This is the second time this year that my hives are trying to rob each other. What seems to be the trigger is when a hive looses it's queen.
The hives that are being robbed right now aren't really small ones, either. They just isn't as large as some. One hive had lost their queen, I replaced her, and they are in the process of superceding her.
How do you folks with several hives in one area keep the hives from robbing each other? I have just 3 hives in my yard, and this is twice this year I have had to drape wet towels across the entry ways to keep the robbers out.
I AM feeding, but the feeders are inside the hive. I am using baggies of syrup. The goldenrod is not finished blooming, yet. It is true that the 2 smaller hives (splits from this summer) do not have enough stored for the winter, but they are not starving, either.
I THINK that it is the 2 small hives that are going at each other. It's a little hard to tell who is going where with so many agitated bees flying about.
Could the problem be that they are too close to each other? They are only about 6" apart.
There are several possible triggers for robbing. Feeding is one. Feeding with something that gives scent to the syrup (honey, essential oils, HBH etc.) seems to make it worse. A dearth contributes. A weak hive contributes. Too large of an entrance contribututes.
I've been open feeding to try to prevent so much robbing, but sometimes that even seems to trigger it.
I HAVE seen hives that were right next to each other rob and when I moved them further apart they stopped. But I have also had hives right against each other that did fine and didn't rob.
I would say feeding is a primary cause of robbing.
To help stop the robbing,trade places with the two hives,Putting the robber hive in the robbed hive's place and vice versa.This confuses the robbers,and they soon quit.American Bee Journal june 2004.>>>>Mark
Okay, Mark is giving me dangerous ideas so I'm looking for some insight. Past experiments have led to success in some instances and utter failure in other instances, so here goes. You know I have an extremely weak hive (2frames, both sides full of bees)due to invasion by baldfaced hornets. The queen is strong, so I'm trying to build this hive up before the cooler weather comes in--about 6 weeks away in this area. I started feeding 1:1 two days ago, planning to switch to 2:1 after two weeks. Immediately upon commencement of feeding, they started getting robbed, so I also started to field feed and the robbing seems to have stopped. Nonetheless, what would happen if I were to switch the two hives? Would some of the bees from the strong hive then take up residence in stay with the weak hive, kind of balancing the numbers, or am I asking for trouble?
Tia...About those hornets,did you find a remedy? If so what is it? Thanks,...Ron.
Ron, thanks for asking. The only resolution I could come up with is 1/4" hardware cloth across the entire length of the entrance. The hornets still try to gain entry, but it's been working well. With this help, my girls are better able to defend themselves and I've seen bunches of them outside the hive on the entrance board biting a hornet to death! Let me tell you, they go at those hornets--and yellow jackets--with a vengence! They ball the bad guys real tight and don't stop attacking even long after it's dead! The only disadvantage I've found to the 1/4" wire is the bees have problems dragging debris out of the hive and through the 1/4" holes. I go out there every morning and if necessary remove the wire, clean out the debris the bees have left and put the wire back.
You can also equalize by taking brood frames (make sure you don't take the queen) from the strong hive and putting them in the weak hive. Swapping places will excahnge a lot of the workforce so the weaker one should end up with a stronger fieldforce. But, remember a field force is old bees. Come fall when there is no nectar to gather they are mouths to feed that won't make it to spring. By putting some brood frames in you'll give them young bees.
You can do both if you wish.
Other things I find useful for robbing:
Reduce the entrance on the robbing hive. Make sure if a flow starts you open it back up.
Make a robber screen or buy a "front door" from Brushy Mt and cut a notch in it. It also works for skunks.
Feed the robbing hive. I know they aren't the ones needing the stores, but it will keep them occupied and you can steal some of their stores and give them to the weak hive later.
Things NOT to do. Don't use an entrance feeder, it is too accessable to the robbers. Don't put essential oils in the syrup, the scent sets them off.
As MB told me when I was having robbing problems in a nuke box, make sure you are not feeding HBH.
I was also having robbing trouble with one of my full size hives and ended up putting a screen across the entire bottom entrance(Bee Max new style bottom board) with a couple of improvised escape cones built into the screen. The Bees could get out through the bottom using the cones and come back in through the 3/4 inch ventilation hole I had drilled in the hive body. After some trial and error the home team bees figure out that there is only one way in(the 3/4 hole) and the easiest way out is the bottom(the two escape cones on bottom entrance in screen). It worked pretty good because the outgoing traffic flow(escape cones) was not running into the incoming bees(3/4 hole). The robbers get frustrated because there are bees leaving the bottom entrance but no bees can get in through the cones, and the 3/4 hole(entrance) is easy for the home team to defend. After the hive started to build up a decent population I took off the screen and the bees still used the same traffic pattern for quite a while after.
Now this hive is much stronger than the one that was robbing it.
I am using the new style Bee Max hive with a bottom board that has a strange new design that I have yet to figure out how an entrance reducer is supposed to be added, the standard reducers don't jive with the set up. I tack a screen over the entrance which gets the job done, but the designer must have had something in mind for an entrace reducer. I'm not sure if I like this design or not, but it does have it's advantages.
It sounds like what you did works on the same principle as the robber screen. The robbers are driven by scent and they can't directly get in through the screen where they smell the syrup. The "locals" are driven by habit and they know the way in and out.