Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Anti Robin Hood: 08-06-2013

You've all heard of Robin Hood, who robs from the rich and gives to the poor, right?  Well, in the bee world, their hero is the Anti Robin Hood!  They rob from the poor and give to the rich and powerful!  This is the sight I beheld as I approached the split hive to begin my inspection.

Split Hive:

As I came upon the split hive I immediately noticed a cloud of bees swirling around the outside of the hive.  Instantly odd since the population was so low that even basic in and out traffic was not very prolific.  The other thing that was odd was the majority of the cloud of bees were attempting to enter the hive under the telescoping cover instead of the actual entrance.  These were all signs that the hive was in the process of being robbed.  When a strong hive finds a weak hive that cannot defend the supply of honey they have, then they overpower the guard bees and steal the honey.  Not a good situation since bees are killed during the fighting and the weak hive can either be greatly damaged or destroyed.

Here is a photo of what a honey frame looks like when it has been robbed.  The cells have been torn open during the frantic raiding and have a very jagged appearance.
Robbed Frame
I had placed the entrance reducer on the smallest setting when I first set up the split hive and I thought that would be enough.  Not only did I made a mistake by putting the split into a full sized deep box (instead of a 5 frame nucleus hive), but adding a second box of honey wasn't good either.  I set them up to fail by giving them way too much space to defend with way too few bees.  Learning from mistakes are the best lessons, right?

Upon opening the hive it was obvious to me that the only bees present were the ones robbing out the honey.  There was very little honey left in any of the frames and I quickly went through both boxes looking for any sign of the virgin queen that was spotted two inspections ago or any sign of eggs or larvae.  She was no where to be found and the small cluster of about 50 dead bees on the bottom board told me that if I did find her, she would probably be amongst the dead.  I combed through the dead bees and did not find her.  I did find a dead yellow jacket and a bee with its stinger and venom sac exposed.  No doubt, she died in battle.

With nothing else left to do with the split hive (or ex-split hive), I decided to add the now mostly empty brood box onto White Hive.

White Hive:

My goal this time with White Hive is to verify that what I thought might have been eggs really were freshly laid eggs.  As you may recall, I spotted the queen during my last inspection.  If she was from the queen cell I installed, I wouldn't have known for sure that she had flown out and successfully mated.  If I find eggs that tells me that she did.

The first few frames were honey with some pollen as I expected, but as I pulled frame 4 I hit the jackpot.

Since I know the "bee math", I know that when an egg is laid it takes 3 days to hatch, spends 6 more days as an open larvae before it is capped (total of 9 days) and then 12 more days before a new bee emerges (total of 21 days).  This photo shows big fat open (uncapped) larvae that will be capped any day now.  So they are probably somewhere between 6 to 8 days old and that places them as eggs during my last inspection on 7-30!  I love it when I can actually figure things out!

On the other side of frame 4 I was able to spot a baby bee emerging from her cell (dead center), some very tiny larvae (two cells down to the left) and what looks like a tiny grain of egg (one cell down to the left and another one two cells down to the right)!

Eggs and Larvae
Now that I know the Queen is laying for sure, I can stop worrying so much about White Hive.  She should really be cranking out those eggs, possibly 2-3 THOUSAND every day!  More than her own body weight!

Continuing on, I found what I think was one of the old Queen Cups that the bees decided they do not need anymore.  They look like they are in the process of tearing it down.

The remaining frames had more honey, pollen, open larvae, capped larvae and a small patch of drone brood that is just about to hatch on frame 7.  White Hive looks really good and with a new Queen going full bore, they should be very strong going into Winter. 

Speaking of changing seasons, I saw some Goldenrod in bloom.  That sure heralds the end of summer doesn't it?  Lame!

Until next time, thanks for reading!


  1. Sad about the robbed hive. I hate it when that happens. We saw some frenzied action for a few days at our hummingbird feeder, but the hives seemed OK. After last year, I kept a careful watch. Our goldenrod is blooming now and that seems to have put an end to the frenzy for the time being. Our goldenrod comes on early and stays till frost - we must have several different varieties. It can't be the end of summer yet. I'm just not ready!

    1. Yeah, and on Mister Bush's website (which I think you read too), it says that queenless hives are more likely to be robbed. Makes sense I suppose.

      I'm not ready for the end of summer either!

  2. Thanks for the picture of the robbed frame. It is another sign for me to look for. I am sorry I can't share your dismay for the end of the season as it means mine is just beggining and I am looking forward to that, in Australia.


    1. No problem Tim. I'm glad to see someone excited by the approaching season! =)

      There have been a few articles in American Bee Journal recently about beekeeping in Australia. Do you have to move your hives around a lot to catch different nectar flows?

    2. I have only three hives so mine are stationary. Proffessional beekeepers here take careful note of what tree is likely to flower at what time and travel great distances to catch these flows, often travelling thousands of kilometers a year. It is quite labour intensive I think and a hard way to make a living. I am more than happy just staying as a hobbyist and being able to enjoy the bees and what they do for themselves and the world.

    3. Very good Tim. I think two or three hives are probably plenty of work for us hobbyists anyway!