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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am not sure if I have robbing or a flush of new bees. Here is what has happened the last 2 days:

Yesterday morning I placed a new box on a hive, and moved one frame up into the new box. In doing so some honey cell were ruptured. I did not inspect the entire hive, but think there was plenty of capped brood.

Yesterday afternoon about 5 PM there were a lot of bees around the hive, entering and leaving. I could not determine if they were fighting, but there were not a lot of dead bees in front of the hive. I was anxious about robbing and reduced the entry to one bee width. The mass of bees flying around reduced (cause and effect? maybe not).

Today I have the same thing happening at the same time. Now I think it is probably new bees orienting, but am not sure. I just closed the entry completely, under the theory that if it is robbing it will stop, and if they are new bees on orientation they will beard on the closed entry. Do not know if that is a valid analysis or not.

I guess the real issue is: How do you tell if it is robbing or orientation flights?

Any advice?
 

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Well one way is to observe the flight paths. Orientation flights have a large percentage of the flights doing a figure of eight circuit within about 20 feet of the hive. Robbers fly out, do a part of a circle and bee line for their hive.

Pull the entrance reducer and observe the bottom board; if it is robbing there will be rough cell fragments, whereas in normal activity it will be cornmeal sized wax particles and neatly removed discs of cell caps. Robbers hack, slash and dash! Unless it is a very weak hive there will be dead bees on the ground.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Update: About 30 minutes later. Most of the bees have quit flying around, and are gone. Only a few bees at the closed entrance of the hive, no bearding. If it is robbing I expect it is due to one of the adjacent hives.

Looks like I need to get into the hive tomorrow and see what is going on. Thanks, Crofter, hope I can tell the difference. I do not think it was a particularly weak hive, and no dead bees outside.

Maybe I am just unnecessarily worried. I have lost hives to robbing before.
 

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Aylett, VA 10-frame double deep Langstroth
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Grab a lawn chair and a couple of beers. Sit off to the side of the hive and observe. (I so want to say "Grasshopper"). Orientation flights generally take place in the late afternoon and will last for up to half an hour, after which it is business as usual. Robbing on the other hand starts as soon as the bees figure out a weak hive has honey they can't defend and lasts until dark. It is frantic and there will be fighting until all the guard bees have been killed. Robbing bees often climb the face of the hive before taking off because they are loaded down. You can also look at your comb. When bees rob out another hive, they tear the capping off the comb leaving very ragged looking edges. But again, just watching the bees' behavior will tell you alot and it is very relaxing.

Edit, Frank beat me to it, but my answer includes beer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
(I certainly deserve 'Grasshopper')

Update: Opened the entrance slightly, a mass of bees was waiting to get out. Watched for a while and am convinced they are new bees. Yay!

Will still look at it in the next day or so.

Thanks, everyone. I will sleep better tonight.
 
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