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Robbing bees: Causes and how to avoid it

The looting of a beehive by another colony can happen to the apiary. This is to be avoided both for the pillaged colony and for the effervescence it creates in the surroundings. In this article, you will learn about the causes of looting and the steps you can take to prevent or stop it.

What is Robbing?

Robbing is the attack on one colony by another to monopolize food reserves. The result is merciless fighting between the attacking bees and the besieged with many casualties on both sides. The animation is intense in the apiary. Inside the hive, the fighting continues and the frames are torn to pieces.

The flight of the looters is characteristic: they fly by letting their hind legs hang down in front of the looted hive and perform lateral back-and-forth movements.

The battles are numerous and corpses litter the flight board. Bees are aggressive and fly in all directions.

How does this happen?

The robbing occurs in times of famine, often after harvest. Noting that their reserves have disappeared, the bees will try to rebuild themselves on a weaker hive.

Robbing is sometimes also caused by the beekeeper for one or more of the following reasons:

  • leave pieces of comb full of honey lying around at the apiary
  • too long visits
  • feeding during the day
  • hives in poor condition
  • leaky feeder

How to avoid robbing?

The preventive measures are as follows:
  • Avoid having weak colonies which are targets for the stronger ones because they do not have the capacity to defend themselves
  • Eliminate or repair hives in poor condition which thus become hives with "several" entrances
  • Clean the apiary of all honey waste after each visit
  • Shorten visits
  • Ensure that the equipment is in good condition, in particular the feeders.
  • Feed in the evening just before dark.

What to do in case of robbing?

If despite everything you notice looting, here are some steps to try to stop it:
  • Adapt the entry of the flight hole to the strength of the colony. It helps the bees defending the entrance. Read this article about entrance reducers
  • For the plundered hive, reduce the entry to the passage of a single bee
  • You can also place obstacles on the flight board. Grass, pieces of wood, anything that can hinder the work of the attackers
  • Seal all holes in the hardware with duct tape. This prevents the entry and spread of honey odors.
  • If that doesn't work, move the attacked colony to another quieter apiary or isolate it.