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Robbing Behavior


#1

We are first year beekeepers who live in the southern U.S. We have two flow hives which we’ve had going since March and they have done very well. Yesterday, we noticed robbing behavior. We closed off the entrance, took away the food, and called our local bee guru. He said that with the drought we’ve been having here that he has seen far more robbing than he’s ever seen and suggested adding a sprinkler on the hives for awhile. We did that. It looked better this morning but we put the sprinkler on again this morning just to be sure. I have not opened the hive to check on the status of queens.

I have two questions. First, is how long we should we keep the entrances closed? There are very small passageways. Second, is that we now have a lot of bees (we believe feral ones) in our yard (we have five acres). Should we try to lure them away by putting sugar water sources in the woods behind our house? On one hand, it seems like a plausible idea since it might move the feral bees to a more appropriate location. On the other hand, I’m afraid we will be encouraging more feral bees to come live here.

If anyone has any ideas on how we could do more or better than we are now, we would greatly appreciate it. Watching this has been heartbreaking. Thank you.


#2

If the entrance is around an inch, you should be fine leaving it like that all winter. UC Davis advise that in SoCal, robbing is worst from September to November, so you should be prepared to see robbers for another month or so. If you want a wider entrance, you could consider adding a robbing screen. You will probably have to fiddle with it a bit to get it to fit the Flow hive entrance, but they work. Here is a design from UC Davis:
http://entomology.ucdavis.edu/files/147611.pdf

No. As you suggest, you may get even more robbers if you do that.

Please let us know how it goes.


#3

The actual Flow Frames are stored away and not on the hive, yes?


#4

Thank you so much. This is really helpful. I’ll let you know.


#5

No, they’re there. I thought we were supposed to leave them there to help overwinter.


#6

Where in the US are you? Do you actually have winter or is it warm enough for the bees to fly all year?

If it’s not warm enough, the FF’s should be removed along with the queen excluder. Otherwise, you run the risk of the worker bees moving up to the honey and stranding the queen below the excluder.

When you are feeding the bees sugar syrup, the Flow Frames should be put away because you run the risk of the bees storing sugar syrup in your Flow Frames. When you harvest, it won’t be honey, it’ll be syrup.


#7

I agree with @Red_Hot_Chilipepper, The Flow super should be off the hive for winter, even if your winters are mild. If you are tropical or subtropical with good year round nectar flow, you might leave them on, but I don’t think that applies to many US people.

If there is honey in the Flow frames, you can always drain it and feed it back to the bees if you wish. Store the Flow super in a cool dark place - the plastic gets brittle if exposed to UV.

Also, if you were using an entrance feeder, please consider trying a different type. A hive top feeder of some sort, which is well within the hive walls, is much better at avoiding encouraging robbing. I like pail feeders, but Miller hive feeders (Brushy Mountain sells a nice one) and even inverted jar feeders are better than the Boardman entrance feeder.
http://www.brushymountainbeefarm.com/8-Frame-Hive-Top-Feeder-w_Floats/productinfo/262/

One more thought, make sure that the white plastic slider is in the upper slot of the bottom board. That will keep any food drips inside the hive, and also reduce the food smell wafting into the environment.


#8

We’re in East Tennessee. There’s definitely a winter. We thought we would give them one year without our robbing the hives. We did find out about sugar water in the flow hives so we stopped that but we did keep giving them bee cakes. The queen excluder was taken out recently in preparation for winter. That was the recommendation from our local association. Things look better this afternoon but I sure wish I knew more.


#9

Oh.
Now I’m getting really confused. This may sound stupid but how would we give them back the honey? If we just poured it back into the brood box wouldn’t we drown the bees? What a mess. Have we screwed this up? Maybe I can get the man who is our local self-taught apiarst to come over. He’s so busy that he is hard to get. Our local extension agent is a good guy but not as knowledgeable about bees as I’d like.


#10

You put the honey you are feeding back into a feeder which sits on the feeder hole in your crown board. You have to have that in an empty super box or shim so that the only place it can be accessed is from within the hive


#11

Beekeeping classes might be an idea?


#12

Got it. Thanks you for your help. I should have known that.


#13

We did that through University of TN a couple years ago and we’ve been to monthly meetings of our local beekeeping association for at least two years. We’re trying to do the right thing but there is a lot of conflicting information and personalities.


#14

No queen excluder while the Flow Frames are in place may result in brood laid in the Flow Frames. You don’t want that.


#15

@Dee is spot on. If you drain the frames of uncapped honey, you have several choices. One is to test the harvest with a honey refractometer (cheap and easy), if it is less than 18.5% water, you have shelf-stable honey. The other is not to test, then refrigerate or freeze it. At that point, you can either eat it yourself (it is perfectly good) or feed it back to the bees by putting it into a jar or other standard liquid feeder. Honey is better for bees than syrup, so I would choose to feed it back to them.

Actually @Red_Hot_Chilipepper has a great point too. No QX and Flow frames still on, risks the queen laying in the Flow super. Then you have to clean the cocoons out of the Flow cells before you can use them properly again to harvest. If you don’t, you may get a lot more honey leaks in the hive, and have some honey that you can’t harvest at all. Cleaning out the cocoons is not an easy thing to do, as you may have to completely dismantle the frame and wash it clean, then reassemble. Better to take the super off.


#16

Ok. Thanks. We’ll take care of that.


#17

Thanks for all the good advice. I’m starting to think that the robbing was a good thing as it set up a conversation about other issues that may have been far worse on our part. The hives have quieted down a lot today. Now on to harvesting and retooling.


#18

Great attitude. Any learning opportunity which is well-used is worthwhile. We all make mistakes and do things which we wish we hadn’t. However, if we use the experience to do it well next time, the world becomes a better place. You will do a great job as a beekeeper if you continue in the way you are describing. :wink: