local-honey-bee-suppliesRJ Honey Farm

Looters and Rioters

It happens. Hives get robbed. Hives get killed. A customer texted wanting to know what to do about the yellow jackets attacking his hive. Once it has started it is hard to stop. And by the time most of us see it, the battle is lost.

This year has been an awful year for yellow jackets around our place. I've never seen them so bad. They've been prowling around seeking to steal, kill and destroy. Honey bees are little better. They send scout bees out to find hives which might be weak. Then they go back and tell their sisters. Game on.

What you'll see is a lot of activity at the entrance. Upon a closer look, at least initially, the beekeeper will see a lot of fighting and bees rolling around at the entrance. Once the hive has been compromised it is hard to stop.

Severely closing down the entrance is about the best you can do. It makes a smaller space for the hive to defend itself. If you catch it early enough the hive may have a chance. The hive in the picture was weighed it a week prior. Thumbs up! A week later it had lost more than 20 pounds. For this nucleus hive it was too late. I closed the entrance all the way off, but when I inspected it the next day all that I found were robbers inside. It was dead. This had been a pretty decent nuc, yet it got overwhelmed.

What can you do?

The dearth can start in August. It might be prudent to reduce entrances and close off the upper entrance until the cold weather kills the wasps and yellow jackets and settles other honey bees down.

Don't be sloppy when feeding. Sugar water splashed around acts as a magnet for predatory thieves.

Don't use an entrance feeder; that's an invitation saying 'Rob me.'

If it has been robbed out, protect it. The honey stores which are left are a valuable asset for starting a new hive the next year. The comb is gold. Don't let it get ruined by bugs, mold or mice. Clean the hive out. If you can, put the frames in a freezer for a couple days. Wax moths and beetles can still be a problem. Take them out and store them like you'd do a honey super with moth crystals.

Beekeeping always offers chances at fresh beginnings.