Oxford Bees

Cleaners and robbers

Submitted by will on Thu, 20/04/2017 - 11:45

Taking honey out of a hive will inevitably lead to equipment, empty comb and wax which is covered in a residue of honey. I don't like to waste this so I have put this in the hive or nearby for the bees to lick clean. I'm beginning to think that this is a bad idea.

The first problem is hygiene. Honey can transmit serious bee diseases such as American Foul Brood. This won't be a problem if you're able to return honey from the same hive, or at least the same apiary but it can be catastrophic.

The second problem is nuisance. I put a large tray of cappings out in my garden for the bees to clean up. It attracted hundreds of bees and some wasps. This is disconcerting for people nearby.

The third problem is robbing. Free honey will attract wasps and bees from all over. Guard bees are said to permit or reject incoming bees on the basis of smell. Inside the hive the bees are passing around the fresh nectar and honey to each other so that they all smell alike. I think that when robbers get in and steal honey it masks their smell and makes the other bees more likely to accept them. Robbing can get out of hand, presumably because the robbing hive smells like the robbed and is waggle-dancing that it's the best place to forage.

The latter paragraph about robbing is informed guesswork.