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I'm in my third year of keeping bees in the Catskill mountains of NY. I had 4 hives (now 3) the one lost due to robbing. As a new-ish beekeeper, i just want to alert new beekeepers to robbing behavior that I noticed and tried to stop but failed and lost a hive.

Last year, one of my hives swarmed. I was not equipped to catch and keep the swarm, so I lost them. Lesson #1 - if you keep bees always be prepared to catch and keep a swarm with equipment and a place to put them.

This spring, I put a super of honey out to feed my two hives when it was too cold to open them and put frames in the hives. BIG mistake. The swarm hive came back and learned my place was a place for free honey. I had robbing problems all through the spring and early summer. I made and put on robbing screens in the late spring and summer which seemed to work. I got lots of nice honey from the swarm hive. They seemed good in early fall, but then I noticed robbing behavior again in the swarm hive. I put on the robbing screen on again and later reduced the entrance. But when I went to put the winter wrapper/insulation on, I found the hive was empty - totally robbed out.

So the 2nd lesson - don't put HONEY frames out for free eating outside of the hive. Lesson 3, if a hive swarms, if you can, move it so the swarm hive doesn't know where free food is.

It's all so mysterious and is a learning opportunity every month of the year.
 

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I am sorry you lost a hive, but I think you are drawing an incorrect leeson about the "swarm" hive knowing the location of the old hive. (If that's what you meant.)

I do agree that putting out honey for common feeding is often a mistake, however. I always feed entirely within a hive that is protected with effective robbing screens from the git-go. I have put (warmed) frames of honey into starving hives in 25 F weather, but I prefer to use commercial winter patty or sugar bricks in low temps (if urgently needed) because they are easier to install, with less disruption in marginal weather.

Another lesson you might draw is to keep robbing screens on, rather than take them off in the late summer and fall.

Robbing is also a consequence of a weakened hive - often one weakened by mite pressure in the late summer and early fall. When you see robbing, you need to not only control it, but find out why it's happening, and correct that underlying issue if you can. Strong, healthy hives don't get robbed here in the northeast - they do the robbing, which is a natural species-level re-assignment of the available resources. But these days it also carries with it the liklihood of moving varroa from a weakened, crashing hive, into the raiders' colony, with all the ensuing disease issues that brings.

The other thing is without knowing the design of the robbing screens you made, I have seen some screens promoted on the internet that don't have a firm exterior framework on all four sides. The unframed ones are not as effective as the framed ones in stopping and really controlling active robbing. Take a look at robber screens in bee catalogues and makes ones that look like that - I think you'll find they work very well.

Still, if you have two hives which are well supplied, and free of mites and diseases now, you should expect to have them in the spring, too. And you can split one and re-populate your empty equipment with a new colony. A strong, overwintered colony is an amazing honey- and split-making machine.

ETA: If you haven't already done so, I think there will be a still be an opportunity sometime over the weekend to give the hives one last OA treatment, either dribble or vaporization during this, their broodless period. I think it is the most effective treatment in the entire year. And if you had robbing (either way) after or during earlier treatment, you can be sure your mite levels are up again. I am north of you, north of Albany, and I'm looking at temps above the minimum needed for OAV on several days over the next week.

Enj.
 

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I fed both honey off extracted frames and some partial filled frames openly and had no issues. I also fed maybe 15 gallons of sugar syrup openly and didn't have any robbing. It may be risky I suppose, but keeping it far away from any hives is important. A hive being robbed out is more likely weakened by other things and on it's way out. Having a proper size opening for the colonies according to their size and current conditions important, and robber screens on anything that is small and/or weak is always a good idea. A full size strong hive being robbed probably has a problem going on inside.
 
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