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Honey Bee Robbing | How to Stop a Beehive Robbery in Progress

Honey Bee Robbing | How to Stop a Beehive Robbery in Progress

In our last post, we made a shocking statement ... beekeepers are one of the main reasons that robbing activities occur in the first place. It’s true. In the wild, hives don’t exist close to each other, yet beekeepers frequently keep more than one hive in their apiary.

This means that it’s our responsibility to take care of the problem, taking measures to prevent robbing behaviors from occurring and dealing with it when it does. You and your bees will be glad you did.

Why Stopping Robbing Activities is Important

Robbing bees are aggressive and dangerous; therefore, it’s pretty obvious why it’s important to stop robbing activities, especially since these activities lead to the deaths of many bees on both sides. In fact, aggressive robbers can wipe out a weakened colony, killing all the bees including the queen. Once they have gained access to a hive, they steal all resources in the hive. But there are hidden reasons as well. Even if unsuccessful in their attempts to gain access to the hive, they can spread mites and diseases between hives, making their next attempt even easier.

How to Stop a Robbery in Progress

Once you confirm that robbing activities are taking place, it’s time to take action.

But first things first ... put on protective gear before you approach the hive. You are dealing with a lot of aggressive bees who want to enter the hive and your bees are in a defensive mode.

Then, choose one or more of the following actions when you need to put a stop to robbing activities that are already in progress.

Quickly Close Up the Hive

Closing off the hive should be your first line of defense. This can be easily accomplished by stuffing leaves or grass into the entrances of the hive to prevent any more robber bees from entering the hive. The leaves and grass will allow airflow, and your bees will be able to push it out later after things have calmed down.

Move the Hive

Ideally, you want to move the hive as far away from its current position as possible, as far as two miles away, if you choose this technique.

Close up the hive before moving it.

If moving to a nearby location, such as another site within your apiary or yard, place a saucer of honey in the hive’s current location. This will convince the robber bees that the robbery is still underway. They’ll continue to take the honey until every last drop has been removed, taking their attention away from the hive you moved.

Keep the hive closed off in its new location until nightfall.

Use a Wet Towel or Dampened Bed Sheet

A popular technique used by many beekeepers to halt a robbery in progress is to hang a wet towel over the front of the hive, making sure that it extends over the entrance. Or you can toss a large, dampened bed sheet over the hive as well. Both methods discourage the invading robber bees, but the bees who live there will still figure out how to enter and exit the hive.

Use Water as a Weapon Against Robber Bees

A sprinkler with a waterfall setting may be used to slow down robbing activities. The sprinkler should be positioned to rain down on the hive, thereby causing the robbing bees to return to their own hives.

General Question About Weapon Against Robber Bees

What are the Signs that Robbing is About to Start?

Early signs of robbing include increased bee activity and aggressive flight patterns around the hive entrance, fighting bees, bees with tattered wings, and bees trying to enter the hive from unusual angles. Frequent appearances of guard bees fending off intruders are also indicators.

How Long Should I Keep the Hive Closed After a Robbery Attempt?

Keep the hive closed for several hours until the robbing bees disperse, usually until late afternoon or early evening. If the hive has been moved, keep it closed until nightfall to allow bees to reorient in their new location.

Can Robbing Behavior Be Seasonal, and If So, When is it Most Likely to Occur?

Robbing behavior is often seasonal, typically occurring during nectar dearth periods, usually in late summer or early fall, when natural food sources are scarce. Be vigilant and take preventative measures during these times.

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These techniques can be used to stop a robbery that is underway. They are only a temporary fix, however, which will give you time to get the situation under control. Once the robbers have returned home, you’ll need to initiate preventative measures, otherwise, the robbing activities will begin anew the following morning.

Note: During a nectar dearth, smaller or weaker colonies will always be at risk of robbing activities, especially when larger, stronger colonies are positioned nearby. Beekeepers should take steps to protect these colonies, the first step being the installation of an entrance reducer if one has not already been installed.

Join us next time when we will look at preventative measures you can take to prevent future robbing behaviors.

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