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Cleaned out by robbers. What to do?

2126 Views 7 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  jajtiii
I tried to figure out if one of my TBH nucs was being robbed and it didn't take me too long. These are the details:

Upon inspection I found absolutely no honey OR nectar. I found the queen and she seemed like she was in a daze! (Anthropomorphism again.) Also a very spotty brood pattern and maybe 6 drones. Some dead bees on the floor and very few nurse bees around. I found some emerging bees dead in the cells here and there and larvae at various staged dried and blackened in the cell and on the floor. Stone brood, chalk brood, chilled brood - I don't know. I did figure out this was one weak colony! A knowledgeable beek told me to shake in some bees, add a comb of brood and feed.

I did not put in the brood or bees- but I had already given them a 1/2 comb of honey from another hive the day before. I found it being consumed when I placed in a comb I filled with syrup. Well, that did it. No use to shake in any bees. And absolute robbing frenzy ensued. I figured this nuc was done. I left in the syrup, (Maybe I should have backed up and removed it. The robbers would have left when they finished the honey. But I figured these were all my bees anyway so it wouldn't make much difference.) screened up the entrances to stop the madness and walked away for the day. Michael Bush writes that maybe this would "force the robbers to join the hive". This is a neat idea, but at this point, it doesn't look that way. I haven't looked in today yet, but I'm expecting a cleaned out hive and a dead queen.

My question is this: What are the next steps I should take to salvage whatever is left - some capped brood here and there, the nurse bees?

Should I move this hive to another location for a week to discourage robbing of the new split I plan to put in its place?

If the queen is still alive, how should I utilize her? I have four nucs the same age as this one and one very strong colony I plan of doing an even split on today. I am only at this location on the weekends so this would probably limit my options.

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I don't know anything about TBH, so I can't tell you functionally how to do any of this.

The easiest and fastest way to save the hive is to move it. But you have to have a place to take it. Robber screens do work. Basically you have a screened gap (1/2") between the outside world and the entrance to the hive, with a small real entrance off to one side of the hive. The robbers try to get at the entrance that they can smell. The bees on the inside do stack up for a while but will find the path to the real entrance and will return there (mostly). This isn't perfect but can help a lot.

As far as robber bees joining the hive. I think that it can happen but not quickly. Quite a few years a go when I was first starting to raise winter nucs, I set them up with feeders after the flow (dearth). Viscous robbing ensued. During the height of robbing I screened the entire entrance closed. It started raining that night and continued for a couple of weeks.

At some point during the rain I pulled the screen (this was quite a few years ago, so I don't remember for sure). When the rain started subsiding I walked down and pulled the lid on the nuc to see what kind of damage has occurred and was shocked to find the nuc stuffed full of bees. Where did they come from? They all seemed to be getting along. I suspect that if they started flying the robbers would follow their homing instinct and return to their old home, so I drove them to another area for a month and they lived happily ever after.

After I posted that on here I think an ethical discussion started about driving a pickup with nucs in the back that had a frame of brood and queen and feeder and empty frames to the nearest commercial yard and letting the robbing start. In the middle of the afternoon, close up all of the nucs and drive home.
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After I posted that on here I think an ethical discussion started about driving a pickup with nucs in the back that had a frame of brood and queen and feeder and empty frames to the nearest commercial yard and letting the robbing start. In the middle of the afternoon, close up all of the nucs and drive home.
Thank you for your post, beedeetee. And the idea in your quote above is really wild! Of course, you wouldn't know what the hell you were getting if you did that, but you'd have some ready-to-go-hives!

Good idea to drive the hive to a new location. Might have tried it if I had heard about this idea sooner. (That's where some good neighbors come in handy!)

I couldn't stay very long at the yard today and I had to leave the hive to fend for itself. I really did not know what other actions to take - this is my second season with bees. I took off the screens and that was it. There were very few nurse bees left in the hive - maybe a few hundred - so these girls were essentially finished. I feel badly about this, not only because I feel in some way responsible for the health of this colony and its demise, but it's also a difficult financial loss too.
As I posted in another thread, robbing is the worst part of beekeeping for me. It is nature at work, but everything about it bothers me.

As a beekeeper you need to learn when your times with no flow exist and plan for them. After robbing starts, it is very hard to impossible to completely stop. So stop feeding weak hives and move capped honey to them from strong ones. Screen entrances down to a minimum. Don't open the little hives when you might break capped honey comb that will attract robbers.
I have just realize my hive was robbed too. Also learning many mistakes I have made. My Hive 2 (weak) now has a entrance reducer on it, 3 inch, and I will take a couple of frames of honey from my strong Hive 1.

These hives are 15 feet apart. Hive 2 is hauling in pollen this am but the loads, but I still will feed - don't think any flow.

Did I create the robbing situation by being sure the weak hive had lots of syrup while the strong I let alone longer? Think I know the answer. :(

If strong hive is loaded with honey will it keep robbing?

I'm afraid this post helped but also brought up more questions for me. Hope this isn't rude to throw in all my questions here - like interrupting??

Thanks for any help. Love this site!
When you move frames of honey from a strong hive to a weak hive in a dearth and they're 15 feet apart you're going to have robbing. The strong hive's scent is on that frame of honey. They know it's theirs and will rob to get it back. Moving the weak hive or adding a robber screen will help. Bees are greedy and won't stop robbing in a dearth even if their hive is full of honey/nectar. A temporary calm can be restored with a water hose and net but robbing is likely to resume later.
You are now in the catch 22 where if you feed you will set off more robbing and if you don't they will starve.
I'm right in the middle of this situation now. I started two splits for two new special queens that were made available to me about 2 weeks ago. Although I had seen folks say 'don't give them a frame of honey' when talking about creating a Nuc, I had never understood why and, when a frame of honey came up while I was building one of the Nuc's, I just dropped it in there (thinking, here's some extra food for them!)

I have now learned the lesson through blood and fire and will not do that again. Not enough bees to defend all that honey, from bee or other pest. It amazed me the number of robbers that came pouring out of that hive when I found it being robbed.

I have moved them to a new location, some 25 miles away and the robbing has stopped. We'll see if they recover.

Although I may be wrong, I have decided to start moving all of my established hives out to remote locations. One of the biggest joys for me is checking on my younger hives and seeing what they are doing. I cannot do that now, as even opening the top of a hive brings in several squadrons almost immediately. I am going to try to get my home yard down to just 1st year hives. I am hopeful that this will make inspections less dangerous for the inspected.
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