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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all. I have been a member for a while but this is my first post. I have spent a lot of time on this forum just studying to learn more about bees. I had bees back in the early to mid eighties and quit because I started have reactions after I was stung. Four year ago a couple of our grandson expressed an interest in beekeeping so I geared up and started keeping bees again. I soon learned I no longer have a bad reaction after being stung which makes me more than happy.
Ok enough about myself and on to my question. I have bee laid up due to a foot surgery since middle of Jan. so I have been depending on my wife to kinda watch the bees. We have one hive that was weak going into fall so I gave them extra attention and care. I rode our lawnmower out to the hives this morning to watch them and the first thing I noticed was the telescoping top and the insulation boards had been blown off. The inner cover was still in place and glued down good. Of course I placed the covers on as they should be and backed off to watch for a while. There was quite a few bees flying around. My immediate thought was they were robbers so I closed the hive up tight. I return 30 minutes later to observe. I watch quite a few bees flying around the place where the entrance was but of course they were got getting in. I continued to watch and noticed the bees looked like young bees. I am not able put any weight on my foot so I am not able to get into the hive. I opened the entrance to one bee width and watch some more. The bees that were flying around went inside. In less than a minute I could see bees coming and going without fighting. I tried to watch them as the left the hive to determine where they went but because of lighting I was not able to follow them.
The hive next to them was very active. I have set out some frames of extra capped honey which the ladies are enjoying. I am hoping they are young bees and not robbers. Not being able to get into the hive I was hoping for a manner to tell if they are robbers are young bees. Any help would be appreciated.
Dan
 

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Until someone posts with better info, I'll mention a couple things that may or may not be useful.

1) If you see something that might be robbing, first you look for fighting, which you said wasn't happening. But a weak hive getting robbed out may not have (enough) guard bees to defend the hive (which is why they are getting robbed) so you might not see fighting outside of the hive.

2) Orientation flights go on for a few minutes, then it calms down like nothing ever happened. Expect to see it again the same time next day.

3) Robber bees who are trying to get into a guarded hive zig zag back and forth in front of the entrance, looking for the right time to dart in. Orientation flights are more loopy figure-eighty, at least to me. But you have to see both a few times to be able to tell the difference.

4)Robber bees leave loaded with honey, heavy. So you might notice them climbing up high on the outside of the hive before flying....An empty bee leaving their own hive just take right off.

5) After it's over, if you can inspect the hive, a robbed colony will have chewed up wax dust on the floor of the hive in stripes. Like, in between all the frames. And the frames will be empty, of course, and ragged. Robber bees tear up the comb in a frenzy, not like how they open honey cells in their own hive. They really trash the place.

6) I just thought of another consideration this time of year. Dead hives that still have stores in them will get robbed out by any bees that find them on the first warm days of the year. So, they might be your bees, or if you only have one hive they might be from down the road. Either way, it isn't an emergency, really, it's just a deadout getting cleaned up. If it's your bees doing it, so much the better, it strengthens them and Winter ain't over. And this time of year hives can fail from one week to the next, it will surprise you because you thought they were really strong, then they are dead, and getting cleaned out (robbed.)
 

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there should be a lot of pollen going into to hive at this time. if so, then not much chance the hive is getting robbed. if not, then there could be robbing going on without any fighting.
 

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Post a video if you want a useful answer.
 

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If you suspect robbing, get rid of the frames of honey you put out for them. Watch a youtube vid of orientation flights and see if it looks like that. Generally, they happen around the same time of day, so go look tomorrow at the same time. Orientation flights can look scary like robbing, but as c-bees said, they are more loopy. Once you see them a coupe times you will know what we mean. J
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
If you suspect robbing, get rid of the frames of honey you put out for them. Watch a youtube vid of orientation flights and see if it looks like that. Generally, they happen around the same time of day, so go look tomorrow at the same time. Orientation flights can look scary like robbing, but as c-bees said, they are more loopy. Once you see them a coupe times you will know what we mean. J
Thanks for your useful and helpful suggestions. I returned to the hive this afternoon and observed it for a longer time. The light was better and I could see the bees longer when they left the hive. They were acting just like they were earlier. I believe the hive is being robbed. I shut the hive up this evening and will watch it. It is unlikely they will be flying tomorrow if the forecast is close. Thanks again for the information
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Until someone posts with better info, I'll mention a couple things that may or may not be useful.

1) If you see something that might be robbing, first you look for fighting, which you said wasn't happening. But a weak hive getting robbed out may not have (enough) guard bees to defend the hive (which is why they are getting robbed) so you might not see fighting outside of the hive.

2) Orientation flights go on for a few minutes, then it calms down like nothing ever happened. Expect to see it again the same time next day.

3) Robber bees who are trying to get into a guarded hive zig zag back and forth in front of the entrance, looking for the right time to dart in. Orientation flights are more loopy figure-eighty, at least to me. But you have to see both a few times to be able to tell the difference.

4)Robber bees leave loaded with honey, heavy. So you might notice them climbing up high on the outside of the hive before flying....An empty bee leaving their own hive just take right off.

5) After it's over, if you can inspect the hive, a robbed colony will have chewed up wax dust on the floor of the hive in stripes. Like, in between all the frames. And the frames will be empty, of course, and ragged. Robber bees tear up the comb in a frenzy, not like how they open honey cells in their own hive. They really trash the place.

6) I just thought of another consideration this time of year. Dead hives that still have stores in them will get robbed out by any bees that find them on the first warm days of the year. So, they might be your bees, or if you only have one hive they might be from down the road. Either way, it isn't an emergency, really, it's just a deadout getting cleaned up. If it's your bees doing it, so much the better, it strengthens them and Winter ain't over. And this time of year hives can fail from one week to the next, it will surprise you because you thought they were really strong, then they are dead, and getting cleaned out (robbed.)
Thank you very much for the answers. They were very useful in helping me determine the hive was being robbed. I returned to the hive later this afternoon and watched them for a longer period of time. The flying around continued the hive was still taking place, I noticed more bees than normal climbing up the side of the hive before taking off. I suspect the bees were to weak to resist. I shut the hive up and will check it a couple of days. There is enough stores in the hive if any of the original bees are alive to live on if the weather does not get them. They are forecasting some of the coldest weather yet to within the next few days. It is good there are people as you that are willing to take the time to help others.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
there should be a lot of pollen going into to hive at this time. if so, then not much chance the hive is getting robbed. if not, then there could be robbing going on without any fighting.
I did not see any pollen coming into any of our hives today. I see now that they were being robbed. Thanks for your response.
 

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http://bushfarms.com/beesrobbing.htm

One issue is being sure they are being robbed. Sometimes people mistake an afternoon orientation flight with robbing. Every warm, sunny afternoon during brood rearing you'll see young bees orienting. This is a short lived occurrence. It usually lasts an hour or less. Robbing, on the other hand only ends for the day at dark or when the hive is empty of stores. The orienting bees will hover and fly around the hive. This is easily mistaken for robbers who also hover around a hive. But with practice you'll learn what young bees look like doing this. Young bees are fuzzy. Young bees are calm compared to robbers. Look at the entrance. Robbers are in a frenzy. Local bees might have a traffic jam at the entrance but they will still be orderly. Wrestling at the entrance is pretty much a give away, but lack of fighting at the entrance does not prove they are not being robbed, it just proves they have overcome the guard bees. One sure way to tell if they are being robbed is to wait for dark and close the entrance. Any bees in the morning who show up trying to get in are probably robbers. Especially if there are a lot of them.
 
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