Busy Bee Cleaners, Inc.

No one likes cleaning up after a sticky honey extraction except the bees!

I make sure the equipment is far from both hives (to prevent robbing) and then let them have at it!!

Arrivederci, Italian Bees…

Italian honey bees bearding outside the hive e...

Italian honey bees bearding outside the hive entrance (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I must have had a premonition when I posted about “bee on bee” crime.  I wuz robbed!!

I’m leaving town this afternoon for the weekend, and I went out to check the hives.  My Buckies were flying wildly, but my Italians were strangely silent. Worse than silent. Nowhere to be seen.

Fearing the worst, I opened the hive.  It had been stripped clean of honey and brood.  The only things left were a few sniggering wax moth larvae.  They and the denuded frames went straight into the dumpster.

FAILURE!!

My Italian bees had always seemed a bit too fragile and beautiful for their own good. I didn’t have to smoke them before inspections. They followed me around while I gardened, gentle and curious.

In retrospect, what I thought was aggressive grooming behavior at the entrance to their hive was actually my Buckies subduing their unwelcome adopted siblings. Even though the two hives were nowhere near each other, apparently the Buckies could sense the competition, and were having none of it.

I will have to revise my thinking on robbing situations. They don’t all look like “The Attack of the Killer Bees From Outer Space.”

No, this one at worst looked like “bearding” due to heat. It was a nearly bloodless coup. It probably started the day I installed the package of Italians and fed them that tasty sugar syrup.

So what now?  I called the nearest breeder, but they’re out of packages for the season.

But my Buckie hive is huge!

So I’m going to try an even split.  My first ever!!  If my Buckies don’t want competition, let’s see how they do with creating a second hive by themselves.

More later…

D

Preventing “Bee On Bee” Crime – The Robbing Situation

I’ve been keeping bees for almost seven years now, and for the most part I’ve had good luck.  My two hives are strong and disease-free, and one has successfully requeened itself.

One Of My Healthy Hives

I’m sure my success is due to where I live and the quality of bees I’ve purchased rather than any particular skill on my part.  I’m the only beekeeper for miles, and my neighbors are avid gardeners.  I’ve ordered my bees from reliable suppliers with good reputations in the industry.

I have had one disaster though. I don’t like to think about it because it was totally my fault.  And I lost an entire colony in less than three days.

It happened in September of my second year of beekeeping.  My colony of Buckfast bees was healthy and strong, and had just produced a bumper crop of honey.

Being a novice, I felt guilty about taking their honey and decided to feed them some sugar syrup.  Since nectar was still flowing, the bees didn’t want any of it.  After a week or so, I removed the feeder and dumped the syrup next to the hive.

That was a huge mistake. You should never dispose of syrup near the hive, or even leave uncovered syrup or honey anywhere close to it.  Within hours, my hive was under major attack from every wasp, bee and honey-loving insect for miles.

A Robbery In Progress

It looked like something out of a science fiction movie.  I tried everything to stop it, including covering my hive with a wet sheet. It was too little, too late.

The Wet Sheet Method Of Stopping The Crime

I tried to save the remaining bees, but ultimately they were decimated.  The hive was even invaded by wax moths.  I destroyed the frames and let the supers freeze outside the next winter.  I felt guilty and depressed.

The next year I started fresh with a new package, and haven’t had a major disaster since. But I know the same thing could happen again if I’m not careful.

That incident convinced me that beekeepers underestimate the threat of robbing insects to the existence of their hives.

What can we do to reduce this threat?

First and foremost, NEVER leave uncovered syrup or honey near your hives, even for a minute.  Once a robbing situation begins, it’s very difficult to stop.

Second, protecting your bees from wasps, wax moths, and robber bees begins with a strong colony that can defend itself. Follow good beekeeping practices.

Third, be vigilant. If you see signs of wasps or other robbing insects at the entrance of your hives, use an entrance reducer at the smallest opening, particularly if the colony is small.  If a robbing frenzy has already started, close up the hive and/or use a wet sheet to discourage the intruders. Pray for it to stop!!

I hope this helps you prevent “bee on bee” crime in your neighborhood!!