Oxford Bees

Robbing

Submitted by will on Wed, 13/06/2018 - 06:46

I don't hold much expectation that Colony 13 will thrive. It is a small colony and vulnerable. It is building comb, but I still don't know whether there is a Queen. I haven't opened the hive. I've only looked at the hive floor, where there were wax platelets.

I had put a feeder on the hive a couple of days ago. My intention was that they should use he feed to build comb and concentrate on growing larger numbers of brood. There isn't much forage around and this is a small colony.

The consequence, predictably, is robbing. Colony 11 can clearly be seen flying between the hives. This doesn't have to be a short term problem as long as there is food in the feeder. In the longer term I may need to move the hive.

There are also wasps around now. The conditions are getting tougher.

Hive H is stable after move

Submitted by will on Tue, 29/08/2017 - 22:09
a simple wasp guard made from pieces of National brood frames.

Hive H has settled in and has brood and stores.

It absconded in early August. I returned the colony to the same hive and then moved it to Headington. I put the frames to the front of the hive; fed them with Honey and made a very small entrance. This has encouraged them to produce brood and defend their entrance. I've seen lots of wasps around but none appear to have got in.

The neighbouring hive - Hive B - has absconded or failed. I suspect robbing. Both hives are very near an apple tree which attracts wasps. The return of Hive H to health suggests that they are now willing to defend against wasp attacks.

Submitted by will on Tue, 29/08/2017 - 21:27

The colony in Hive B has failed or absconded. The hive is now completely empty.

The colony has always been small. In a year they built only 5 frames of comb (on National deep frames). I thought that maybe the effort of being at height had over-stressed them so I moved the colony from the out apiary to my back garden. I placed them under an apple tree in the hope that they would recover. There is good forage and they were at ground level.

I had seen some coming and going at the hive entrance in recent weeks. It all looked like normal activity. I saw no wasps going in or out. The entrance was partially concealed by apple tree leaves so I thought the colony was ok. I didn't open it.

The position under the apple tree may have encouraged robbing by wasps which I hadn't noticed. The colony may have lost its' Queen. It may even have been the move which killed her - although I was gentle.

Whatever the cause, I noticed unusual activity at the hive entrance yesterday. I checked the removable base board and saw a large amount of sugar on it - clear evidence that there was robbing of crystallised honey. Today I opened the hive and found it utterly empty: no bees; no Queen; no brood; no stores. I have no idea where the Queen and the other bees went.

Robbing Bumbles

Submitted by will on Thu, 25/05/2017 - 07:35

A few days ago I saw a Bumblebee nosing around the entrance to Hive D. It was going in and coming back out again without being visibly challenged by the guard bees. I was surprised that a bee which is so obviously different to my eyes could be ignored by the guards.

We're told that the bees use smell to establish which bees are allowed in. This colony specific smell comes from the honey in the hive and the nectar coming in. They all pass nectar/honey around between each other so they should all smell the same. This, I suspect, is why robbing goes unchallenged once it gets established - the robbers smell the same as the robbed. (as mentioned in...)

I suppose that stored honey varies in smell depending on which nectars were available when it was being made. I wonder whether there is confusion in the hive when all the bees rush to fill up on honey during an alarm (like a hive inspection with smoke)?

Tags

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.