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Yesterday I made a few splits using frames with capped and uncapped queen cells. I have a serious problem with robbing at this location so I installed robber screens on the splits. I installed the robber screens around midnight when all bees were inside their hives. I am using the Ultimate Universal IPM Robbing Screen from Bee Smart.

My primary question is when the queens emerge and go out on their mating flights will they be able to find their way back into their hive through the robber screen? Should I remove the robber screens (and take my losses) until I have a laying queen in the hive?

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I have heard both to leave robber screens on and take them off.

Based on my experience I would remove them and reduce the entrance down to 1/2x1/2 (or small) so the hive can defend itself. Last year I had a robber screen on one hive with a new queen (split w queen cells) and the queen went drone laying only. I had 2 nucs with queen cells and robber screens that also did not work out. One of these nucs went laying worker, and the other one absconded. The 2 queens raised in a hive without a robber screens worked out fine.
 

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Hobo, I have a question: Is the worker bee of more intelligence than the queen?

All queens know how to get in if they came out, just as any other bee.
All my increase/breeder nucs have robber screens -- that or they become feeders for the production hives. Don't sweat it brother...
 

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The real question is - how many queens are you trying to mate and what is your tolerance to a failure?

Last year took me three attempts to mate a queen in a nuc (behind a screen).
I don't know why.
But - the bigger issue was - I wasted a season on that nuc - it did not have time to build up and failed over the winter.

So - IF you have lots of nucs and plan for failure on 20-30% of those nucs when mating - you don't care much and need not to sweat.
BUT if you are trying to mate 2-3 nucs only - a single failure is significant overall for your program and is a setback.

So - this year I will make it for the mating to be AS EASY AS POSSIBLE.
Among other things - this means no screens to make is as simple as possible - and so one less variable to worry about.
A single 1/2" or 3/8" or even 1/4" entrance is enough for a nuc to get by and defend OK.
 

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I’ve done some tinkering and a lot of reading about robber screens over the years and a lot of observation about what happens when they are on. The new bees come out of the hive and most of them immediately turn and go up even if an open entrance on the robbing screen is right in front of them. Here is where the potential for a problem can come in. Some robbing screens only have a really small entrance on the top of the screen with the bigger entrances on the bottom of the screen. That causes a horrendous road block as the new bees don’t know where the top entrance is yet and can’t find it because of all the other bees in the way. If that does happen to a virgin queen, she might not make it OUT to get matted. If she finds her way out, she will find her way back in though. The issue with bees being unable to get out is easy to fix. Simply cut the top opening the full length (or most of it anyway) of the robbing screen. Studies have shown that the robbing screen still remains highly effective against robbers when the top entrance behind the screen runs the full length of the screen. Since I changed all of my robbers screens to have large top entrances between the hive and the screen, I haven’t had any problems with bees getting out or robbing.
 

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I almost always have robbing screens on when I am sending queens out to mate. And I have read here of others who do the same with their mating nucs. But then, I have robbing screens on most of the time, even during a flow. The idea that there would be some kind of limiting bottleneck is false. Sure the day after you put them on there's confusion. But the solution to that is having them on early enough so everybody gets the idea.

Have you ever studied feral hives? They often have very small holes serving large populations - and often the path is not simply straight in.

Queens figure out their pathway - they have no concept of a "robbing screen" - they just learn their way (most likely by making orientation flights, just like other bees), and then use it when they go out to mate.

If you have reason to believe that the protection of screen will be useful, then put the screen on when you set up the mating nuc, or leave queen cells. By the time the queen is ready to go out there will a robust scent pathway to help her figure it out. The principal here is universal - don't go messing around changing things up with the hive when you're raising queens.

Nancy
 

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Aylett, VA 10-frame double deep Langstroth
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Ditto what Nancy said. I use robbing screens on almost all my nuc splits. Can't say I have ever had a problem. More importantly is to not change anything about the hive while the queen is still doing her mating flights. This includes setting another nuc next to it.
 

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Well, I can't speak for all types of robbing screens, but I use a common-enough design from a big national supplier. And as I mentioned it has two entrances - one is about 3/4 or 7/8ths inches wide (more than enough for two bees to pass through simultaneously) and another, more adjustable one, the lower edge that can be enlarged to 3 or 4 inches by using a sliding closure.

