Robber Bees And What To Do To Protect Your Hives

Bee-Craft Bee-Kids Club   August 6, 2015

We were just talking about Robber Bees at our recent LACBA meeting. Here's some more info: 

Robber bees!
If you suspect robbing by other bees, you must act fast to put a stop to it or you are likely to lose the colony being robbed. Robbing bees will clean up every last drop of honey. Fighting will kill many bees and, once the hive is overpowered, wasps will move in and kill any remaining bees and brood. Robbing is most common during a nectar dearth and the robbed colonies are likely to be those that are small and weak.

How to tell the difference between normal hive activity and a robbing situation?

1. Robbing bees do not fly straight to the entrance opening, they approach the hive flying from side to side in a zig zag pattern. Also, they appear light, not weighed down with a nectar load!

2. There may be fighting at the entrance and evidence of aggressive behaviour.

3. Robber bees leave the hive heavily laden, unlike bees setting off to forage and tend to climb up the front of the hive before taking off. Once they’re airborne, there tends to be a dip in their flight path.

How to stop robbing - 
1. Reduce the size of the entrance to the width of a single bee. If the weather is hot, use grass, it will let in more air.

2. Soak a large table cloth or small sheet in water and cover the hive that is under attack. Place the cloth so that it drapes over the entrance, to the ground. This prevents robbing bees from getting to the entrance. The hive's occupants will find their way in and out round the sides. During hot, dry weather, rewet the sheet as needed. Make sure to remove the sheet after one or two days. By that time the robbing behavior should have stopped.

3. Make sure there are no other entrances to the hive, check the open mesh floor for gaps, check if there are ways in under the roof and between boxes.

It is easier to prevent robbing than to stop it once it has started. Here’s what you can do -

1. Never leave honey or scraps of comb out in the open where the bees can find it.

2. When harvesting honey, keep your supers covered after removing from the hive.

3. Don't spill sugar syrup - not a single drop - when feeding your bees. Never feed your bees in the open.

4. Make sure each colony is fed at the same time and in the evening.

5. Make sure the size of the hive entrance matches the ability of the bees to defend it. Small colonies need small entrances!

Photo 1: ytimg, Photo 2: beekeeperlinda

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