Bees Robbing From Each Other? (Video)


We started up our first two honey bee hives a little over a week ago, both from nuc boxes. Hive #1 had a Boardman feeder installed. When we checked the hives a week a later (just looking down at the frames, not pulling them out), it was clear the hive with the feeder had built the most comb in that week. So we decided to move the feeder to Hive #2. Some bees from Hive #1 went along for the ride, but we assumed they would fly back to their own hive. We also installed an improvised feeder for Hive #2 because we didn’t want to deprive them of a food source they’d been used to (a regular Boardman feeder has been ordered and is on the way).

We’ve noticed more bees hovering around the entrance of the hives from time to time since we switched up the feeders. They weren’t hovering like this before. I did some quick research, and apparently feeding the bees can set off a robbing spree. Bees from another hive will force their way in and steal honey. The bees being stolen from can eventually starve to death from a lack of honey. But it’s also possible the hovering bees are just young bees orientating themselves to the hive. I think that’s more likely the case since the nuc boxes came with at least one full frame of brood (eggs), and many of those eggs may have begun to hatch now. I hope that’s what it is. Here’s a low-rez video of what it looks like (I have a high-rez camera coming soon):

I’ve since removed the improvised feeder because it doesn’t provide much protection against marauding bees. I’ve installed an entrance reducer on both hives so the bees have less area to defend against thieves. I may remove the entrance reducers in a day or two; I might also keep them on until the hives have establishes themselves. But I won’t add another feeder to Hive #1 until the real Boardman feeder arrives probably next week. I’d rather do they without than invite more thieving.

I’m making a phone call to a local beekeeper today to see if he can come by and assess my hives. I’m not sure if I’m doing any of this right.

JULY 28, 2010: I added an entrance reducer to both hives and one hive is feederless (until another one arrives in the mail). That seemed to work for a while, but now it’s pretty much back to normal. A couple times a day when the sun is shining, a more than normal number of bees will begin buzzing around the entrances of the both hives, creating mini-swarms. It starts with one hive, then picks up in another, and then an hour later they’re more or less back to normal. It’s probably young bees orientating themselves to the hive, but at this point I really wouldn’t know. I just shot this low-rez video of a mini-swarm in front of the feederless hive:

DECEMBER 23, 2010: Honey bees with Italian genes do tend to rob from other hives, but what we’re seeing here are orientating flights. When bees are robbing from each other, there are usually plenty of fights going on too. Not the case here. (I’ve learned a lot since this video.) I wouldn’t bother with Boardman feeders again either. They attract wasps and ants and encourage robbing. Any feeders I use will be entirely internal.

AUGUST 31, 2015: Again, it’s funny to see how I reacted to things when I first started beekeeping. These are obviously orientation flights, but it wasn’t obvious to me then. Even the update for December 2010 is curious to me. There I am talking about Italian genes and fighting bees — and I had no experience with robbing or fighting bees at the time. However, I agree about skipping the Boardman feeders. In my experience, frame feeders are better.

2 thoughts on “Bees Robbing From Each Other? (Video)

  1. Looks like orienting flights to me, especially if it happens around the same time on a good day. If it were robbing, you’d see bees darting frantically in and out of the hive entrance – I don’t see that.

    — Steven

  2. Thanks, Steven.

    I have no contact with any local beekeepers, because there aren’t any except one professional beekeepers out of town who’s too busy now running his business to drop by and assess my hives.

    I appreciate all the input I can get.

Comments are closed.