on the hive could break the cluster, and breaking the cluster could prove fatal to a hive.