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Post Extraction Robbing Tips

Post-harvest is one of the most vulnerable times for our bees. The smell of honey is in the air and the scout bees are on the hunt, thus it’s very important to learn how to recognize robbing behavior. During robbing events, there will be an unusually high number of bees flying around your apiary actively looking for a way to gain access inside the colonies. You’ll also see bees fighting at the colony entrances and trying to gain entry through the seams between boxes and around the hive lid and bottom board. It’s also likely to see a noticeable number of dead bees at the colony entrance as they fight to protect their resources.

Once started, bees will continue to rob a colony until it is totally decimated and this can happen in matter of hours!

How to prevent robbing

  • Always keep supers covered when removing them for extraction or to work a colony.
  • Remove any excess supers or honey the colony can't protect.
  • When adding supers back on to the colonies for clean up after extraction, do so at dusk/nighttime – this enables the bees in the colony to work the newly extracted boxes overnight and prevents robbing before it starts. Note: If you do this during the day it’s almost guaranteed a robbing event will occur.
  • Use internal feeders – top feeders, division board feeders or bucket/jar feeders hidden by the extra brood box. Avoid entrance feeders.
  • Work colonies with purpose (quickly) during dearth.
  • Use an entrance reducer on weaker colonies during nectar dearth.
  • Only work one colony at a time.
  • Move weaker colonies to another location or combine weak colonies.
  • Avoid dripping syrup, nectar or honey on the outside surfaces or on the ground around hives.
  • Never leave wax, honey debris, or combs exposed. Keep a tidy apiary.

How to stop robbing when it occurs

  • Install a robbing screen.
  • Remove any sugar syrup/honey or comb that the robbers have easy access to.
  • Reduce your entrance. On a standard wood entrance reducer, turn it to the smallest opening (3/4 inch). As a temporary “fast fix” you can put sticks or grass across your entrance leaving just a small opening for your bees to use and guard. An opening just large enough for 3 or 4 bees at a time is sufficient.
  • Tape off any seams/cracks between boxes.
  • Throw a sheet over the colony being robbed. This will usually take overnight to work.
  • Some beekeepers calm the robbing frenzy by running a water sprinkler on the colonies being robbed. This artificial rain will slow the robbing down dramatically.
  • If all else fails, consider moving the colony to another location until the robbing frenzy stops.

Photo shows evidence of a robbing frenzy due to installing an extracted super back on the colony during the day.

                                                     By: Chari Elam

Robbing Screen

A great addition to any bee yard, this moving/robbing screen is extremely effective. Simply install it across the front entrance of the hive, open the top entry point to reduce the impact of robbing within minutes. It can also be used to completely close a colony when moving your bees. It is favored over a traditional entrance reducer since it allows sufficient airflow at all times.

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