Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Pandemonium in the Bee Yard

Right now in my blog draft folder is a post in the making of some of the happenings that have been going on around here (has it really been over two weeks since I last posted?!), and my plan was to finish it up and have it posted today.

It's amazing how quickly plans can change, though! This morning, I was crossing things off of my 'today to-do list' . . . 

 put in mite count trays under beehives - done
make cheese - done
 wash laundry and hang on the line - done
tidy-up - done

Then came feeding the bees . . . I had already mixed up a batch of sugar syrup earlier and walked out to give it to one of the hives. Only to find a serious case of robbing going on at each of the hives! (Basically that is 'foreign bees' [though they could be from another of our hives] 'breaking and entering' into the other hives and stealing honey and sugar syrup.) I quickly reduced all of the entrances (made the openings smaller), and watched and waited. The fighting and pandemonium only continued! I needed to do something to get this stopped! But what?

In I came for some quick looking on the internet . . . I knew that robbing screens can help, but we don't have any and I didn't know how to make them. One other suggestion I found was to put wet sheets over the hives to keep any more robbers from gaining entrance. So that was done, and it wasn't long before the sheets were covered in bees - both 'robbers' and the home bees trying to get in with their nectar and pollen loads. It was kind of a depressing sight out in the bee yard!

This is hours afterwards and after the sheets had been removed

I decided to not go out to the hives to look again for several hours and to instead, wait for things to calm down a bit. In the meantime, I was determined to try to figure out how to prevent robbing in the future as I am guessing that it is the feeding that started all of this, and we have to feed our hives sugar syrup right now to get them ready for winter after the long drought.

Anyway, after looking at some pictures online of 'robber screens', I went to our scrap wood pile to see if there was anything I could use (and there was), found an old window screen that I had used previously to dry herbs on and decided to confiscate it for the bees instead, got a hand saw (given my lack of 'power tool' know how :), and set to work.

I didn't think to take photos at the beginning so in the above photo, two of them are almost finished (one was already done) . . . the openings are cut, the pieces are nailed together, and now they are ready for the screens.

 I laid the screen over top of them and then stapled it on to the frames and cut the screen around the frames.

The result . . . three robber/robbing screens that will be put on this evening. I am not exactly sure how to explain how they work, but their purpose is to confuse the robbers trying to enter while directing the regular hive residents to an entrance that is higher up than the one that they had been using. Anyway, we're hoping that the screens will help! We'll find out tomorrow. :)


  1. What an exciting adventure! :) Hopefully all the bees will settle down :) Have missed you!

  2. Wow, Sarah! What an unexpected adventure! And it was very enterprising of you to fashion your own robber screens...I see there is indeed a silver lining in every cloud.:-)

    As I read, I wondered how in the world you could tell the difference between the "robber bees" and your own home bees? And do you think you might stop the feedings for awhile, or rely on the screens to correct the problem?

    ~ Betsy

  3. That is very complex. I had no idea there were such things as robber bees. Your own bees need to set up a guard bee, and produce a passport so they can get in!

  4. ~ Aww, you’re sweet, Nabila! It looks like things are settling down some . . . the screens are working!

    ~It was, Betsy! The way I could tell the hives were being robbed was the frenzy of activity at the entrances and all of the fighting going on between bees. So, no, I can’t tell the difference in appearance between the robbers and the home bees! I put the screens on and have continued feeding, and it looks like the screens are working. There are still robbers trying to get in, but they can’t find the new entrance! :)

    ~They do have guard bees, Elizabeth, but sadly, they got overwhelmed by the large number of robbers trying to get in (which was my fault as now I realize I had the entrances too large for this time of year.) They even do have a kind of ‘passport’ . . . their smell!


Thanks so much for your comment! Each one is read and enjoyed. :)