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How to Prevent Robbery in Your Hives

How to Prevent Robbery in Your Hives

Over the past few weeks, we’ve looked at the robbing activities of bees — what it is, what it looks like and how to stop a robbery that’s in progress. Since preventing a robbery is much easier than stopping one, today we’re going to look at things you can do to prevent bees from robbing your hives.

How to Prevent Bees from Robbing your Hives

Implementing these preventative measures will make your beekeeping journey much easier. I think it’s safe to say that you’d much rather be the one taking the honey from your bees than letting robbers carry it away where neither you nor your bees will enjoy it.

Use Entrance Reducers

An entrance reducer makes it easier for the guard bees to ensure that intruders are blocked from entering the hive. Without a reducer, robbers have an easier time gaining access to the hive. Entrance reducers work well in two different scenarios to prevent robbing activities.

The first is to install reducers on the hives during a nectar dearth. When resources are scarce, such as during a dearth, some bees resort to robbing behaviors to get resources for their hives. Unable to find nectar, they are drawn to the smell of honey in other hives.

The second scenario is when a hive is weak or small. If you know that your hive falls into this category, it’s a good idea to use an entrance reducer all the time. The bees who live in the hive can still enter and exit easily. The reduced entrance, however, gives the guard bees time to inspect (smell) each entrant before allowing them to continue into the hive, just like a bouncer does in a club. If a bee smells “off,” it’s denied entrance.

During a Nectar Dearth, Limit Hive Inspections

As we mentioned in an earlier post, opening up a hive to perform an inspection during a nectar dearth is an open invitation to robbing bees; therefore, hive inspections should be limited (eliminated if possible) during a nectar dearth. When you open the hive, all sorts of scents enter the air, including the aroma of honey, inviting foraging bees to come and check things out. Frames taken from the hive and set aside during the inspection are fair game to robbers.

If you do find you need to perform a hive inspection during a dearth, do it as quickly as possible. Save more leisurely inspections for times when resources are plentiful.

Avoid External Feeders When Resources are Scarce

As we stated in an earlier post, an external feeder (such as an entrance feeder) is an open buffet to all including robbers, wasps and hornets. Once they are drawn in by the smell of the syrup, they are then close enough to smell the honey. When this happens, robbing activities may commence in earnest.

If you have a hive that is struggling and requires supplemental feeding, internal feeders will solve the problem and are an especially good idea during a nectar dearth to prevent robbing activities. Top feeders and frame feeders are examples of internal feeders.

Use a Robbing Screen

A robbing screen is a great tool that's attached over the hive’s entrance. Bees rely more on scent than sight, so when they’re following their nose to the sweet scent of honey and the screen gets in their way, they’re not sure what to do. Although the screen confuses robbing bees, resident bees know how to get in and out of their home. Additionally, the robber bee’s confusion helps the guard bees fend them off more easily.

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A honeybee will forage as far as five miles to find resources, but the average foraging distance is closer to one or two miles. This means that even if you have only one hive, it can be susceptible to being robbed by other bees in the area.

Hive robbery is a subject that every beekeeper needs to take seriously. Prevention is easier than stopping robbing activities that are already underway; therefore, make a plan to prevent robber bees from stealing what your bees have worked hard to collect.

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