A while back, we discussed robbing behavior and how robbing can be a problem for beekeepers during times of drought or lack of nectar. During robbing, honeybees invade neighboring colonies seeking to steal their honey stores. Weak or small colonies are the most vulnerable to robbing because they often lack the population of guard bees necessary to defend their entrances against invasion.
As a beekeeper, it is certainly important to identify robbing behavior, as well as the causes of robbing. But even more important than identifying the robbing behavior is to be able to prevent robbing from happening in the first place!
At Wildflower Meadows, our two best tools to prevent robbing are the time-honored entrance reducer and a small robbing screen.
The entrance reducer is a simple stick of wood that cuts down the size of the entrance by blocking off a large percentage of the area where bees can enter and leave a colony. When a colony has a smaller area to defend against other thieving bees, it always has a better chance of fighting them off, much in the same way that a soccer goalie can better defend a small-sized goal than a larger-sized one. Entrance reducers can be purchased at most beekeeping supply companies. However, a customized small piece of wood can easily accomplish the same purpose for a lower cost.
The robbing screen is a piece of screen or mesh that sits in front of the entrance and serves to block and deflect the incoming flight path of robbing bees. Because robbing bees are nearly always worked up into a frenzy, they easily get confused by the screen blocking the entrance. They tend to fly directly into the path of the screen without taking the time to figure out a way around it. The defending colony’s bees, however, have already quickly learned how to maneuver their way around the screen and rapidly figure out how to use it as a shield against incoming robbers.
At Wildflower Meadows, our robbing screen is a simple piece of vent screening material attached over the reduced entrance with a push pin. The cost of this robbing screen is just a few cents per colony, but the payoff is huge! Small colonies that otherwise might be vulnerable to robbing are able to hold their own if robbing gets started.