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Fighting bees, hive defence?

 
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luk_lak
Guard Bee


Joined: 06 Dec 2013
Posts: 85
Location: Isle of Dogs, London, UK

PostPosted: Wed Jun 17, 2015 10:47 am    Post subject: Fighting bees, hive defence? Reply with quote

Yesterday I observed an interesting spectacle sitting in front of my hive

One bee tried to get into the hive. The other was trying to prevent that. First it was holding it by the back leg with his mouth parts, then moved to front and grabbed head/abdomen. Other bees were not helping it and carry one as normal.

After about 30sec the 'intruder' managed to get into the hive. But after another half minute or so it was pushed out. Tried to get in again but the defending bee acted as a lever and managed to get under the abdomen of the intruder and pushed her up so she flew into the air. In the next minute or so the intruder attempted many landings around my 2 hole entrances but never managed to touch down. There was a bit of traffic from my bees around entrances but I did not noticed any defensive behaviour. After that she flew behind the hive and I lost her there.

I'm pretty sure the offender was not my bee. It was bit bigger and different colour, completely black abdomen while mine are black/brown stripes. There was only one bee like that during 15 minutes I was observing.

I've checked the bottom board (I have mesh floor). There was a lot of debris, about 2-3 mm thick, but the board was never cleaned since swarm installation. What I saw was pollen, even few large chunks like fallen of the cell, some transparent crystals (wax?) and very fine dust-like wood particles (are they chewing bars or inside hive?) Is that normal or maybe there is/was some robbing?

I've looked inside the hive via observation window. Nothing strange. I can't see first 5 combs but everything else after. There was no suspicious behaviour that I've noticed. Just busy work and comb building.

Can someone explain me what I've witnessed?

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Lukasz - Friendliest gardener in E14
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Barbara
Site Admin


Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1564
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Wed Jun 17, 2015 6:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It sounds like they were evicting a potential robber.
Are you familiar with and able to tell the difference between workers and drones? If not, it is possible that this was a drone being evicted although it is early for such behaviour. Drones are usually darker and bigger of course. If the hive is low on stores, it cannot afford to feed drones so they may be evicted early for this reason. It therefore might be prudent to check that they have enough stores and are not starving.

If they have plenty of honey/nectar and you think it might be a robber then you need to assess how strong the colony is and perhaps reduce the entrance to one or even half a hole if they are small. You would certainly be advised to monitor the hive for similar behaviour on a regular basis as a hive can become overrun quite quickly once a few robbers are successful.

The sawdust like particles on the drop board are most likely the remnants of brood cappings where new baby bees have chewed their way out of their cells to "hatch"....so basically cocoon fragments. They may be chewing wood though if there is something they don't like or want to alter. With robbing, you normally see larger pieces of wax debris, like several cell cappings stuck together. Robbers are not worried about conserving comb so they just smash and grab and the comb looks raggy and uneven where they have targeted it.

Hope that helps you assess what is going on.

Regards

Barbara
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Smorning
Foraging Bee


Joined: 20 Aug 2013
Posts: 150
Location: Faversham Kent UK

PostPosted: Wed Jun 17, 2015 8:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Isle of dogs is famous for robbers watch out for Italians
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luk_lak
Guard Bee


Joined: 06 Dec 2013
Posts: 85
Location: Isle of Dogs, London, UK

PostPosted: Mon Jun 22, 2015 11:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for all the answers.

My gut feeling was the same - that it may be a robbing scout. But my girls defended their home all right, at least for now.

Although I'm not experienced I'm pretty sure it was not a drone.

I was doing some entrance observations, plus checking bottom board and observation window. No similar behaviour was noticed. Hive inside is busy and doing comb building, no suspicious debris on the bottom. Just chunks of pollen (why they are dropping / discarding it?), chewed cappings etc.

ATM both entrances are buzzing with traffic. In peak time, mid-day there are few bees a second coming in/out. At least 1/3 bringing pollen, one sunny day it was like 50%. I could even noticed differece in colours: light yellow, yellow, orange and recently gray.

When I had only one entrance there were "traffic jams", bees circling or waiting on the front to get in. That is why I don't want to impede their work by blocking one of the entrances. My guess with that amount of bees there should be enough guards inside to protect them?

I can't see first 5 combs but the combs 6-10 are full drawn, just being added the thickness and content. Bees are working on small 11, 12. And I've noticed yesterday bees are doing something with 13th wood comb guide, maybe laying some wax foundation... That shows me the colony is growing and there are more and more bees inside.

