This is my first year with bees: I have two hives, one from a package and one from a nuc. Both were doing nicely as of the inspection on June 28th. I'd added a second deep hive body to the nuc-bees two weeks before, and added a second hive body to the package bees on the 28th. The nuc-bees were building up well into the 2nd hive body by then. All seemed happy and content, both hive queens were present and busy. Life was good, and I went out of town for a spell.
I got back on Tuesday night and took a first look at the hives on Wednesday morning. I saw what I thought looked like robbing on the nuc-hive... lots of activity that had a stressful feel to it, and a lot of bees climbing up the front of the hive before taking off. Plus there was some fighting pairs and I saw bees dragging others out of the hive. I got a couple of entrance reducers and installed them in both hives... I figured if the robbers couldn't get into the hive they'd been robbing, they'd go to the house next door. The nuc-hive has an old bottom board that's not standard (I have screened bottom boards on the way, but they're back-ordered ) so I was having trouble getting the wooden reducer to fit. Sanded frantically, and got it to mostly fit with a slit where the larger opening is still open. I put in a couple of shims to block it.
Early Wednesday evening, I went back to check and saw this:
My husband said they were cooling the hive (he's new at this, too, but I didn't have a better explanation) and they seemed peaceful so we left them to it.
Yesterday morning I went back out and found more robbing activity, lots of frantic side to side flying, wrestling bees (not drones) and a few times I saw bees being carried off by other bees. This was happening with both hives, but to a much greater degree on the nuc-hive. There were many bees coming in and out of the crevice, so I got a piece of wood to block it. The bees still have access through the small reducer entrance beneath the piece of wood. Last evening we went to check them again and this is what we saw:
Here you can see what I mean about the piece of wood:
It almost looks like what I think swarming must look like. There doesn't seem to be any bees looking for alternative entrances around the hive; none at the back or any other seams. It wasn't that warm yesterday, but could they be over heated? My husband thinks that the robber band has swarmed and is trying to move into our hive... does that ever happen? Do other colonies ever try to move in on a hive? As far as we know, the next nearest hive is a mile away.
Also, I'm surprised about this whole robbing thing happening now. It's nearly mid-July and there are lots of flowers in bloom in the fields (we're on an old dairy farm with another farm across the road). The milkweed have just started blooming, so I wouldn't have expected robbing.
I've read here that some folks use robber screens. I'm waiting to hear if our local agway can order some 1/8 inch hardware cloth, no other store carries it (I called every one in the phone book). I got the wood & the nails ready, so just waiting on the screen. I've also read about using vicks vaporub on the entrances. When should it be applied? At night?
We're way up north in NY state with no beekeeping club within 75 miles, so we get all our knowledge from books & online. The folks who sold us the nuc are sweet, but are commercial beekeepers and not really available for handholding of newbies. We are extremely grateful to be able to come here and gather all the wisdom-nectar you good people so generously share!
Thanks for all the great info, and for any help with this - I'm going back out later today and will let you know what I find.