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Greetings, All:
I caught a swarm of what appears to be Italian bees in early May. On June 21st I noticed that there were queen cells in the hive, so I made a split, removing the old queen to a new hive. Twelve days later, July 3, the original hive swarmed anyway. [First question: Why did this happen? Is it likely that a virgin queen would swarm like this? Did two queens emerge and battle with neither one winning?] I caught that swarm as well, and hived them up. Last weekend (5 or 6 days ago) I noticed that this last swarm was robbing out the hive from which it came. At that time I inspected both hives and saw no young brood or eggs. I assumed that both hives had virgin queens. I tightened up all the entrances on all my hives and that seemed to settle things down. There are no feeders on the hives at present.

Yesterday I made two small nukes and for reasons unclear this set off a new frenzy, involving the same hive. I closed up the new nukes completely to keep the robber barons from getting in. After dark, I put a wedge in the small entrance space of the robber hive, so I presently have most of them shut in. (When I reduced the entrances last weekend I came up with the wedge idea, for precisely this use.)

Next question: If I re-combine this hive with the one from which it swarmed, will that help eliminate this robbing and fighting? Or will I be creating a larger clan of bandits? Also, If I do this, should I find and kill the queen in the robbing hive, or just let them battle it out themselves? Does changing out the queen help in such a situation? To date, I have not seen either of these new queens. [Another idea--how about placing a queen excluder between the two hives? I don't usually use them, but in this case it could be an interesting experiment!]

I have a number of smaller hives and nukes and these robbers have been going after various hives at different times. I also have some smaller, regressed bees on natural comb, and these bullies have been seen carrying them off!

Some further background. I believe that I may have set off this robbing frenzy inadvertently when I placed some frames out in the hot sun about two weeks ago in order to warm it enough to scrape off the wax. It was after that time that I began noticing interlopers hanging around my weaker hives.

Although I had not previously fed my bees at all this year, just a few days prior to the robbing escalation I decided (naively, perhaps) that since some of the smaller hives (like this swarm!) were without ample stores, it might be a good idea to feed them now that the dearth is coming on. The weather here had been really hot and dry and many plants were showing signs of withering. (I now understand that this is not a good time to feed bees, precisely because of this problem.) I installed entrance feeders on every hive, thinking this would avoid conflict among the bees. This may have made things worse. (?) The robber hive, incidentally, was drinking syrup at the rate of over a gallon a day from their front feeder.

On the subject of feeding, is it a good or bad idea to feed communally, away from the hives at this time? Will this provide a distraction from robbing?

I have decided to leave this hive closed up for the day. I have a screened inner cover with a screened bottom board and the outer cover is propped up, so they are well ventilated. Depending on the response here, I would like to re-combine them with their original hive tonight. If it is a good plan to do so, should I close them up during the recombining, or should I leave the newly combined hive open, given the overall situation?

Also, I hate having to close down the nukes. I would like to open them right now, since the robbers will be closed for the day. On the other hand, there are undoubtedly a number of robbers trapped in those nukes. Should they be left in there -- forced to join the hive--by keeping them closed a while longer? In general, if it becomes necessary to close up the smaller hives again, for how long can they be closed? I am not a big fan of marshall law, but in this case it seems to work!

Thanks in advance to anyone who can offer advice on managing this situation. I look forward to reading your reply.
 

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Build some robber screens and use them. Italian bees are born to rob. If you have a water hose close when they're robbing spray(mist) them down good including the hive bodies. When making your nucs and splits do not leave them open, screen the opening and put the lid on as soon as you transfer a frame in. You can screen with a piece of #8 screen the width of the opening and bent into a vee shape and just pushed into the opening.
 

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When I make up nucs and splits, I don't make them up where I am going to leave them in the yard. I make them up by the parent hive and leave them open until dark. By that time all of the foragers (potential robbers) have left.

At dark I move the the nuc to it's new location and screen the entrance for a day. If robbing is already going on in the yard, there is no use making up nucs and leaving them in the yard (IMHO). I have robber screens for the nucs, but it is very stressful for all concerned, including me.
 

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When you make the nucs, how are you making them? I usually place two frames of honey on the outside and 3 frames of brood inside the honey frames. Robbing is a huge problem this time of year in SE PA. Once it starts it is nearly impossible to stop. Once the a strong hive with foragers know there is honey, syrup or nectar in a nearby weak hive they will attack it with everything they have.

The robber bees trapped inside the hives will usually assimilate.

Keep your entrance on new nucs about the size of one bee. Its better to have too small an entrance (as long as bees can get out) then too large.

Also from my experience in SE PA you WILL NEED to feed those nucs and small hives in order to get them through winter. If you dont the queen will shut down laying and you will have alot of old bees going into winter. Don't use external entrance feeders, those are the worst things you can use in July in eastern PA. Use an internal feeder, like a frame feeder or throw an empty deep on top and use an inverted pail or jar. Just make sure no bees can get into the hive from the empty deep.

Robber screens as another poster mentioned are also a great idea. You can make some with 1/8" hardware cloth. Good luck!
 
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