Hive Robbery: What It Is and How to Prevent It

Picture this: you head out to inspect your hives, only to find the honey frames gutted and dead bees strewn about the ground. Pieces of wax can be found on the landing boards of your hives. If you’ve seen these symptoms before, you know what you’re looking at. Your hive has fallen prey to hive robbery.

Hive robbery can devastate a colony of bees and heavily impact your honey harvest, and it’s every beekeeper’s nightmare. Fortunately, beekeepers can take measures to prevent hive robbery. With smart beekeeping techniques and the right hive components, you can protect your hive from invaders and ensure an excellent honey harvest every season. Continue reading to learn more.

What is hive robbery?

Hive robbery is the invasion of a beehive by robber bees (which are typically old workers) from another hive. This invasion can occur because the robbing hive has been weakened, possibly through poor weather conditions, depleted nectar sources, or hive infestations. Robbery might also occur because the victim hive is weak and unable to protect itself. A hive defending itself will fight its invaders to the death, which can severely deplete a hive’s population. If they fail, and the hive is wiped out, the robber bees will fill their honey stomachs and transport the honey back to their own hive. They don’t need long to completely gut a hive of its entire honey reserve.

All havoc and mayhem aside, you can recognise hive robbery in many subtle ways, and over time, you’ll become more familiar with its symptoms. For example, it is perfectly normal for worker bees to fight with drones during autumn when the drones are exiled from the hive to preserve honey stocks. Fights with robber bees, however, might occur earlier in the season and often result in greater casualties.

Robber bees won’t have any pollen on their legs and may be hovering side to side outside the hive entrances, scoping for the best time and place to invade. Additionally, bees that have been fighting might look shiny – this is because their hair has been lost in battle. Lastly, jagged edges on the combs suggest that the caps have been chewed through by invaders.

How can you protect your hive against robbery?

Limit hive access

If you notice that robbery is already taking place within your hives, the first thing you should do is narrow the entrance and check for any other gaps or cracks in the hive to reduce the area that your hives must defend. Wire mesh or some other entrance reducer can limit access. Many other beekeeping supplies are available to stem the tide during a hive robbery.

Disguise your hive

The resident bees of a hive are less likely to be confused by efforts to disorient or disguise a hive than invading bees are, so draping a wet towel over the hive or using potent smelling oils or creams near the entrance to mask the smell can deter robber bees without confusing the locals. You can also use screens with discreet access points over the entrance to hold up robbers. The resident bees will figure out the ways in and out quickly enough, but robber bees could be held up long enough by screens to give the home bees the advantage.

Reduce hive inspections

The smell of honey is what attracts robber bees. To prevent hive robbery in the future, try to limit the number of hive inspections you undertake. Opening the hive releases a plethora of smells that are more likely to attract robbers. You should also try not to position external feeders too close to the hive.

Protect your hives with the right equipment

Apiarists invest in all sorts of beekeeper accessories to protect themselves from their bees, but don’t forget to protect your bees from their threats as well. Contact Nuplas Apiarist Supplies today for more expert advice on keeping your hives safe from robbery and for the right tools and equipment to do so. Your bees will thank you!