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Building plan for robbing screen


One of my colonies seems intent on robbing the others.
Spoke to my mentors about changing the queen, but it doesn’t seem to be the done thing.
The larger colonies are ok, but I have 3 colonies just getting established in their 8 frame broodboxes for winter. They have to fight robbers off every day, which probably keeps them away from their job of storing for their needs.
Did all the things like putting the core flute in top slot, reduce entrance to 1cm for a few days, now all reduced to 5cm.
My hives aren’t even close together, but in clusters of 3 or 4 all over our hilly land. So crowding isn’t an issue.
There is forage and all hives are still putting on a little each day.
I heard robbing screens prevent the robbers from flying straight into the entrance, so I would like to try that.

I haven’t found robbing screens for purchase in Australia.
Does anybody have a plan for building them? Please, I don’t know what else to do.


Hi @Webclan. Can you identify the colony that is doing the robbing? I have read something like lifting the lid on that colony can perhaps help?


Hi Dan,
Yes, I know exactly which colony it is. Queen Jazza’s.
You mean, lift the roof? Provide a gap?
Do you know how and why? I’d try anything.

Still, would like to try robbing screens too.

Been thinking why lifting roof could work. Maybe the robbers are needed to help protect that extra top entrance?


Yes, I believe it to be lifting the roof. I’ve found the reference. Harold Ayton, Beekeeping in Tasmania where he says,

“…or if the hive of the offenders can be identified, removing its own cover will sometimes get quick results”.


Maybe a bit cold right now to take off the roof completely, but might just provide a large gap for a few hours tomorrow. See how it goes.
Feels like winter has started tonight. Just hit 13C. Takes some adjusting.

Does Mr. Ayton say to expose the brood or is it just in that one sentence? In any case, I think he means it to be a very temporary measure, for a couple of hours perhaps?

Thanks for your thoughts Dan. Much appreciated. Provides a different perspective.


No he doesn’t elaborate but I imagined when reading it that there was at least a super of stored honey above the brood box and the lid of the hive above that. I would guess, like you, that he meant for a few hours or until the robbing stopped - if indeed it actually does. I hasten to add that I’ve never done it but just remembered reading it. I have hive mats so I would just lift the lid off and leave the mat on top of the frames. I guess though with AFB around and the like, that it is very much a strategy for judicious use only.


Not exactly a plan, but this University of California design works:



Hi Dawn,
That link doesn’t open.
Could you try again, or copy it somehow?
Thanks for the effort.


Here you are, although I have posted it about 6 times on the Forum already! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:



Webclan I knocked one up quickly last month as a prop at our bee club meeting. Think of a window fly screen over the entrance. Just make sure the bees can get out their entrance and make a small 1 or 2 bee size on the opposite too side to the reduced entrance. Then cover with fly screen or mesh of some sort.

Ummm, hope that explanation is good enough


I made some with a bit of corflute over the entrance with some moulding between it and the hive. Leave to side opening furtest from the entrance open. Your bees work it out quickly but robbers certainly cannot fly straight in.



Ok, I start understanding a bit more about bees’ robbing behavior.
It’s only Jasmin’s (Jazza) colony that keeps trying to rob, that’s why I thought to change the queen.
And it’s not just the smell of one hive they are attracted to, they try all of them. Not with any luck with the bigger hives.
I had a nuc that never managed to store anything, and I never knew why. Had to feed that nuc and eventually they got strong enough to defend themselves. That’s when I saw hundreds of dead bees outside the nuc and saw the fighting. And noticed Jazza put on over 2kg in one day.
Reducing the entrance to 1cm worked, but then the Jazzas started robbing the neighboring hives. More dead bees, more entrance reducing.
Then the Jazzas started to try rob some of the bigger hives in different places. Big mistake. I think due to their robbing behavior they are now starting to loose weight rapidly, whereas the others slowly increase. Maybe they are loosing too many bees. Jazza does bring in pollen, but obviously doesn’t forage for nectar any more.

I can see why changing the queen wouldn’t make any difference. The waggle dances would continue, and those that died robbing can’t waggle a warning.
Hope they find some flowers somewhere else soon, because now I worry about the robbers loosing weight.

In future all my nucs and weaker hives will have robbing screens, so this deadly cycle doesn’t start over again.

Being a newbie, I couldn’t work out why one nuc never stored any nectar. There were no dead bees outside the hive yet, because they couldn’t defend themselves.