If I see a bottleneck, I adjust the entrance for a few minutes to resolve it. But never, ever, on a mating nuc during the period she might be going out mating. I don't even like to stand in front of the mating hives on those days! I just make sure that bees can come and go easily in the days before when the cell is maturing and then I leave everything as is.

If you've got a robbing screen with a too-small entrance, you can easily enlarge it and equip it with some kind of an adjustment tool. I have even used small flat stones set next to the upper hole when I have lost the little flippy door thingy. Bees are always nonplussed by the changes and easily adjust.

And they are quite smart about the business of bee-ing, including the high-stakes event of putting a queen out to mate. If it didn't work pretty reliably, no matter what the physical conditions at the hive entrance, they would have evolved another solution.

The wide-open, full-width entrance slot that is typical of Lang equipment is an artifact of box design - not at all what the bees would naturally chose, if given their druthers, I think. Some of my hives have only a single 3/4" hole for a top entrance and they do just fine. (I cover those holes with a square, screened box with a small notch in the top edge as a robbing screen. And I have a way to briefly open the bottom so I can drop out any corpses that accumulate within the robbing box/screen.)

I put great stock on a quiet, well-organized bee yard and my hives are very close together, so I need to remind everybody to go to their own house, and only, their own house.

I have spent hours watching from a spy-hole behind the hive at what happens inside when a foraging bee returns. There are guard bees on the inside surfaces surrounding, and facing, the opening, like spokes of a wheel. They watch intently. Each incoming bee pauses for a tiny fraction of a second. I think of it as flashing your ID badge at the guard as you go into work. There is a second set of watchers which are poised a few inches away. They are attentive to the guard bees and as soon as one of the guards challenges an incoming bee, the second set of guards moves towards the "problem". I can almost hear an announcement "Security to the front desk, please." Most of the time they resolve it amicably, but if the incomer is a bonafide intruder she is made to submit, just like a big dog makes a less-dominant one crouch down. Then she is crowded out towards the doors, or "attacked" and harassed if she won't go voluntarily. This is the normal situation, not when there is already heavy robbing in progress. I have never watched that, mostly because I don't have that going on. Perhaps because robbing screens are the norm in my yard. I take a lot of trouble when working the hives to reduce or eliminate robbing due to having the hives open. I never prop a frame out in the open against the hive. I keep all frames that have been removed in a closed-up quiet box, and I even have a quick cover to set on the top box of an openhive when my attention must be elsewhere for a few minutes. A box is never open, except when my hands are in it.

I fancy my bees like their screens because it lowers the guard bees' workloads. Even if you briefly take the screens off for some reason the home bees will follow their scent paths from their accustomed entrance to the actual opening in the reducer, even if you have also removed the reducer itself. It's pretty amusing to watch them toddling along their invisible lanes, when they could just walk right in.

Nancy
 

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Aylett, VA 10-frame double deep Langstroth
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Nancy, your observations regarding the bees' use of a robbing screen, or not, mimic my own. Indeed amusing to remove the screen and watch a bee land on the box 5" up and walk down to the now wide open entrance. Really, people need to spend a lot more time just watching their bees.
As far as the opening size, who sells a robbing screen that only has a 3/8" x 3/8" opening (one bee width)?
 

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Nearly all (99%) of my Anti-Robbing Screens have a slot over their tops, which can always be reduced to a bee-space with a scrap piece of batten if robbing should ever break out elsewhere and start to look ugly ...

But - this is the 1% :))) - which is not so much of a 'design' as a quick fix to a problem, but one which has turned out to perform rather well in practice:



I'd made a cover from domestic uPVC cladding to fit over a wooden beehive, and when it came to being commissioned I couldn't figure out how best to fit an Anti-Robbing Screen - so - I simply attached a piece of aluminium mesh to the cover, such that it hung down in front of the entrance. The central entrance slot is somewhere around 4-5", and the mesh is around 14" long, so there's a good overlap at either end.

I was particularly impressed at how quickly the bees took to using the 'side entrances', and there's been at least two supersedures with it in place, without any problems being observed.
LJ
 
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