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Robbing? Mixed signals

1862 Views 12 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  William Bagwell
Yesterday evening noticed frenzied activity at the entrance of both a hive and nuc. Initial thought, since ruled out, was the hive was robbing the nuc. Reduced entrances on both and noticed the hive was very defensive compared to the nuc.

This morning the hive was back to normal but the nuc was still being robbed. Tried smoke which only helped momentarily. Then opened the top to what appears a normal hive. Have read that robbers all fly out and (most) resident bees stay put. Is this true?

Went and bought a jar of generic vapor rub. Smells like Vicks but not as strong as I remember. Has been decades so perhaps my sense of smell has diminished. Does not seem to be helping at all!

Further reduced the nus's entrance to a single bee width. Noticed activity at the hive beside it picking back up within minutes and continued all day though not as much as Saturday.

Getting mixed signals here and not sure what to do next. Positive this is robbing and not orientation flights. Yet little fighting and no dead or injured bees. Also seeing some normal activity mixed in such as a (very) few bees bringing in pollen. Grooming and feeding (swapping spit) on the landing board. Small amount of cappings on the inspection board, but the robbers could be going after un-capped first. Watched for a few minutes just before dark and saw bees leaving to the west. None appeared heavily laden.

Should I move the nuc? Do not have a remote yard but could move it 400+ feet easily.

Close it up for a few days? Screen, internal feeder...

Buy some real Vicks? Store had both just did not want to spend three times as much for something to smear on a bee hive.

All three of the above? Something else?
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Should I move the nuc? Do not have a remote yard but could move it 400+ feet easily.
Just did this and put an empty hive in its place. Will see how it goes...
I had never seem robbing before and what I thought was robbing was just a mass of bees coming and going. No actual fighting and no dead bees.
So sometimes it is hard to tell.
Collecting pollen, and no fighting, would indicate not robbing, however depends how bad it is.

The bees could have found something else to rob, which can cause frenzied activity at the entrance also.

Could you post a video of it?
Move and/or tape.
Should work.
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Thing with moving, it's fine if you move right out of the area. If you move to a different position in the apiary, you then lose the flying bees, weakening the hive and are just left with young ones who do not guard. If robbing is bad the robbers will quickly figure this out and your hive is in a worse position than before.

But swapping positions with another hive can work, the hive then picks up the flying bees from the other hive. Long as there are not enough of them to overwhelm the hive and kill the queen.
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Wish I had of took several videos showing the changes as I tried various things. Did consider swapping the nuc for the other strong hive (not the one right next to it that was also being attacked) Did not have help to move it intact nor wanted to break it down this late in the year.

Know it will loose some foragers but not much to forage this time of the year. When I mentioned seeing pollen coming in it was only two bees out of hundreds. Empty hive body (swarm trap) had lots of activity this evening when I got home. To my novice eye too many to be just the lost foragers but way down from the frenzy Saturday.

Nuc is in front of the house at least 400 feet from the other bees and seems fine. Wife actually enjoyed having it close. Of course if it is queen less and starts getting ill tempered it will have to move again.
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Nuc that was moved five days ago is doing fine now. Robbers are still investigating the swarm trap a bit but mostly after the other hives and nucs. Most are holding them off, strong with reduced entrances... Wife has been watching during the day this week and said they were after the top bar nuc the most. So I moved it late yesterday evening. Guessing a few robbers were still inside as they quickly found it today. Yes, right beside the one I moved last weekend which is being ignored. It was moved early in the morning so this may be learning point?

Further reduced the entrance on the top bar nuc and stapled screen wire to the top since its lid does not fit tight.

BTW, when this all started a week ago I was not feeding at all. Am now since it is getting to late to put it off any longer. All internal, most rapid feeders except the two top bars. Removed the baggie from the nuc being robbed when I installed the screen.

Also marked 15 or 20 bees with paint to try and confirm it is not one of my hives doing the robbing.
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Also marked 15 or 20 bees with paint to try and confirm it is not one of my hives doing the robbing.
Good idea, William. I have been following this thread and I am sincerely sorry you have had to deal with this. While I expect you have already considered this, did you confirm that this colony is queenright?

At least in my limited experience, nucs are always candidates for increased robbing pressure, and when you throw queenlessness into the mix it amplifies the pressure further.

Finally, for future you might consider investing in a few robbing screens for your nucs- I have found that they are almost essential equipment for me, at least when I do something that invites attention- like feeding.

Hopefully all is well, and your effort to move them mitigates any future large-scale assaults.

Planed to look in the first nuc this weekend, and would have if I had not moved the second one right beside it. Have seen a few bees bringing in pollen so they apparently still have brood even if recently queen less. Not seen a drone in several weeks so no chance of them making another this late.

Watched the baggie feeder on the ground today until it was empty. Always one to four marked bees present so guesstimating the total number of robbers (that found the moved nuc) at less than 200. Did see one single marked bee enter one of my big hives. So it at least is participating in the robbing. Still convinced it is the neighbor to the west... Hope he noticed today and is posting on some other forum asking why he suddenly has bees with gold paint:devilish:

Hopefully they will all give up in a few days so I can resume feeding the top bar nuc. It was the only one that did not get any feed during the dearth when I was feeding to keep them out of humming bird feeders.
Still convinced it is the neighbor to the west... Hope he noticed today and is posting on some other forum asking why he suddenly has bees with gold paint:devilish:
Now that would be funny... is there any way you can rig up a robbing screen for the TBH? I saw this one and it looks like something you could cobble together:

I had repeated constant robbing in my apiary for a couple of years. Every removal I brought in was attacked, few survived, (my robbing screens had to wait til the hive was opened to go on). I quit doing removals in fall 2018, and determined by flightpath and taking a walk that the robbing bees were coming from a hive between the first and second story of my neighbor's house. Since they probably originated at my place (I did not tell the neighbor this), and since they wanted them out and any action would impact my apiary, I volunteered to remove them.

I did this, and when I had the queen, most of the bees and the comb I could reach, (and more than a few thru glove stings) I had the neighbors open the windows a couple inches to let my bees in for the cleanup. (the neighbors had moved out preparatory to remodeling) With that wild hive gone, I don't think I've lost an actual hive to robbing since. They got requeened as soon as I could get a queen in. Which greatly helped temperament. Neighbors sealed that gap with mortar. So far so good
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Quite a bit cooler today so that helped. Have every thing I need to knock together a few robber screens. Just need to make time... Think I could do better than the ones pictured on trigablelea and still be ashamed to sell them at half what they are asking!

Gypsi, interesting thought. I hope there are some feral bees close enough to be the source of the robbers. Had two swarm traps up this year with no luck. Going to try again next year with better traps. Drawn comb, old & new etc. Not going to hold my breath.
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