For the last week or so, I’ve been dealing with robber bees attacking my hives. Hungry bees everywhere! Not a big surprise since many beekeepers lost hives after the freeze in late March and had to replace bees. Then we had a lot of rain during the spring nectar flow, so the newly starting colonies were not able to bring in enough honey to last all summer. And it’s been a hot, dry summer with not a lot of food for the past couple of weeks. So lots of robbing going on.
During the nectar dearth, I always change my entrances to the smallest size on the small hives and even the big ones have entrance reducers. My hives are all screened bottom boards and vented tops, so I don’t worry about the bees getting enough air. There is always water available because Aubrey is keeping the gardens watered, so my bees should be able to manage temps just fine. Still stressful for them though, I’m sure.
Here are some of the things I do to try to help out my bees during the robbing season:
- Only feed internally — I use baggie feeding and lately have been feeding at almost sundown
- Small entrances
- If I see robbing behavior starting, I put grass in the entrance until I can do something more permanent
- This year I’ve been using Vick’s Vapor Rub around the entrance to confuse the robbers. It seems to help and doesn’t seem to affect the legal hive occupants
- Robbing screens for the smallest colonies
- Regular checks to make sure they are okay
If you don’t know what robbing behavior looks like, this video sent to me by David Mudd is a great example. The bees are basically a battering ram to the front door and it’s noisy.
I made a couple robbing screens using some trim board and extra wire mesh I had available. They aren’t beautiful, but they seem to be working. Since robber bees are hammering the front door, the robbing screens shut down all direct access. The openings are at the very top and the bees in the hive will figure out how to come and go using the new entrances. And on the hot afternoons, they seem to enjoy hanging out in the “screened porch.” Here’s some video with my homemade robbing screens and the home bees coming and going. The robber bees seem to have gone off to find other victims.