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  1. #1
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    Mar 2013
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    Lucasville, OH, USA
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    Thumbs down Geez, what now... robbing?

    Hi, all,

    And the excitement never ends! Checked in through the windows of both hives Friday evening, all looked good. Drove down to Lexington, KY for a wedding, got home this afternoon. I wandered out to the hives and saw a lot of activity at the entrances at both hives that looked like fighting! Quickly opened the window of Hive 1 and looked in--highly agitated bees and more fighting going on. Checked Hive 2 and found the same. My first thought at Hive 1 was that it was being robbed by Hive 2, but it looked like both were under attack. Dead bees under the entrances of both hives. Gotta be robbing!

    I went back to the house and suited up, grabbed the gear box and smoker. I'm not good with a smoker as we don't use it very often, but thought that I might need it so I grabbed it and tried getting it going. Out at Hive 1 I closed off the center entrance and put the entrance reducer in place in the entrance on the right as you face the front of the hive. I then loosened up the strap further and opened up the top.

    What I found there was more bees fighting. It appeared that when we did last week's inspection Rhonda had left a bit too much space between a few bars and bees could get through. There was a lot of propolis between most bars but not all, so there were bees trying to get in through the top. I opened up the top of the hive by pulling out some unused bars and saw that immediately after the initial burst of bees escaping the hive there were bees industriously hauling other bees up the side to the new "entrance" I had just made. While I had it opened I took a quick look in the feed bottles and noted that there was some crystalizing of the sugar, so I opened up the tops and scrapped out the crystalized sugar from the underside of the lids before putting the feeder back in. When I closed up the hive again I made sure that there werenít any gaps for bees to get through (some were still trying to get in) and that my follower board was moved in enough to not create a gap bees could get through where the third entrance was with its bung in place.

    I did the same in Hive 2 with the exception that the syrup in this one hadnít started to crystalize. I put it all back together and closed it up.

    All through this in both hives Iíd noticed that despite the agitation in both hives there were foragers carrying on business as usual, bringing back pollen to the hive.

    I went back out a couple of hours later and noted that there was still agitation in the hives and some fighting going on. Some bees were still at the newly closed entrances looking for a way in, some with yellow pollen packed into their baskets. I guess that there wasnít much else I could do and now itís just a matter of letting the hives kill off the invaders and hope that neither suffers too many losses. Their numbers were already down due to the requeening. This is just one more blow prior to winter.

    One thing that was interesting is that although Iíd brought out a smoker and tried to keep it lit, the bees were way too involved in dealing with the immediate problem to pay much attention to me. So thatís the latest. I donít think Iíll be able to check in on the hives during the day tomorrow so will have to wait until Tuesday to see what they look like.

    The fun never ends!

    Tom

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    St. Louis, Missouri, USA
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    626

    Default Re: Geez, what now... robbing?

    What a bummer! I sure hope their stores aren't depleted and the new queens didn't get hurt in the melee. Fingers crossed!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Lucasville, OH, USA
    Posts
    119

    Default Re: Geez, what now... robbing?

    Hi, Colleen!

    When I was dealing with it yesterday I pulled up a couple of bars and didn't see any cells that were uncapped; if they got anything it was syrup but don't think they got capped honey, or if so not much. Today when I got home I went out to look in the windows. In Hive 1 I saw that all dead bees had been hauled out. They were noisy, but I noted that there was lots of wing fanning going on. The population is quite depleted from what it was not too long ago, a combination of the requeening effort with the break in brood rearing and the battle losses. Hive 2 was much the same, though there were still a couple of battles going on outside of the hive. When I looked inside the window I saw two workers going after a drone, so I guess they've finally decided it was time to do something about them as well.

    We'll do an inspection this weekend and see how things are going. Temps are starting to drop overnight, with temps forecast to touch into the upper 30s in the coming week or so, with daytime temps dropping from 77 tomorrow to 57 on Sunday. We'll see how it goes! I'll be picking up tarps to use with fence posts to put up wind breaks before it starts getting too cold.