Based on the above I'd like to think my colony is strong and should be able to defend both entrance holes.

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Lukasz - Friendliest gardener in E14
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Che Guebuddha
Golden Bee


Joined: 31 Jan 2012
Posts: 1549
Location: Hårlev, Stevns Kommune, Denmark

PostPosted: Tue Jun 23, 2015 9:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Scout bees always try their luck to enter hives but that cant be called robbing unless you see a late traffic on that hive even though all other hives have calmed down for the day. Robbing usually goes on in the late hours as well. There can be fighting on the entrance if the colony is strong but if the colony is weak or a small split there could be no noticeable fighting on the entrance but inside the hive instead.

I have seen robbing in my weak hive and I was surprised to see so much traffic yet I knew it was weak for to be able to fly so strong so I immediately assumed its being robbed. I could see my strongest hive bees flying out of their hive and making a U-turn and flying into this weak hive. I tried to obscure the entrance with many tree branches with leaves on it but it was too late. They have managed to kill the entire hive already (it was a small colony).

Keep you colonies strong (equalize them by taking some brood from the strong and giving it to the weak one comb at a time) and keep small entrances on weak hives.

In case of a strong robbing scenario cover the entire hive with a wet cloth so robbers get totally confused about the entrance. This worked well for some people I never tested it though, I only use branches with leaves and reducing the entrance size so only 2 bees can pass through.
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Barbara
Site Admin


Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1564
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Tue Jun 23, 2015 12:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have a slightly different outlook as I don't like to chop and change brood or bees between hives and I think this may actually make robbing easier because the new brood will have a different nest scent and that could make it harder for guards to identify their own sisters from robbers and potentially give robbers the chance to walk into the hive unnoticed as the nest scent has been distorted.
I just keep the entrance reduced on weaker hives and keep a close eye on them but then I am fortunate that my bees are not prone to robbing each other. I think dark bees may be more polite and reserved in such matters than their Italian counterparts.
However it sounds like the OP's bees are strong enough to see off the challenge, if that is in fact what it was on this occasion,
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luk_lak
Guard Bee


Joined: 06 Dec 2013
Posts: 85
Location: Isle of Dogs, London, UK

PostPosted: Tue Jun 23, 2015 2:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have only one hive so definitely no chance of being robbed by my own bees.

Thanks for the clue that robbing gets more obvious at the end of the day. I'll check this today. Yesterday's quick observation around 8 pm (still bright) showed only few bees in and out.

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Lukasz - Friendliest gardener in E14
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luk_lak
Guard Bee


Joined: 06 Dec 2013
Posts: 85
Location: Isle of Dogs, London, UK

PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2015 1:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've just read one thread about First hive stripped clean and it get me worried.

I'm in similar situation: a beginning beekeeper with young colony. And apparently my area has Italian bees.

I'll need to increase my vigilance and observe them more carefully every day.


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Lukasz - Friendliest gardener in E14[/url]
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Smorning
Foraging Bee


Joined: 20 Aug 2013
Posts: 150
Location: Faversham Kent UK

PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2015 8:24 pm    Post subject: Convert Reply with quote

Convert to periscope entrances its a better design in my opinion and deters (confuses) robbers you can also place barrier in entrance or spray tea tree solution or wintergreen as robbers are attracted by smell whereas legitimate bees just know entrance by orientation.
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luk_lak
Guard Bee


Joined: 06 Dec 2013
Posts: 85
Location: Isle of Dogs, London, UK

PostPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2015 10:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the advice but I don't have tools nor materials nor space to do this. I purchased the hive fully assembled.

I think the holes are working well. The hive entrance is so busy during the day that there is a lot of bees circling, sitting on the front board before they get inside. 2-3 weeks ago they landed straight into the hole, now there is too many of them.

Also what I noticed there were bees on the front board not going in or out. They were just walking around, some bees were touching them with their antenas, or even mouthparts? Were there a guard bees?

Colony is growing and getting stronger each day. 3 days ago they've moved the cluster back and now hanging in the bars 12-15 building new comb.

Fingers crossed no robbers can get foothold in my hive.

PS. Smorning - thanks for the great bees. I can sit in front of the hive almost sticking my face into the entrances without them attacking me. They do their job and ignore me.

*******************************
Lukasz - Friendliest gardener in E14[/url]
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