Quite a learning experience.
Thank you all for your ideas in response.


It might. Italians are notorious robbers. They must have learned it from the Mafia! :smile: :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: :sunglasses: :male_detective: :moneybag:

If your robbing hive is Italian, and the others are not, it might conceivably help a bit. :wink: The robbing screen is a better idea though, and keeping the entrances at 5cm or less until the robbing is done.


Hmpf. I hear you Dawn.
But queen Jazza is a real carniolan from a breeder. She was originally meant to go to Bribie Island for winter foraging last winter, but her breeder sent her to me because I needed a queen for 3 frames of spare brood.
So that hive is one that shouldn’t really exist, but now covers 2 boxes.
Plenty of bees, but all they want to do is steal.
Oh, might add, the weak hive they stole from is my precious redheads, my Cordovans.
I really love my Cordovans, we speak the same language. I swear.
I want them to survive the carnie attacks.


I love Cordovans too. Very hard to find them in the US. You can get mutt Italians, but pure Cordovan is very rare.


I thought Cordovans are Italians with a recessive gene? Not sure if my queen breeder bred her deliberately or it just happened. He does artificial insemination though. But then, he doesn’t do fancy breeds, he breeds for hygiene and productivity, he’s a commercial for pollination, honey and breeding queens.
I mean, he wouldn’t breed redheads for being pretty, but because they are good for his purposes.
He has a 20 line breeding program. Ginger is line 6.
I think this particular line of Italians he breeds just sometimes comes up with redheads. About 70% of my Queen Ginger girls are total redheads. So my guess is she’s a mutt really, but a pretty good mutt by accident. She would be open mated anyway.
They are extremely gentle and seem to be responsive to my voice and gestures, a lot more than the others. But very fierce in defending their colony, as I saw recently.
I really don’t want to loose them.
But I will ask the queen breeder if she is pure bred. Wouldn’t be surprised.


Absolutely, but nobody easily accessible breeds them that pure in the US. They are just “Italian”. :wink:


Yep, for my breeder these are just Italians as well, but he marks the queen cages to indicate it’s a Cordovan. I think his entire line 6 is Cordovan and as pure as you can get them here.

I thing the Jazzas managed to find some other nectar sources. First time in a week they put on weight like the others today.
And all hives in my nursery apiary, the 8 frame nucs, are relaxed and bringing in their goodies.

But - inspected a hive in another apiary and added some observation sensors, and a couple of the robbers (black Carnies) were there straight away.
However, this hive is very strong, the intruders got fought off straight away.

I think that robbing happened because I had a nuc without foragers. They also got chalk brood. Well, the robbers then got it too.
I see the mistakes I made. Won’t happen again.
Plenty of lessons in that.

Although it seems sort of solved for now, I will install robbing screens for any splits or nucs in the future. Having 10 strong hives about the place, it’s just a matter of time the waggle dances indicate easy unprotected taking.

Who ever said Italians are prone to robbing? Not mine.
There is just that one carnie hive that sniffed out easy taking from a nuc, the rest is history.

What is interesting though is, since the Jazzas couldn’t rob any more, they lost about 3kg in weight, while all others are slowly gaining.
So I reckon the foragers didn’t know any more where to go after their access was denied, additionally they lost heaps of bees.
The tide is turning.

I’m grateful to understand robbing a bit more now. It’s a bee thing.





That’s a start. There are hundreds more… :smile:


Thanks for the links Dawn. Cushman actually supports my idea of requeening, I think way to go with Jazza. Will rename her too. Never liked that name.
Michael has some radical advice too for an emergency.

I think yellow or black bees and their mutts are perhaps quite different even in general traits in the US compared to Australia or EU. I’m no specialist in any bee way, but it stands to reason considering bees have been bred for certain traits in different lines in different countries.
Whereas it may be true yellow bees are more prone to robbing in the US, it may be different here. It’s certainly different in my case. But then, it’s only one hive and not representative for the rest of Australia.

Most people I know have Italian looking bees. I love my different breeds, kept in different sub apiaries. The Carnies are generally more gentle I find.

In any case, I now feel rather well equipped for future robbings.
Now to get a new queen once everything settles down and put Queen Jazza into vodka.
It’s late in the season, but I will get a new queen.
Might call her Dawn if you don’t mind. I hope she will be the wise and reasonable one in a beautiful cedar hive.