    Cheers,
    Tom

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Portland, OR, USA
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    642

    Default Re: Geez, what now... robbing?

    Tom,

    Sounds like you did the right things. Hopefully they make it! I lost a Langstroth hive a few weeks ago due to robbing (I wasn't there fast enough to save it). I know how it feels!

    Best,
    Matt

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Josephine County,Oregon,USA
    Posts
    141

    Default Re: Geez, what now... robbing?

    Hi Tango
    I had my first noticed robbing just a couple of weeks ago after 6 calm months. It was mostly at the entrance since when I looked in the window most bees were calm inside with just a couple running around like robbers. I had a front feeder in and the robbers were all around the outside of it but few could get in. I reduced the opening to less than 2 inches on the far side away from the feeder so that helped mine. It caused a waiting line outside,with my girls still finding pollen somewhere but most of the robbing stopped. Now that it's colder the "wild" bees seem to have given up the flight over here. No one for 10 miles has hives. The upside was that I got to observe some really cool solid black honey bees. I knew they were "around" and sort of hoped my daughter-queen would find a drone when she did her mating flight but my hive ended up with a nice mutt mix but no solid black. Those black bees are "survivors" and a breeder 100 miles away sells solid black queens and a gray striped survivor mutt variety too with really good resistance and overwintering. I didn't appreciate the ruckus the robbers caused but as far as I could tell little harm was done. SO Glad things worked out for you too! HB

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Lucasville, OH, USA
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    119

    Default Re: Geez, what now... robbing?

    HB, glad to hear that things are going well with you! I've not had time to check on things here recently.

    Here's an update on this end: it's not good.

    Rhonda checked the hives earlier this week, and said that Hive 1 is severely depleted, Hive 2 not as bad. That jives what I saw looking in the window recently when the bee inspector came by last week but without going into the hives due to weather. I ought to write up a short note on that! But anyway, between the break in brood and the deaths during the robbing I don't think Hive 1 has a chance of surviving but Hive 2 might if we combine them.

    Anyway, Sunday it's supposed to get up into the low 50s so I think we're going to commit regicide in Hive 1 and move the bars and the few bees that are left to Hive 2. As we've heard before "Take your losses in the fall, your increases in the spring." We're not happy about this--like most new beekeepers the idea of killing a laying queen is a sad one. But better one possibility of surviving than two almost sure-thing loss of both.

    I did a search and came up with a thread on combining top-bar hives with comments by Matt and Michael Bush indicating that confusion is a good thing, and heavy use of smoke rather than trying to do a newspaper combine. This is the way we'll go, because I want to possibly save the brood as well.

    It has been a heck of a year for beekeeping in general here in Ohio, according to our fellow beekeepers in our club, which has meant it's been quite a year for learning lessons. We'll probably be ordering packages for next year just in case.

    Cheers,
    Tom

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
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    Josephine County,Oregon,USA
    Posts
    141

    Default Re: Geez, what now... robbing?

    Hi Tango!
    I got a second hive set up this summer in case I had a second swarm this fall but it stayed empty. As it turned out I Might have had a very late swarm, but heck I couldn't tell! This year went almost from 105 to freezing nights and I only did one inspection getting All the brood to one end.Hive was full and sounded happy afterwards. Now that the days are in the 50s I'm just not going In. The bees were all over full 2 months ago but as soon as it got real cold at night all I saw was a little over half,clustered but still to the window. Now they've Really moved IN and I can't tell who is left;just glad they are all at one end! I saw one dying bee with wing virus too and am not real confident the majority is OK in there for overwintering. I started a thymol treatment in Sept. and it got too cold too fast for the third application. IF they make it I'll be overjoyed but I had the same idea as you. I'm ordering a package for my second empty hive to be Sure I have bees next Spring. If they go gang busters next year like the first group from this year I'll be prepared for a split next Spring or early summer IF my first hive doesn't make it. I'd rather have two full hives and possible swarming next year than have no bees at all or try to catch a wild swarm. My bees were sneaky when they left this year but I'll have a nuc ready too if I somehow have "surplus"!!! I'm sure not counting on it. Cheers. HB

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
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    Lucasville, OH, USA
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    Default Re: Geez, what now... robbing?

