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Bonehead mistake

2056 Views 6 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  Daddy'sBees
While mowing the lawn yesterday I saw a great deal of activity outside of a hive that has had problems with chalk brood and was weakish when I last checked it. I leaped to the assumption that they were being robbed and hurried over to install an entrance reducer and screen the auger holes.

This morning I go out to assess the damage. The hive is over flowing with bees. I think to myself did I screen the robbers in? But as I went through the top deep there was brood on six sides of four frames in a good pattern as well as much empty space that had the coloration of recently hatched brood.

So what I took at first glance to be robbing was probably orientation flights. I did not go through the bottom deep this morning but I did remove the reducer and screens. It now seems to me like the bees superceded their queen and the new queen is doing much better than the old.

While putting the screens over the auger holes I saw a lot of bees trying to get into the hive with pollen loads. Should this have been an indication to me that what I was seeing wasn't robbing?

The other hives in the yard (6) were all normally busy with bees coming and going but no exceptional activity. There was some robbing last week and one weak hive was cleaned out all together.

What should I have been looking for to correctly "read" what was going on?
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It likely wasn't robbing but you really have to watch the entrance for a while to make sure. Sounds like a busy hive. I have one like that right now. It's the only one that still beards at night even in this cooler weather. If you went by it around mid-afternoon, you'd think robbing or even swarming. A few hours later, things are quieter. By the way, if it was robbers, you wouldn't have screened them in unless you screened the entrance as well. If you do suspect robbers, try a robber screen. They work pretty good. If you're really not sure about robbing, screen them in at night and then go out in the morning. If you have bees heading straight for the hive, they're not paying a social visit...they're robbing. Then, you'll know!
I have had the same experience. Thought a hive with a bad chalkbrood problem that kept coming back was a goner. Then saw lots of activity when unexpected brood hatched. I didn't think it was robbing though because all activity was in front. While robbing may begin at the entrance, if you have a vigorous situation, many robbing bees will be trying to get in from the sides and in the back. In any case, I think I already had a very small entrance because of the weakness of the hive.

Isn't that a great feeling to realize that a hive you thought was not going to make it surprises you . . .Its like a boon.
Here in WNY, I've noticed that most of my hives have swarmed late morning on a nice day after a rain, that orientation flights look like mass confusion in the mid to late afternoon, and that robbing has an awful sound of its own. There will be an odd smell (alarm scent), bees will be rolling around on the landing board, and there may be many dead ones on the ground in front.

The hive will look and sound normal an hour after an orientation flight like nothing happened at all, but the robbing behavior can continue right until dark, well after most bees have gone home for the evening. During orientation flights, I can walk up and sit down right next to the hive and be totally ignored. If I observe robbing, I suit up like a nuclear cleanup gal before approaching the hive of very defensive bees!
I had a hive that was getting hammered by chalkbrood pretty bad earlier this year. I gave them a chance and hoped it would clear up, but knew they were in such bad shape I wouldn't get a crop.

A couple weeks ago when I pulled into that yard, I noticed a lot of bee activity at that hive. They had a beard up the front of the deep and the medium. I opened up the hive to discover a frame of eggs and brood, suffering from chalkbrood. Wax moths were starting to take over other frames. I cleaned up the wax moths cocoons and damaged combs and put the hive back together.

I hope the new swarm moving into the hive does better than the remnants of the chalky hive.
What should I have been looking for to correctly "read" what was going on?
Try dusting the bees with powdered sugar or flour. "White" robber bees will be seen re-entering their own hives.
Excellent point Michael! I'll have to remember that one for tracking or better yet, to see IF robbing is actually going on.
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