Bad Beehaviour Part 1: How You Can Prevent and Control Robbing In Your Colonies

March 18, 2019by Brenda Ajok Obong0

Robbing is when the bees, especially foraging bees invade and steal honey/nectar from other colonies or sugar/corn syrup from feeders used to deliver syrup to other colonies. A robbing frenzy is when multiple colonies “rob” simultaneously. It is common during a robbing frenzy to see colonies robbing other colonies and being robbed at the same time. Stopping robbing has got to be one of the most hectic beekeeping activities that every bee keeper has to undergo. These are some of the methods you can use to prevent and control a robbing frenzy.

How to prevent Robbing.

  • Remove any excess supers or honey that the bees in colony are unable to protect.Equalize colonies (i.e. take steps to make them similar in strength).
  • Move weaker colonies to another location.
  • Avoid dripping syrup, nectar, or honey on the outside surfaces of or the ground around hives.
  • Work with your colonies later in the day to reduce the amount of daylight hours bees have to rob. They have a curfew.
  • When feeding colonies, always keep external feeder surfaces free of syrup and clean up any syrup spills. This is so as not to attract the bees.
  • Do not leave wax, honey debris, or combs exposed in the apiary.

Controlling a “Robbery” in the act.

There so many better decisions that we as farmers can make when we realize that a robbing is happening to our bees. Using chemical repellents at the entrance of a hive to keep robbing bees away is not one of them. Though the robbing bees may be repelled, bees living in the hive may as well be forced to leave their homes; your hives your… I think we can all see where this is going.

  • Smoking causes cancer and definitely does not stop robbing, but it can buy you some time to close up the hive.  So grab that smoker, and smoke those bees! This should slow down activity around the hive.
  • You can place a water saturated towel over the hive to confuse the robbers. They’ll think its time bath time.  Just kidding. However, the residents of the hive will not be confused by this blanket and can come and go from underneath the towel as they please. Also the evaporation from the towel will keep the hive cool.
  • Eliminate the stimulus. Bees are attracted to sticky, sugary substances. Remove easy-to-access honey, sugar syrup, refuse combs, etc.
  • To reduce entrances into the hive, you can stuff them with grass. This will block the robbers from accessing the honey stores as well as allow some air flow. you can also close the hive completely for as many as days as you can so that the robbers can give up. Just be sure to provide necessities to the bees such as feed, pollen, water, and ventilation for the confined colony.
  • As a concerned beekeeper you can install a robbing screen. The screen directs the in house bees to use an alternative entrance while the robbing bees by following the scent from the hive, will continue run into the screen.
  • Intense essential oils from plants such as camphor, eucalyptus oil, and menthol mask the hive odor and confuse the robber bees.
  • When a frenzy occurs, it is also advised to remove the lids from all the hives in the apiary. The theory is that the bees become so busy defending their own hives that they stop robbing other hives. This however might not work if the robber bees are not from your own apiary. This is not a good strategy however for  new beekeepers because it involves defending your hives from other predators as well.

Brenda Ajok Obong

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