    Well, it’s done. We took a quick look through Hive 2 to identify the brood bars and to find the queen. We were very surprised to find an empty bird’s nest behind the follower board! We didn’t have bars over that part of the hive and the bird must have been small enough to get up under the top and into the hive. There was also a bunch of Asian ladybugs. We got rid of both and proceeded to look through the hive. We didn’t see the queen the first time around, but I realized I was hearing something different and realized she was piping! We were able to use the sound of her piping to find the bar she was on. We also found capped brood and larvae.

    We opened Hive 1 and confirmed that yes, they are relatively few in number compared to Hive 2; probably wouldn’t make up half a package. There was more nectar, pollen, and capped honey than we expected. There was still some capped brood and some larvae. We located the queen and Rhonda did the sad deed.

    We had left space open in Hive 2 next to the brood nest, and I smoked the hive while Rhonda brought over the bars with brood. I keep smoking as she brought them over. The noise level went up, as expected. After the brood we brought over the rest of it, smoking all the time. I do think that we may need to go back in should we have a good day and make sure the stores are all together.

    Looking through the window I saw lots of bees milling around, but no battles had broken out.

    So that’s it. We’re down to one hive. We’ll probably bring the empty hive in and put it down into the basement for the winter. Next year I’ll take the opportunity to move it to a better location, where it will get sun earlier in the day.

    A sad day for us, but we know it was the best thing we could do. I’m fairly sure that Hive 1 wouldn’t survive the winter no matter what, and Hive 2 would have been iffy. We’ve at least improved the odds of coming out of winter with a live colony, and that’s the best we could hope for.

    Next steps will be to put up a wind break and to put some insulation in the lid. We may also continue trying to feed, but with sugar instead of syrup. I don’t think they were taking much of the syrup anymore; it may not have been warming up enough during the day.

    What a year. I guess I’ll put in an order for new packages for spring!

    Tom

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    St. Louis, Missouri, USA
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    626

    Default Re: Geez, what now... robbing?

    Sorry to hear you had to combine, sounds like it was the right thing. On a positive note, all that drawn comb will give you a real head start next year.

    Because of my losses last year, this past spring I purchased only one package and despite losing a swarm they built enough additional comb to almost fill both hives. I split them to have 5 nucs but that was because I am assuming a loss level of at least 50% with being treatment free. I did mite testing a few weeks ago and due to the results am pretty sure I will lose the largest and smallest nucs. Of the the remaining three one was borderline and two were pretty good. I really like the queen in the borderline nuc so I hope they make it.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Portland, OR, USA
    Posts
    642

    Default Re: Geez, what now... robbing?

    Tom,

    Sorry about the loss. I do urge you to try baiting that empty hive in the spring, and getting your name on any local swarm lists that you can. I've had MUCH better success with swarms than I have with packages.

    Best,
    Matt

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Lucasville, OH, USA
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    119

    Default Re: Geez, what now... robbing?

    Well, so far so good with our remaining colony! We've had a couple of bouts of sub-zero temperatures here in southern Ohio, with the second one being last week. During the warm-ups afterwards we had lots of activity, with bees raiding the bird feeders and going after the cracked corn. I've put out a bucket with some syrup in it with twigs and sticks for them to land on during warm days but so far they've not shown interest in it. Today it's been into the low '50s. Bees all over the bird feeders and, when I went out to the hive, lots more activity around the hive than we normally saw during the past year with lots of bees hanging around the hive itself stretching their wings. So far so good, but we're just at the beginning of January so we'll have to wait and see how the rest of the winter plays out.

    Matt, I think what we're going to do is order a package from an Ohio supplier about 100 miles north of us. He gives the option of three or four pound packages and I think I'll go with a four just to help things get started quicker. We'll also go with his earliest delivery date. In the mean time, I have the wood (cedar) for a new hive and will be ordering one of your hardware/bar kits for it. That way if we get an early swarm we'll have a hive for the package and if we get the package first we'll still put out the other to tempt a swarm.

    Cheers,
    Tom

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
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    St. Louis, Missouri, USA
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    626

    Default Re: Geez, what now... robbing?

    I'm really happy to hear they are still alive! I've lost two out of five plus another has a small cluster. I thought I had lost my nuc with the lowest mite count but they let me know when I cracked the nuc that they are very much alive. Guess they are just a quiet cluster.

    How were yours set for pollen last fall? Sounds like they are looking for some collecting the corn and seed dust.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Lucasville, OH, USA
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    119

    Default Re: Geez, what now... robbing?

    Hi, Colleen!

    Sorry to hear about your losses. Mine were so-so for pollen at the end of the season, same as with honey. I think that with the cracked corn they may be going for protein or fructose from it. They really do seem to concentrate on the corn; when I watch them they're usually digging out the other types of seed to get to the corn and they spend a lot of time wrestling with the kernels and it appears feeding through the end when it connects to the cob.

    Regards,
    Tom

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Josephine County,Oregon,USA
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    141

    Default Re: Geez, what now... robbing?

    Hi Tango and Colleen too! I'm happy you both still have some of last year's bees going!
    My bees have made it in a Very small cluster through 6 weeks of 20 degree and lower days this winter and NOW we'll see if they can make it through a month or more of pouring rain. They are so few they have lots of combs of half or more honey still, so no food worry here. The good news is that they act so normal I think they Must still have a queen. Any day that's sunny and 50 or better, they come right out dragging the dead and doing cleansing flights but nothing like the summer numbers....not even half. To be safe I ordered a package for my 2nd,new empty hive,and I'm prepared to watch them and split the new package if it doubles in a month like last year's(if I lose my first hive).
    My gosh I got a package for $83.00 last year and this year they are $130.! YIKES. The western drought must have socked package prices for the sellers nearest to me.
    I need to "practice" luring swarms this year cause if I lose my hives I can't afford to buy them Again! I guess that's motivation for making boxes in advance. Best to ya. HB

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
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    St. Louis, Missouri, USA
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    626

    Default Re: Geez, what now... robbing?

    Quote Originally Posted by HappyBeeing View Post
    To be safe I ordered a package for my 2nd,new empty hive,and I'm prepared to watch them and split the new package if it doubles in a month like last year's(if I lose my first hive).
    My gosh I got a package for $83.00 last year and this year they are $130.! YIKES. The western drought must have socked package prices for the sellers nearest to me.
    I need to "practice" luring swarms this year cause if I lose my hives I can't afford to buy them Again! I guess that's motivation for making boxes in advance. Best to ya. HB
    Wow! That sure is a monster price jump. I got nervous and ordered an "insurance package" again this year. The price went up but only from $90 to $96. Mine are out of Louisiana though. It was as close as I found to local without going to a nuc. $130 is alot for a package.

    I considered not ordering one and hoping for a swarm but decided I really wanted to get some honey this year so I didn't want to risk not having bees. As it stands two of my colonies look like they are going to make it so I may go get the package and install it at a friend's place. (Downside is it is a several hour drive to the pickup but the bees were in great shape last year and really got to it. So much that they swarmed but one if the daughter queens is my colony with the lowest mite count.)

