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How to stop robbing

2819 Views 14 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  VodoBaas1
I know this has been asked and discussed many times on this forum. But I thought
I would ask it again just encase someone has come up with a miracle cure.

I have 10 full hives in this yard. So far today I have had to put robbing screens on 5 of them.
The robbers hit one hive and I screen it. Then they move to the next hive and start robbing.
I screen it and so on. I have 10 nucs just 100 yards away from this robbing and I know it is a matter
of time before they find them too. I have all the hive entrances down to pencil size and I am not
feeding anyone. The nucs are at a stage when a newly hatched queen will be taking her mating flights
in just a few days. So if I close the nucs up completely they won't be able to get in or out for mating.

This is early for robbing here.

If I can not stop this I will loose all my nucs plus at least half my full hives in the yard. The only thing I
can think of is to scatter them to other locations. But man what a hassle to accomplish that. :ws:

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Hi Goat Man.A gift from me on the matter - Swap the locations of the colonies.This happens during the day when you're sure which colonies involved in the theft.
Put robber screens on all of them, rather they are being robbed or not. Robber screens with reduced entrances are the best, as you are doing. If the robbing is drastic, and can not be stopped, and the robbed is in danger of being over taken, I've taken the robbed to a new stand and left a box of combs with small amount of honey in it's place. The robbers keep coming to the bait until it's all robbed out. I've heard of others covering the robbed with a wet sheet, but have not done that one myself so can't comment on it.
I've mentioned this before but haven't had the need to try it:

The state Apiarist in Maine suggested that if you have robbing occurring in your yard and are sure the culprits are your own bees, pull the covers completely off all the hives in the yard. It puts every hive, including the robbers, into a defensive posture.

Strange happens here. I just went out to check the robbing. i have 5 robbing screens crammed with bees trying to get in and out on each.
The air is full of bees too. and 2o feet from the hives, 10ft up a tree a cluster of bees is forming. Softball sized right now but growing.
Did i interupt a swarm in progress and thought it was another hive being robbed? Who knows. I am thinking if it is a swarm the queen did
not get out before I closed up the hive and the bees that did get out don't know what to do now. I set up a baited box close by to see if they will go into it as dusk. I hate this time of year, I feel helpless. I have no idea how commercial guys keep up with this. I guess they just let it happen.
Even if I stop it today, won't they just start up again tomorrow?
I have two very large colonies sitting next to the divisions (splits) from another colony which are much smaller in size. These were cut down splits (and the re-splits from one of those when I was trying to fix my initial splitting mistakes). As such I had four small colonies next to my two big girls (four deeps in one colony and a single deep and six mediums in the other). I put TWO robbing devices on each of the smaller hives after a few hours when it was clear I was going to have a problem.

The inner one is essentially an entrance reducer/mouse guard made of perforated metal. I had it closed down to about a one and half bee width. The outer anti-robbing screen is a more traditional wooden frame with bee-proof screen front and closed down to within a one-bee width. Even after several weeks there were times when there were lots of bees inside the outer layer, but close watching showed that they were just trying to get out, not in to steal some honey, Probably orienting young bees, not robbers. Occasionally when it got too crazy I would take off the outer device briefly and release the bees and let them find their way back in after their flights, which they always did by nightfall.

Of the four smaller colonies one was always queen-right (the original queen), and the other three attempted to make their own. Two of the those three didn't have young-enough eggs/larva for successful conversion to queens (totally operator error) and were eventually recombined with their queen. The fourth made emergency cells (how many I do not know since I was so gun-shy from fouling up the original split that I stayed completely out of the hive the whole time) and a queen was hatched, got herself out and mated and is now laying up a storm, even though the anti-robbing devices were always on her hive through out this process. In fact one is still on and will remain so until her first round of brood hatches and it is large enough to defend it itself once again. The original queen who was just newspaper combined with the last of her failed splits a week ago today should be big enough to be on her own again some time this week.

The experience has made me a believer in a preventive anti-robbing strategy when you have unequal-sized hives in close proximity. It's amazing to me that robber bees are deterred by the screens/frames so well, but they are. Even when their own hives have identical devices. (Though to be one the safe side with my homemade robbing screens, I locate the reduced entrance point in different parts of the framework, so they aren't exactly the same.)

