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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I added some robber screens two nights ago because one of my hives is queenless, and I realized that I couldn't tell if they were being robbed, or just exuberant. Better safe than sorry I added.

The articles I read mentioned that the bees may have some trouble figuring it out for the first week or so, but that they'd work it out.

Today I saw a lot of activity at the screen -- bees going in and out the right way, but lots trying to go through the screen or come up under it. I noticed quite a few going under the bottom board too and I was a bit concerned they had found a way through the screened bottom board. To double check, I stuck my camera under there tonight and discovered quite a cluster hanging out.

Bee Wood Honeybee Membrane-winged insect Beehive

It's dusk here so I'm fairly confident they're home bees, but I'm thinking they plan to stay the night out there. Do I need to be concerned they'll eventually starve? Temps are supposed to bottom out at 55 tonight, but it looks like they have enough company to keep warm. Should I open the screen and usher them in? Do I need to be concerned that since they are queenless (they possibly have a virgin by now) that group at least may decide to vanish? Or should I just let it work itself out?

Thanks

Keith
 

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I keep the undersides of my SBB inaccessible to bees by screening them off to prevent what you show in the picture. It's too late to mess with them tonight but I would make that change tomorrow.

In my experience bees figure out a robbing screen in hours not days, or a week. If they don't by the end of the first day I will remove it and let them go in for the night, then reinstall it again after after dark so all the bees inside must orient through it the next day. (Sometimes I will lean a political sign over the front entrance area as an added reminder to them that things are different from before.)

The added problem is that you might have placed the robbing screen while a virgin was out mating and then she went below when she couldn't figure out how to get back in, and her faithful worker bees joined her outside. So I'd treat that cluster as if it had a a queen in it. Queens can go out to mate through a robbing screen with no problems (I always have one on when making splits) but it needs to be well-established before she goes out. It's possible that the bees lay down a scent/pheromone track that aids the queen in getting back through a robbing screen. Think about the bee math of queen development to help sort this possibility out. I put my robbing screens on re-queening/mating nucs from the first day I make them up.

If it's a toss-up about where you are on the mating schedule I'd let that overrule concerns about robbing for a few days, if at all possible.

Enj.
 

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whatever screen you are using make sure it has enough space for the queen to return.....come to think of it I vaguly remember robber screens should not be on until the queen is mated? something about the queen not wanting to go through it? maybe i'm just confused.

the bees are fine. guessing you have a screened bottom board and in a bees eyes they are part of the cluster inside the hive. They will figure it out. All of those bees wacking into the front of the hive are most likely not your bees.
 

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In general, try to not make any visual changes to the hive around the time queen might be on mating flight. She may not be able to find her way back. Also robber screens in general makes it hard for the queen to return.

I have had such situation of bees clustering below SBB. I had blocking board under SBB but it had a small hole on the side. I don't know what bees they were but I quickly stopped using SBB after that incident. Lot of people advise against SBB for multiple reasons.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
In general, try to not make any visual changes to the hive around the time queen might be on mating flight. She may not be able to find her way back. Also robber screens in general makes it hard for the queen to return.

I have had such situation of bees clustering below SBB. I had blocking board under SBB but it had a small hole on the side. I don't know what bees they were but I quickly stopped using SBB after that incident. Lot of people advise against SBB for multiple reasons.
Was definitely concerned about that. Hive lost queen on 7/8, left with swarm cells with possibly a couple eggs, as well as eggs and larva in all stages. Seems earliest new queen could make mating flight is later this week, if my math works out.

The bees were mostly gone from underneath today, leaving me to believe they were foragers and no queen with them. I figure if they had a queen, more of the hive would have joined them, plus they all would have left with her, instead of leaving a handful still hanging out underneath.

Given the tradeoff of free for all robbing of a hive with a good quantity of bees but no queen, and the whole virgin queen can't find her way back in thing, I guessed the screens would be safer. I'm hoping they've all figured it out by the time she goes off for her dalliance.
 

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It's perfectly OK to have robbing screens when the queen goes out to mate. I always have them on and IIRC more than one person here on BS who runs a lot of mating nucs, also uses them on every nuc.

If your hive was made queenless on 7/8 and they used a 1.5 day old larvae to start an emergency queen that day, then she should have emerged today, more or less. If they had an already started a queen cell, it would have been sooner.

But if the screen is not already on, I would now wait about another 14 days to install it as that would cover her mating flight period ( 5-15 days after emergence.)

Good luck. Nothing beats the thrill of finding your own, new, home-cooked, queen bustling about on her combs.

Enj
 

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I agree with enjambres. I believe she's right your queen is probably in the cluster underneath your sbb. I run better than 400 mating nucs with robber screens hasn't ever been an issue with queens returning from mating flights.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I've left them on hoping they'd eventually figure it out, but it's been a week and there is still a decent number under there during the day even. Can't be sure yet, but the way their clustered, they may even be starting comb.

Given the queen might be in there, what's the best way to get them inside without damage? I could remove the robber screen and hope they figure it out, but there's still a decent amount of activity there and I'm not sure they would anyway. I'll def screen up the underside so they can't get back in, but need to figure a safe way to get them off first.

Keith
 

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I had that problem a couple of times last year, seen a bunch of bees under the nuc and after checking it out discovered their was a queen with them. This year all my nucs are solid bottoms, so far im having more successful returns.
 

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I'm not an expert and I can't tell if your base is connected to the stand or not, but one thing I can't live without is an extra, empty brood box. Instead of lifting full, heavy boxes (because I'm a wimp), I set the empty box next to the hive I'm inspecting and set the inspected frames (or the honey frames if it is a super) in it until it is empty, then stack the newly empty box on top and continue inspecting. It does disrupt them, but it doesn't seem too much because their frames are together in the boxes in the same way I remove them. They don't get more agitated than when I used the frame rests that hood to the side. Maybe less, actually.

Anyway, that is what I would recommend to you. Move the frames to an empty box (with a queen excluder or top cover under) then tap the SBB over the top to drop the cluster in and either transfer the frames back or lift the box back. I guess you could just lift the whole box if you can in the first place. I, as I said, am a wuss and it is really awkward to lift in the first place.
 
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