Hives of all sizes, I feel a little like Goldie Locks – A Daddy Hive, a Momma Hive, and a Little Baby Hive. My pink hive, the 5-story monster, is the strongest (2-time survivor of winter) – I’m really nursing this one and hoping to gain a couple additional colonies from it next spring to keep these genetics going. The orange hive, the 3-story momma that grew from my southern spring package, the one that I thought went queenless a few weeks ago that I found to be queen-right – which I direct-released my new ankle-biter queen. And the itty-bitty baby hive, the nuc on the left, I made with the southern queen from the orange hive – yesterday I checked to see if the bees had released the queen from her cage, and she had not been (they didn’t seem to go for the marshmallow blocking the hole), so I released her myself.
Today, I found the baby hive getting robbed by my other hives. It was very interesting behavior indeed! The guard bees wrestled with every unwanted visitor, but there were two many intruders and so nearly all who tried to enter made it inside. Since it is a nuc, and I am currently feeding them with a boardman feeder, I don’t have a proper entrance reducer, so I’m using another boardman feeder base with a jarless lid to block the way. That reduced the area needing to be guarded, but it still seemed that the guards were struggling to protect their territory, so I went to google for what to do next. One place suggested rubbing Vick’s vapor rub around the entrance to confuse the smell for the robbers – I don’t have that handy. Another site mentioned blocking off the entrance with wire, I don’t have that handy either. Another site recommended draping a wet bed sheet over the hive, which would apparently allow foragers from the hive to still come and go since they will re-orient themselves accordingly, but would completely deter the robbers from entering the hive because they no longer know where the entrance is based on smell. I had a spare bed sheet. I chose to try the latter recommendation.
The bed sheet worked immediately. All new robbers trying to get into the hive seemed to lose all interest in finding the entrance, while all robbers trying to leave remained trapped under the wet bed sheet. I can’t know for sure, but the few I saw leave the hive by crawling out from under the bed sheet I believe to be the rightful owners of the hive, while the ones that appeared to have crawled up the bed sheet to as far to the top as they could get I believe to be the confused robbers – and I gave them mercy and allowed them to escape by lifting the sheet briefly. I’m going to leave the sheet on one more day and see if the robbing has been forgotten.
Right before I had noticed the robbing going on I had set up this actual robbing station on the other side of my yard in hopes of cleaning up some frames that I plan to use this year. The true robbing station seems to be a hit, and has been very busy on this 90-degree day, and maybe especially because I think we are in a dearth right now. I wonder if setting up this robbing station ultimately led to my nuc getting robbed, or if in fact I didn’t add enough bees to the nuc making it a weak hive. Things to ponder and learn from, as always.