Updated: Aug 26, 2021
It's Robbing Season in the Beek World! Keep an eye on your hives, your entrances and feeders! This time of year as autumn approaches, food sources dry up for insects, bees and yellow jackets. Honey bees become more protective when you go inside for inspections and rightfully so! If you do not normally use a smoker, this is the time of year to have it readily available to keep bees calm and distracted. Bee aware of how much time you are spending in the hive as to not allow pests in during your inspections.
Yellow jackets are usually in abundance in August, in fact we get many calls for bee removal which are usually wasps and yellow jackets and not honey bees. Strong colonies can fend off yellow jackets, but weaker or smaller ones may have some trouble and since yellow jackets are meat eaters, they get in the door and can destroy a hive.
Robber Bees also use this time to send scout bees out into the field to assess the location of nearby hives that may be weaker or smaller than their colony and hence more vulnerable. Once they locate these hives, they recruit more bees from the offending hive to return to the victim hive and force entry to rob their stores. When this process begins, it is difficult to stop. Prevention is key and can determine the fate of your hives come winter.
Signs your hives are being robbed may include:
~Worker bees dueling it out at your entrances
~Bees hovering around the sides or back of the hives.
~Watch the landing of the bees, as robber bees fly side to side planning their entry.
~Are you finding comb debris at your entrances? ~Dead bees in front of your hive entrances
~More activity than normal at your hive entrances.
What To Do!
BEE sure to reduce your entrances, especially with these cooler morning temps. Robing screens are available for entrances to protect entry points. Maybe add a stick, grass or lawn clippings to your hive entrances for protection. Move your feeders "indoors". Boardman feeders can be placed in an empty top box above your inner cover with an empty super over to protect it, inside frame feeders and top feeders are available for safer fall feeding practice and some opt for an open feed away from the hives as long as all honey supers are removed (although some train of thought is that this may attract more problems and unwanted attention from robbers). If robbing has already begun to take place, you can try a few tricks of the trade. Put a wet sheet over your hive. Relocate your hives more than three miles away to stop robbing. Use a sprinkler near the hives to simulate rainfall and send those robbers packing.
Bee Prepared and keep an eye so all of your hard work pays off! If your hives have been robbed, assess the colony health, decide if you want to combine weak colonies for fall/winter. Maybe do a heavy feeding session for several weeks to get hive stores back up to your goal weight. And remember to join a club or online group to check in with others in your area for timely tips and assess what's happening in YOUR area!