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  1. #1
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    Feb 2011
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    Big Stone Gap, VA
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    Default Why would a strong colony be targeted for robbing?

    Each year we have a robbing problem with my home apiary. Typically, nucs or smaller colonies are targeted. This year I moved the nucs to another location early. We were very conservative with our harvest and the other six colonies at this location had plenty of stores.

    The closet managed hives I know of are at least one mile away (as the bee flies). The robbers targeted a four eight frame medium early split hive. The bottom three boxes where loaded with bees. Very healthy. The top box was all honey. This was at the start of the GR bloom so I have no doubt they would have backfilled to be ready for winter.

    I reduced the entrance down, but did not install a robber screen. The hive eventually absconded. Any thoughts as to why a strong colony like this would be targeted?

    Shane

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Searcy, AR in the Ozark Foothills
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    25

    Default Re: Why would a strong colony be targeted for robbing?

    The Honey.
    Wasp are another critter that will rob a hive and do it quick.
    I use #8 hardware cloth bent length ways into a W.
    I place the Center cone of the W facing out and the wings are staples to the front of the hive and bottom landing board.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: Why would a strong colony be targeted for robbing?

    ts, was there any brood at all left behind? the few times i have had robbing were associated with queenlessness.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Why would a strong colony be targeted for robbing?

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    ts, was there any brood at all left behind? the few times i have had robbing were associated with queenlessness.
    Thanks Squarepeg,

    There was some brood left. Not a lot, but definitely some brood left.

    Shane

  5. #5
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    Feb 2011
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    Big Stone Gap, VA
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    Default Re: Why would a strong colony be targeted for robbing?

    Thanks Capt44,

    Would not it have been easier to target a smaller hive? Every time I witnessed fighting, it was always with another honey bee.

    Shane

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Plymouth County, MA, USA
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    123

    Default Re: Why would a strong colony be targeted for robbing?

    The reality is that much of what happens in nature or the universe isn't well reasoned out. Colonies, as a super-organism, demonstrate high levels of interaction and decision-making to the observer. And while often times those decisions are made on a complex set of conditions, other times it's simply a single queue in the chaos of a complex system - arbitrary but specific.

    Basically, something told whatever robbers were there that they needed to rob something. And without some more emphatic waggle from a forager about a better or more easily obtained food source, the robber colony simply got right to it.

  7. #7
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    Jul 2010
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: Why would a strong colony be targeted for robbing?

    interesting ts. just curious, but were these bees easy to work? by that i mean gentle, not aggressive, didn't require smoke and/or protective gear ect., and what strain were they?
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Roy, Wa
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    1,622

    Default Re: Why would a strong colony be targeted for robbing?

    I vote for queenless too.

  9. #9
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: Why would a strong colony be targeted for robbing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lauri View Post
    I vote for queenless too.
    i've learned to inspect when i see unusual fighting at the entrance. in most cases the hive turns out to be queenless. i'll bet the robbers are able to discern when there is no queen or brood, and perhaps the colony isn't as defensive without those to protect. maybe it's nature's way of not letting the resources go to waste.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Menomonee Falls, Wis.
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    2,697

    Default Re: Why would a strong colony be targeted for robbing?

    I vote with Square peg, failed or failing queen.

    Crazy Roland

  11. #11
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    Feb 2011
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    Default Re: Why would a strong colony be targeted for robbing?

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    interesting ts. just curious, but were these bees easy to work? by that i mean gentle, not aggressive, didn't require smoke and/or protective gear ect., and what strain were they?
    As far as easy to work with, average, definitely not aggressive. I handled them just like my other bees. They were 1/2 Italian. The parent colony was an Italian from another yard. The queen from this colony would have mated with all local bees.

    This colony had a larger population than the colonies around it. Presumable since they were Italians. My locals seem to run a lot smaller brood nests than the few Italians I have worked with.

    Shane

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Why would a strong colony be targeted for robbing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Roland View Post
    I vote with Square peg, failed or failing queen.

    Crazy Roland
    Thanks Roland and Squarepeg,

    Next time this happens, I will definitely check for a failing queen. And take better notes.

    Shane

  13. #13
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    Feb 2011
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    Big Stone Gap, VA
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    Default Re: Why would a strong colony be targeted for robbing?

