Robbing Behavior

Robbing bees become manic and when the source of food runs out, they
continue the manic behavior for quite some time after the food is gone.
Robbing is bad usually in mid-summer and about this time of the year.
Hives have big populations with little nectar and pollen for them to
gather—which means any weak hive that cannot defend itself is in a fight
for its life. To see robbing, all one needs to do is set a frame filled with
sugar water out in the open near your bee yard. The bees will be all over
the frame. The bees landing on top of the bees with access to the sugar
water will work hard trying to push the bees below out of the way. Just
remember once the robbing starts it is hard to shut it down. Beekeepers
need to reduce entrances if it become a problem, or, on weak hives, shut
the entrances down so only one or two bees at a time can come or go.
Here’s a true story about what happened to a beekeeper friend of mine.
He was a new beekeeper and just brought home his first two or three
supers to extract in his garage. His bees were located on a farm he
owned and his house was located in a rather upscale part of town.
As with most of us, we often are tired when we get back from working
with our bees and don’t take care of things right away. My friend
moved the supers into his garage where he had set up his extractor.
He left the garage door open and went into the house for what might
have been an hour or so. He was aware something was wrong when a fire
truck pulled up in front of his house because a neighbor called about a
huge swarm of bees flying about, scaring almost anyone living within
100 yards of his house. Bees were flying about bushes, near windows,
wandering around in search of something.
My friend found his garage filled with flying bees who had almost emptied
all the honey in the supers he had brought home. His first thought was
to close the garage door and he did. Now he had a garage full of bees, but
compounding the problem (at least for his neighbors)—the outdoor bees
did not leave! Many were still showing up at the garage entrance and
evidently were searching for food at his neighbors’ houses as well.
He was suddenly cast into the spotlight of all the bees flying around.
He knew he was responsible for what was happening and mentioned
to me that he just wanted to disappear. It took well over an hour for the
swarming bees to give up the search for more food. He decided that
the only way he could get bees out of his garage was to get an insect
bomb to kill them. His wife was none too happy with the bee poop all
over everything. What started out as a great day with high hopes of
enjoying the fruit of his labor ended up with a robbing experience he
will never forget. But his garage did get a good cleaning up which he
had not planned on!

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