    Hope we all manage to get some through! (Or that they make it despite us!) I've pretty much finished my new hybrid nuc (putting the roof boards on this weekend to complete it) but now I need to get working on a new hive.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Dover, NH
    Posts
    67

    Default Re: Geez, what now... robbing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Colleen O. View Post
    I'm really happy to hear they are still alive! I've lost two out of five plus another has a small cluster. I thought I had lost my nuc with the lowest mite count but they let me know when I cracked the nuc that they are very much alive. Guess they are just a quiet cluster.
    I just got done watching a video by Michael Palmer about raising bees in Vermont. He talks about the best bees for the cold north as having a quite cluster. Here is the part of the video that he talks about them Keeping bees in Frozen North America 12:47

    If this nuc, with its lowest mite count and quite cluster makes it through the winter, I would try to make splits from that nuc.

    Last year I purchased my first packages from Texas. I knew I wanted to requeen with a northern raised queen, and the bees from texas were pretty mean, so I couldn't requeen fast enough. I got a few queens from Vermont, and they have been wonderful. Very gentle, acceptable mite counts, and a small, quite cluster. One of the queens I got from Texas was very productive (Her girls drew out 18 bars of comb in a gold star hive between May 1 and June 15, doubling the amount of comb the other packages) I decided to keep her in a small split. They built up like crazy and they swarmed when I wasn't paying attention (I should have checked her before leaving for vacation).

    Anyway, her daughter is a lot nicer, and has a quite cluster, so she must have found some northern genes to mate with. Her cluster is almost twice the size as my northern queens tho. Also, the northern queens bees have taken cleansing flights in the upper 30s on a sunny day, and I dont expect to see this hive out until its about 50 (based on her mother)

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Lucasville, OH, USA
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    119

    Default Re: Geez, what now... robbing?

    Hi, All!

    HB, glad to hear your colony is hanging in there. Rhonda and I did a hive check while the bees were out raiding the bird feeders today since it got up to about 62. We found the bees are doing great, still have quite a bit of honey and pollen; we did see bees feeding in cells and some that were uncapped. We also spotted the queen, but we didn't see any brood just yet. That's fine with us as we have another dip in the temps coming over the next week.

    We've ordered a package for our empty hive for an April pick-up. I For some reason I thought the guy was a local (Ohio) breeder if you will but it turns out he isn't. When I mentioned the name of the apiary at the last bee club meeting the guy I was talking to winced. Not good. But the seller had a four-pound option that we went with since we have comb ready for use in the hope of being able to a split early on. I've been toying with the idea of putting a bar of brood in with the new package if our current hive has plenty at the time. We'll see.

    Hanging in there for a few more weeks!

    Cheers,
    Tom

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    St. Louis, Missouri, USA
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    626

    Default Re: Geez, what now... robbing?

    Yeah! Glad to hear your bees are looking like they will successfully overwinter!

    I've got two colonies left but they both are looking really good and I think they will make it. I only want to keep two to three hives with a couple nucs so if they both make it I am in good shape. Mine both have small patches of brood going. I actually saw some newly hatched bees in the Buckfast colony when I checked this week which is encouraging because it means new bees are supplanting the old winter bee losses. They have honey still that is close to the brood patches so I am not too worried about the colder weather coming this week. Especially since they were able to take cleansing flights most of the week.

    If I remember correctly, this queen of yours is locally mated?

    It has been interesting how the different colonies do. My Minn Hygienic X Missouri Mutt queen's colony is definitely hygienic. They have the lowest mite count and when I put a bar that had some chilled capped brood from another colony they immediately got it uncapped and removed. They went through most of their honey though, which is why I put some in, but this week with the flying weather they look like they were putting up nectar from somewhere. The Buckfast colony that is remaining surprised me because they had the worst mite count of all. I haven't seen DWV problems with them, and their colony doesn't appear to have had the heavy cold losses the other Buckfast colonies did (they had a much larger cluster going into winter though). They also were REALLY frugal with their stores. They only have gone through maybe a third of their honey despite having a larger cluster. When both of these colonies build up I hope to take these queens out and start nucs with them in the hopes of keeping them and getting a mix of their genes in their daughters.
    3rd yr - 1 KTBH & 4 KTBH nucs - TF - USDA Zn 6b

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