If hive robbing was going on in your bee yard would you know? Would you know how to help the hives being attacked? I have witnessed hive robbing in my own bee yard. It is a horrible thing to experience. When my hives were being attacked and robbed the sound was worse (louder) than any swarm sound I have ever heard.
Sometimes people hear the phrase “hive robbing” and assume someONE is robbing the hive and occasionally (especially in the old days) that is what is meant. Most often though, it means the hive has been invaded and honey is being stolen by other honeybees or wasps or yellow jackets. The end result of such hive robbing can be a dead hive or a severely weakened hive. It can also set off an apiary wide robbing frenzy. Quick and decisive intervention is necessary to the survival of your hive.
Keeping your hives strong in numbers, queen right and healthy is the best way to prevent robbing in the first place. But sometimes things happen.
Why would hive robbing occur in your bee yard?
- Hives that get robbed tend to be weak and struggling hives.
- They may be low in numbers and unable to defend themselves making them easy targets.
- When nectar is scarce bees from stronger hives will prey on them. (Robber bees look at that weak hive as just another honey source to enjoy.)
- You may have harvested some honey and put that super full of frames out for the bees to clean up.
- You may have needed to feed and accidentally spilled honey or sugar water.
- Even setting up a feeding station can incite robbing.
How can you know if hives are being robbed?
- Increased and unsettled bee traffic at the entrance of the hive.
- LOTS of bees flying ALL around that hive (they are searching for any possible means of forcing entry into the hive)
- Listen! The sound will be LOUD and INTENSE!
- Bees will be engaged in frenzied fighting at the entrance of the hive.
- There will be dead bees on the ground and at the entrance of the hive.
What can you do if hive robbing happens at your bee yard?
- First thing? Reduce that entrance! This gives the guard bees a smaller area to guard and less opportunity of entrance for the robbers.
- You can drape a wet sheet over the hive making sure it touches the ground. The bees that live in the hive will find their way in but the robbers should give up.
- You can cut a small piece of screen and staple it to the hive over the opening of the entrance reducer. You can leave it covering the opening until the robbing situation is under control.
- You can staple the screen over the opening but leave just enough room for on bee at a time to enter or leave the hive. The bees that live there can find their way in and out but the robber bees do not. This is the method I used. It really does work!
I wish I had pictures of the robbing situation and my method of helping my hives. I do not. I was in such a hurry and so heart sick over the experience I just couldn’t take pictures.