I’m not an expert on dealing with a robbing frenzy because I hardly ever see it. I think I’ve only had it happen once, a few years ago when I spilled some sugar syrup spiked with anise extract in my beeyard. And… I did it again.
For those who don’t know, robbing is exactly what he sounds like (one of the few instances of a beekeeping term leaving little room for interpretation). Bees from one hive break into a neighbouring hive, usually defended by a weaker colony, and they steal as much honey as they can. The defending colony goes into an all out defensive mode — literally all out, as in all the bees, or as many as can be spared, go outside the hive ready to rumble and discourage attackers. This can result in a lot of dead bees at the end of the day. Some hives can be robbed of all their honey — which usually means they’re dead.
Robbing usually occurs during a dearth when the bees are starved for nectar and honey — like in the fall. Any whiff of an easy nectar source (e.g., wet honey frames left outside, spilled syrup), especially if it’s close to the beehives, can trigger the robbing instinct. The bees just lose their minds. They become a different insect, more like wasps on methamphetamine than the docile friendly honey bees were used to seeing.
That’s the extent of my knowledge of robbing based on the research I’ve done over the years. My experience with robbing, though, is minimal.
I reduced the bottom entrances on all my hives to prevent the robbing that seemed to be on the go, but I’ve since learned that I should have blocked off the top entrances too. Robbing guards made of mesh work. There’s a bunch of stuff, stuff I’ve never much bothered with because robbing has never a big problem for me. But come September next year, I might slap together a few robbing guards and keep them on standby.
I’ll check on my hives later. Hopefully I was able to prevent the worst from happening.
For more information on robbing, check out Honey Bee Suite.