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    i've learned to inspect when i see unusual fighting at the entrance. in most cases the hive turns out to be queenless. i'll bet the robbers are able to discern when there is no queen or brood, and perhaps the colony isn't as defensive without those to protect. maybe it's nature's way of not letting the resources go to waste.
    Next time I will absolutely check to make sure the colony is queen right.

    Shane

  14. #14
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    Mar 2011
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    Utica, NY
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    Default Re: Why would a strong colony be targeted for robbing?

    Quote Originally Posted by tsmullins View Post
    I reduced the entrance down, but did not install a robber screen. The hive eventually absconded. Any thoughts as to why a strong colony like this would be targeted?

    Shane
    Did you see the robbing take place? I am wondering if the reduced entrance had something to do with the bees taking off.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  15. #15
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    Dec 2011
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    Lottsburg, Virginia USA
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    143

    Default Re: Why would a strong colony be targeted for robbing?

    I lost one of my strongest colonies in late August due to robbing, one deep with four mediums. The two top mediums were full of capped honey the others with brood in all stages, I know this because I had just started sugar roll mite checks and this was the fourth hive that morning. Before I could complete the mite check bees from everywhere just homed in on this hive, I closed it up as quickly as I could with a 3/4 inch entrance but the robbers were soon balling the entrance and the ventilation hole in the inner cover under the telescoping cover, so I slid the top cover closed and closed off the lower entrance with a small piece of 1 1/2 by 3/4 timber, the ball of bees at the entrance promptly pushed the piece of timber off the landing board so I put it back and put a brick on it. The robbers continued to try to get into the hive for a couple of days then lost interest so I looked into the hive to see what damage had been done. Well between the outer and inner covers the space was filled with dead bees the space between the inner cover was filled with dead bees every space in the hive was filled with dead bees even the screened bottom was jammed up to the frames with dead bees. Of course the honey was gone and the wax was sort of melted in places. I figure that there were so many bees closed up in there that they died from their own generated heat and suffocation at least 10 lbs of dead bees. I think that bees of Italian decent when they smell honey are like sharks with blood in the water.
    John

  16. #16
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    Feb 2011
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    Default Re: Why would a strong colony be targeted for robbing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Acebird View Post
    Did you see the robbing take place? I am wondering if the reduced entrance had something to do with the bees taking off.
    I did see a lot of fighting at the entrance. At first, you would see a robber try to get in, and soon the robber would get balled, pretty much constant.

    Honestly, I have wondered if reducing the entrance had something to do with this colony absconding. I have a pic of a large ball of bees shortly after I put the reducer on. I searched for a queen in this ball, but not to the best of my ability. Next time I will move the hive and check for a laying queen.

    Shane

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Why would a strong colony be targeted for robbing?

    Quote Originally Posted by johno View Post
    I lost one of my strongest colonies in late August due to robbing, one deep with four mediums. The two top mediums were full of capped honey the others with brood in all stages, I know this because I had just started sugar roll mite checks and this was the fourth hive that morning. Before I could complete the mite check bees from everywhere just homed in on this hive, I closed it up as quickly as I could with a 3/4 inch entrance but the robbers were soon balling the entrance and the ventilation hole in the inner cover under the telescoping cover, so I slid the top cover closed and closed off the lower entrance with a small piece of 1 1/2 by 3/4 timber, the ball of bees at the entrance promptly pushed the piece of timber off the landing board so I put it back and put a brick on it. The robbers continued to try to get into the hive for a couple of days then lost interest so I looked into the hive to see what damage had been done. Well between the outer and inner covers the space was filled with dead bees the space between the inner cover was filled with dead bees every space in the hive was filled with dead bees even the screened bottom was jammed up to the frames with dead bees. Of course the honey was gone and the wax was sort of melted in places. I figure that there were so many bees closed up in there that they died from their own generated heat and suffocation at least 10 lbs of dead bees. I think that bees of Italian decent when they smell honey are like sharks with blood in the water.
    John
    Sorry to hear about your strong colony loss. Once, during a robbing frenzy, I took off the outer covers of all hives, except the one getting robbed. It was a temporary fix.

    The odd thing is, this hive being robbed had the Italian genetics.

    Shane

  18. #18
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    Jul 2011
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    McClure, OH
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    Default Re: Why would a strong colony be targeted for robbing?

    I would also vote a failing queen.

    The bees would target the weakest hive. Since you moved the easier targets away, this one was probably the weakest of the remaining.

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