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Robbing and How to control it

Robbing

If you have never experienced it, robbing is a very vicious process of a stronger hive taking advantage of weaknesses in another hive. Now these robbing events can be triggered by a difference of honey bee species being in the same apiary, lower numbers in a colony, unprotected and exposed openings into the beehive, mistakes made by the beekeeper during feeding and the harvesting of honey in the apiary. Though it is usually the result of the lack of food in a hive during the dearth period resulting in a stronger colony robbing a weaker one.

Causes

  • ƒƒDifferences in colony strength in an apiary
  • The smell of honey ƒƒcoming from unprotected ventilation openings during the dearth period
  • Two or more different honey bee species being kept together in the same apiary
  • Trying to help weaker colonies and only feeding sugar syrup to them.
  • Feeding sugar syrup during the day or spilling sugar syrup during when you are feeding.
  • On a day you are feeding you leave syrup in feeders in the apiary unattended for long periods of time
  • ƒƒCracks and crevices in a hive and emanating honey smell
  • Strong colony having an insufficient number of stores and sufficient honey in a weaker colony
  • Taking too long for hive inspectionƒƒs during the dearth period as a result Honey smell attracts other bees within the apiary
  • Too much honey extraction at the end of the honey flow season ƒƒresulting in the lowered food stores in a hive
  • During honey harvesting in an open yard bee will be attracted by honey spilled, which can stimulate the robbing tendency


Symptoms

  • ƒƒRobber bees flying in irregular patterns trying to enter a colony with many workers flying around the hive testing cracks and crevices for entry points
  • ƒƒIncreased activity at the entrance to a hive where higher numbers of guard bees can be seen fighting with robber bees
  • ƒƒDead bees seen on the ground near the entrance while flying bees make a strong piping sound (low-frequency sounds generated their wings)
  • ƒƒRobber bees entering hive with an empty stomach and leave with a swollen stomach

Characteristics

ƒƒAt the start of a robbing frenzy it may appear that the guard bees can control the robbers at the hive entrance, but then the robber bees begin to increase in numbers and after a short while can begin start freely robbing honey.
ƒƒAs long as there are honey stores left inside of a colony being robbed the robbing will continue.
Many bees die in the robbed colony, which can push them towards absconding.


Control of Robbing in a Honey bee Colony


Sometimes two robber colonies fight each other ƒƒthough robbing is usually between strong and weak colonies which kills a large number of bees in both and can lead to absconding or complete colony destruction.
ƒƒRobbing may also be a species-specific genetic behavior. Apis cerana bees have a tendency towards
robbing at any time during both the honey flow and dearth periods, whereas in Apis mellifera, robbing is
only common in the dearth season.

Prevention

I have used Smoke on the hive being robbed every 5–10 minutes while robbing is ongoing to calm the bees. Seal the hive as soon as possible and you can open it during the last light of day so the robbers can leave and head back to their own hives. If you just stop smoking they will begin robbing again.


I have turned a sprinkler on to simulate raining and it will stop the robbing of the hive until you decide not to waste any more water and then the robbers will return unless you maintain it til dark. Before the sun comes up the next day move the colony being robbed to an out of the way location possible outside of the apiary or even inside a garage. If you seal them up feed and water them.


Make the entrances as small and easy for the colony to protect with the least number of guard beesƒƒ. Make it where only one bee at a time can pass through.


ƒƒ If you suspect a colony is being robbed, you can dust flour or yellow kesari powder over the flying bees, then search within your own apiary and locate the colony with incoming bees coated with flour or color to identify from which colonies the robbers originated.


If you find one colony is more susceptible to robbing, then move the colony being robbed to another location or inside, then you can place an empty hive with combs that have some honey in them at its original position. The robber bees will finish the honey and then learn that there is no one to fight with, the hive has no more honey and and the robbers will not return.


Some beekeepers desire to keep their colonies in taller grass so the entrances are not exposed. The robber bees find it difficult to enter into a colony when taller weeds or even tree branches are kept in front of the entrance.
Take the robber colony 1–2 km away from the apiary for at least a week if robber bees are continuously attempting robbing over a longer period of time.


Just after robbing starts you can try to mask the scent emanating from the hive being robbed. Some of the way to attempt this is to drape wet towels/sheets over the hive being robbed covering all entrances but not sealing them.

Things I have never tried but have read about is that you can keep water or kerosene mixed with water sprayed over the bees keeping them moist, which will encourage the robbers to return to their colony as if it were raining. As an alternative, Artemisia (have strong aromas and bitter tastes) or Parthenium leaves (strong medicinal fragrance) can be kept in front of the entrance of the colony being robbed to prevent robbing. Parthenium can also be used as a potent herbicide, insecticide, pesticide and phytoremedial agent for metal and dye removal from industrial waste.
ƒƒ

Management practices

  • ƒƒMake sure all colonies in your apiary are strong.
  • ƒƒStop harvesting when 20–25% of the honey remains inside each colony. Leave enough honey at the end of the honey flow period so as to make sure each colony has an emergency honey stock by.
  • ƒƒTry to do all of your honey harvesting in a closed yard or use a net or better inside of a building rather than harvesting in an open yard
  • If any honey is spilled, clean it up immediately with a wet cloth even better yet ƒƒ Do not drop honey or syrup around the colonies!
  • Feed syrup only in the evening and remove any remaining syrup early the next day and keep it in a closed room when you are not feeding.
  • Freshly harvested comb can be reused or stored in a box. Try to keep harvested honey wet comb in a closed space.
  • Keep only one species of honey bee in your apiary Apis mellifera and Apis cerana colonies should be kept in different apiaries to minimize robbing between them.
  • ƒƒSeal any/all cracks and crevices in the hives.
  • Regularly inspect colonies to monitor their status. As soon as you think a hive is being robbed, make your entrances as small as possible so that only one bee at a time can pass through.
  • ƒƒSupplement the food for a weak colony with honey from a strong colony as necessary.
  • ƒƒColonies susceptible to robbing can be placed in a location with long grass in front of the entrance.

Pex Entrances - an experiment

We started experimenting with entrances in late 2017 on our own Honey Bee hives and impleented it on 12 hives in 2018. It appeared to be successfull at thwarting any robbing as we saw NO robbing on any of the hives with the entrances installed.

In 2019 we will did dd the PEX entrances to over 50% of our hives again as a way to test the effectiveness. We have still seen NO Robbing activity on any of the hives with the Pex Entrances and we have also noticed that though we have these hives sitting side by side with our other hives or at the least in very close proximity we have also noticed seeing no Small Hive Beetles or very few SHB in the hive with the PEX entrances. Now this could be a coincidence or a very good side effect!

Build your own and try for yourself and provide feedback to others!

1/2" ID PEX is 5/8" OD "we make ours 2" long"

3/4" x 3/4" x 14 3/4" is a standard 10 frame entrance reducer blank size

Drill as many 5/8" hole in the entrance reducer blank as you want to insert the PEX

After roughing uo the surface glue the PEX into the blank with the inside flush with the wood.

Here you can see how to make a 3/4" shim to place above a brood chamber to give the girls faster access to the Honey Supers!

LINKS

PEX Upper ventilator shim

 

PEX Shim in USE!

 

 

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Tennessee's Honey Bees