You may think that having a small entrance would result in massive traffic jambs, but the bees seem to cope quite well. My largest hive (1 deep + 6 mediums) is a resolutely top-entrance colony. And that enormous quantitity of bees comes and goes out of a single 1" diameter hole. They do have a conventional lower entrance but it is rarely used, perhaps one or two mortuary and hive-cleaning bees an hour use it. My point is that the bees will get used to quite small entrances, and perhaps may do quite well with robbing screens in place for most of the time. That assumes, of course, that there is other, screened, ventilation capacity beyond the clamped down entrances.

I have toyed with the idea of leaving the outer anti-robbing devices on all the hives most of the time to allow the bees to become accustomed to them. That way in a dearth, or for some other reason, you'd only have the transition to a much-reduced hole, not the sudden imposition of the full screen itself. Seems as if it might make for less panicky confusion.

The reason I use two devices is that it increases the control points for the guard bees. They usually have some stationed outside on the face of the hive near the entrance point. Then there are guards patrolling the space underneath the anti-robbing screen and near the entrance reducer. And I assume there are addtional guard bees just inside there waiting to dispatch any (un?)lucky bee that has managed to get that far. Also if I have two devices on, the outer one can be removed briefly without exposing the entire entrance.

We had a brief mini-dearth a few weeks ago, which was a practice run for late summer when robbing season gets underway in earnest. I was caught out by it last summer (my first year - who'd have thought my sweet girls would morph overnight into hardened honey-felons?) but this year I will have the screens on every entrance and be ready for the inevitable attacks.

Edited to add: I run screened bottom boards over solid bottom boards to allow for sticky boarding all the time. I make sure that the sticky board slot is carefully bee-screened because I found the hives stayed calmer when robbers were kept away from under the screen floor of the hive. I also have ventilation shims with a wide-variety of ventilation holes in them. These are generally screened on the inside to keep bees from using them as alternate entrances. I have taken to double screening them from the outside as well, just to keep robbers farther away from the hive interior. I want my bees to feel secure within the hive and to focused their watchfulnees on the actual entrance points. A side benefit is that I am seeing wax moths caught on the outside of the double screening which makes them easy to find and dispatch.

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I've mentioned this before but haven't had the need to try it:

The state Apiarist in Maine suggested that if you have robbing occurring in your yard and are sure the culprits are your own bees, pull the covers completely off all the hives in the yard. It puts every hive, including the robbers, into a defensive posture.

First year bee keeper here, and spent the afternoon getting first hand knowledge of robbing. My three small splits, with queen cells were looking poorly and we seem to be in a dearth. So I put in frame feeders. Activity increased greatly. I traced bees back to my other hives. I have added bent window screens which seems to have helped a lot , my question if you pull the tops , how long can you leave them off. And after you reinstall them doesn't the robbing start again?
I believe it wasn't so much a cure as to buy you time to install robber screens, etc.

Creating mayhem seems to have worked for me. I swapped hives around and swapped frames around. No one seemed to know where they belonged and everyone was trying to find home. After a day or two, it all calmed down and my weaker hive is now much stronger since they seemed to have gotten most of the foragers.
The topic comes up about five times a day... try a search? Here's some info:
give them frames with capped broad that is ready to emerge that would make the nuc stronger
I think the comment about it unusual for robbing this time of year and the bees on the branch are telling.....
Today things seem to be back to semi-normal. I removed all the robber screens and reduced the entrances a bit. The heat has
some colonies bearding on the front porch as of noon today.
I believe I have located the offending colony. Most of my colonies are in 3 or 4 medium supers right now. I only use
mediums. Thanks Michael. The offending colony is in 6 supers. Full of bees, brood and lots of honey.
What do you think about harvesting some honey and splitting up the big colony in say 2 or 3 splits? Just equalize everything in the splits. That should
make them more defensive and less offensive, I think/hope. There is still time to have the split queens hatch and mate before all
the drones are gone for the year. Heat index here today is 105 degrees with 75% humidity. So I only have a couple of
hours each morning to work the bees before the heat runs me out of my protective clothing. After a few minutes working a hive I look like I fell
in the river. And sweat is running off me and onto the bees! But I love it, right?
Watcha all think?? :scratch:

Thanks all,
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Wat is it telling, hireal?
5 colonies were getting robbed at the same time.
I shook the tree cluster, about the size of a grape fruit, into an empty hive and left it there for the night.
Checked it today and most all bees were gone. Either they went back to the hive as I closed
off the exit. Or they went off to nether nether land. :)
enjambres, I would be interested in seeing your setup if you have any pictures.
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