When Good Bees go Bad

This article was originally posted in June 2011, but contains seasonally relevant information.

Whenever there isn’t a good flow on (like now and throughout the rest of the summer) strong honey bee hives will often rob weak hives – if it gets bad enough they will completely decimate the hive that is being robbed.

This is the best video that I could find that actually showed robbing going on. Notice 2 things 1) The robber bees are climbing up the hive to get some extra elevation before they take off – this is typical in a robbing frenzy. 2) Groups of bees wrestling on the landing board, and falling off the front in clumps – those distinguish a robbing frenzy from orientation or swarming.

To Prevent Robbing:

  • Don’t let it get started! Much easier to prevent than to correct.
  • Don’t spill syrup or nectar.
  • Don’t drop burr comb and leave it laying.
  • Don’t use entrance feeders.
  • If you feed one hive, feed them all.  A big strong hive that is hungry is highly motivated to rob – and they don’t want to break into next winters stored honey if they don’t have to.
  • Feed late in the evening – an amount small enough to be gone by morning.
  • Restrict all entrances to very small – if there is a traffic jam at the strong hive the robber bees can’t get in to unload and make another run.  If the entrance to the weak hive is small it can be effectively defended be just a few bees.  Think of one Marine blocking a doorway compared to trying to block a whole street.  Very large natural bee hives often go in and out through very small openings.
  • When you need to open hives do what you need to do and close it back up as quickly as possible.
  • Very important – make sure there is only one entrance – including that little hole in the front of the inner cover – block that off.  A hive that is being robbed has a very hard time defending the back door.
  • Don’t open feed close to your hives!  Some people have had success shutting down a robbing frenzy by open feeding 100 yards or so away – thus drawing the robbers off to easier pickings.

 

There will be some robbing.  It’s just what they do.  When it gets out of hand you won’t have to ask anyone if it is robbing or not – it looks violent, and chaotic.  If that happens  what has worked for me  is to suit up and thoroughly smoke  all hives that might be involved – both the criminals and the victims, and completely block up the entrances until about one half hour before dark – don’t suffocate them though. Then apply corrective actions.

Robber screens are my #1 way of preventing robbing – and I have many little bitty weak hives right next to big strong hives.

I would like to encourage anyone with tips, insights, or nasty remarks to leave a comment.

American Foulbrood reported in Eastern Middle TN

From State Apiary inspector Michael Studer
Urgent Message. Local Beekeeping Associations, please forward this e-mail to all of your members that may have Registered or unregistered apiaries in the following counties: Bledsoe, Cumberland, Meigs, Rhea or Roane. Several cases of American Foulbrood were discovered when a diligent beekeeper called reporting problems with a couple of colonies. Tests confirmed several colonies were positive for American Foulbrood. These colonies were in the early stages of infection. Those colonies have been destroyed. The preliminary list of registered apiaries in the listed counties is 177 locations. This list will be narrowed down and all registered beekeepers with valid e-mails located within 8 miles of the infected colonies will be notified by e-mail ASAP (Hopefully within 24 hours). We will be notifying all registered beekeepers within the affected area and inspecting all apiaries within the
 affected area in the next few weeks. Any beekeeper that thinks they may have AFB should send an e-mail to mike.studer@tn.gov ASAP. Anyone that knowingly has American Foulbrood and does not report it is subject to a $500.00 fine. Please be careful moving colonies within these counties get your local area inspectors to come out and inspect before you move anything.  Anyone moving colonies out of these counties or within these counties without a health certificate is subject to a $500.00 fine. Please everyone be diligent about hygiene when going from one apiary to the other. Designate a hive tool for each apiary or burn them between apiaries. If you know of anyone in these counties that is not registered please have them register their colonies ASAP.

Counting Mites

“If you can’t measure it, You can’t manage it…”  Varroa mites are  the scourge of honey bees and beekeepers – success is unlikely without some strategy to manage them.

This previously published article is being re-posted because it is seasonally relevant.

“If you can’t measure it, You can’t manage it…”  Varroa mites are  the scourge of honey bees and beekeepers – success is unlikely without some strategy to manage them.  Unfortunately many beekeepers – especially new ones – come under the impression that they will somehow get a pass or that their bees don’t have mites.

Since they are almost never seen during inspections mites are out of sight and out of mind until a colony mysteriously dies at which point the mishap is often blamed on weather, wax moths or Small Hive Beetles when the truth is often (usually even) that mites brought disease into the colony weeks or months before it died.

If you don’t measure mite loads, you can’t know when you need to take action, or if your treatments were effective.  “I treated and my bees died anyway…”  Did you treat before the hive was so infested that it was too late?  Did your treatment work?  If you don’t do mite counts you simply can not answer these questions.  You are only guessing.

And another video showing an alcohol wash…

The following video shows a brood frame with symptoms of Parasitic Mite Syndrome caused by a severe infestation of Varroa…