I’ve been keeping bees for almost seven years now, and for the most part I’ve had good luck. My two hives are strong and disease-free, and one has successfully requeened itself.
I’m sure my success is due to where I live and the quality of bees I’ve purchased rather than any particular skill on my part. I’m the only beekeeper for miles, and my neighbors are avid gardeners. I’ve ordered my bees from reliable suppliers with good reputations in the industry.
I have had one disaster though. I don’t like to think about it because it was totally my fault. And I lost an entire colony in less than three days.
It happened in September of my second year of beekeeping. My colony of Buckfast bees was healthy and strong, and had just produced a bumper crop of honey.
Being a novice, I felt guilty about taking their honey and decided to feed them some sugar syrup. Since nectar was still flowing, the bees didn’t want any of it. After a week or so, I removed the feeder and dumped the syrup next to the hive.
That was a huge mistake. You should never dispose of syrup near the hive, or even leave uncovered syrup or honey anywhere close to it. Within hours, my hive was under major attack from every wasp, bee and honey-loving insect for miles.
It looked like something out of a science fiction movie. I tried everything to stop it, including covering my hive with a wet sheet. It was too little, too late.
I tried to save the remaining bees, but ultimately they were decimated. The hive was even invaded by wax moths. I destroyed the frames and let the supers freeze outside the next winter. I felt guilty and depressed.
The next year I started fresh with a new package, and haven’t had a major disaster since. But I know the same thing could happen again if I’m not careful.
That incident convinced me that beekeepers underestimate the threat of robbing insects to the existence of their hives.
What can we do to reduce this threat?
First and foremost, NEVER leave uncovered syrup or honey near your hives, even for a minute. Once a robbing situation begins, it’s very difficult to stop.
Second, protecting your bees from wasps, wax moths, and robber bees begins with a strong colony that can defend itself. Follow good beekeeping practices.
Third, be vigilant. If you see signs of wasps or other robbing insects at the entrance of your hives, use an entrance reducer at the smallest opening, particularly if the colony is small. If a robbing frenzy has already started, close up the hive and/or use a wet sheet to discourage the intruders. Pray for it to stop!!
I hope this helps you prevent “bee on bee” crime in your neighborhood!!