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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Location
    Springfield, Ohio, USA
    Posts
    459

    Default Why does open feeding set off robbing?

    Though I have not done open feeding, the fact that it can set off robbing in an apiary has always left me wondering just how the robbing gets started. I assume it starts out as a foray by foragers, who then recruit more. But, what "signal" is it that the robbers are responding to? Is it because in open feeding the bees will leave traces of syrup on the landing board that are detected by other bees, similar to what can happen with a Boardman feeder, or is there more to it? Are there other signs that come from a hive that is feeding that might draw robbers during a dearth?
    Pete. New 2013, 7 hives, zone 6a
    To study and not think is a waste. To think and not study is dangerous.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Gloucester, Virginia
    Posts
    157

    Default Re: Why does open feeding set off robbing?

    Dunno, I never feed my bees.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Laurel Hill, Fl
    Posts
    471

    Default Re: Why does open feeding set off robbing?

    Feeding can start the "search" for more food and other hives can smell the syrup. That said, I haven't had robbing problems when open feeding a good distance from the hives. I don't feed a lot, but when I do feed, I usually open feed 75 Yards from the hives. If I have a really weak hive, I wait till my stronger hives are engaged with open feeding, reduce the entrance and use frame feeders on the really weak hive and stop the frame feeder before shutting down the open feeding. I do feed in the middle of the dearth, and am starting to feed right now. I'll probably only feed for a couple weeks, just enough to make sure they make make it to the fall flow. If I've only got a couple light hives, I just give them a frame of honey from a hive with lots of stores.
    Robbin NW Florida(8A) / 14 hives / 2 nd Year / 4 TF - 10T {OAV}

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Sacramento, CA, USA
    Posts
    3,048

    Default Re: Why does open feeding set off robbing?

    It's more that new bees coming in only have a general area of where the food is. When they show up they will key in on any food source around and thus some bees find hives they think is the food source they were told about and robbing starts

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Greensboro, North Carolina
    Posts
    2,864

    Default Re: Why does open feeding set off robbing?

    It all has to do with how bees communicate the source of the foraging material, i.e. how they dance. If the food source is a distance away (been a while since I read Von Frich's work, but I think he said it was either roughly 100 yards or 100 feet, can't remember, with some strain variation), they do the typical "figure eight" waggle dance. This waggle dance notifies other foragers as to distance, direction, and concentration (or how good) the food source is from the hive. On contrast, if the food source is closer, the bees switch from a "figure eight" waggle dance to a circular waggle dance. The circular waggle dance doesn't give other foragers any idea about distance or direction, it simply notifies other foragers that "there's food out there, go get it." In a sense, it tells the hive that there isnt' any point in me telling you direction, you should be able to find it on your own.

    So when you open feed near the hive, the bees are recruiting using the circular waggle dance. Some of the foraging recruits may find the food source, but others may find another hive and start to rob. Additionally, when the food source runs out, the recruits still think there is more out there, so start searching within that radius only to find other hives, i.e. they start to rob.

    Quote Originally Posted by Beeophyte View Post
    Dunno, I never feed my bees.
    Very helpful response.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Location
    Springfield, Ohio, USA
    Posts
    459

    Default Re: Why does open feeding set off robbing?

    Thanks, all. I had been wondering if there was some sort of signal associated with a hive that had been bringing back syrup, but I had obviously been overthinking. The "hey...there's food to be had nearby, go find and get it!" makes much more sense.
    Pete. New 2013, 7 hives, zone 6a
    To study and not think is a waste. To think and not study is dangerous.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Evansville, IN
    Posts
    2,572

    Default Re: Why does open feeding set off robbing?

    Bees can smell honey for miles, and when there is nothing around for them to collect in terms of nectar (now, in fact!), they will hunt down honey by the smell and attempt to acquire it by robbing.

    I was greeted this morning by a large number of bees roaring around my back porch when I headed out to get the paper. Sure enough, there were quite a few bees investigating the cracks between some of my hive boxes and attempting to get into my hives. I reduced the entrances some more (got reducers on anyway, but now down to 2 or three bee width) and after half an hour or so they all went away.

    Open feeding sets off a huge rush of bees looking for the bonanza being reported by foragers -- after all, a couple gallons of syrup is quite a huge amount of "nectar" in one place -- and when the fighting starts from there being many hive's bees working the same spot, the bees that cannot get to the syrup or get run off will start doing their usual search pattern. If there is a hive that smells of honey or fermenting pollen, those foragers will attempt to get to it. Being older and much more aggressive than nurse bees, they often get in, and if they do, get loaded up with honey, and get back, they will draw huge clouds of robbers. The larger the amount of feed available and the closer it is to your hives the more trouble you will get.

    Worst thing about it is that once they find that mother lode of honey (your hives), they will keep coming back in the morning for days looking for it, so you have to protect your hives for quite a while. The harsher the dearth, the more robbing is likely.

    As I said, I had bees all over my porch this morning, a long way from my hives. They must have been out cruising for goodies, it's natural behavior for them after all.

    Peter

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