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Robber Bees

§ 84. In the chapter upon “brood” (36) we have spoken of the flight of the young bees, as somewhat resembling the actions of robber bees. It is now time to mention this danger.

During times of scarcity, if you see bees flying about the corners of the hives or around the entrances with a quick, hurried motion, acting as if always afraid of being pounced upon by others, you may be certain that they are robber bees. These are not a special kind of bees, for in times of scarcity all bees may become robbers if any inducement is given tot his trait of their nature which prompts them to hunt for food wherever it may be had and to take it away from weaker bees or colonies wherever they find them. The sneaking guilty manners of the robber always point it out. However, should one colony succeed in overpowering another, they soon consider the prize their own and lose the guilty look, but their hurried actions and sleek, shiny appearance always cause them to be easily detected.

§ 85. If all the colonies are kept strong there is no danger of robbing. It is only the weak ones that are robbed. Working with bees at unseasonable times, leaving honey exposed in the apiary, etc. induces robbing. Colonies of black bees and queenless hives or nuclei (107) are usually the sufferers. Contracting the entrance, so that but a single bee can pass, is usually a cure for robbing. In times of scarcity of honey, the apiarist should be careful not to keep a hive open long, or robbing may be the result. All strong colonies maintain sentinels at the entrance in times of scarcity. Those of that colony are allowed to pass, but strangers are “arrested on the spot”. If a colony is unable to defend itself, close up the entrance and remove it to the cellar, or some other convenient place, for a few days, and when it is returned to the old stand, contract the entrance to allow only one bee to pass at a time.
Another very good method, when robbing has just begun, is to throw a bunch of loose grass over the entrance. The hive-guards station themselves in that grass and arrest the robbers that are bold enough to try to enter. But this method is unavailable after the bees have once given up to robbers. In that case, if the colony is worth saving, the only salvation is to find the robbing colony by sprinkling a few of the robbers with flour and exchanging one hive for the other, placing the robbed colony on the stand of the robber, and vice-versa. The behavior of the bees in such case is quite ludicrous, as they find themselves fooled by the exchange. Such means should be resorted to only in extreme cases.

§ 86. The best way to avoid robbing is to leave no honey exposed in unprotected places.

We have said that it is only the weak colonies that are robbed. There are exceptions, however, and in accidental instances we have seen very populous colonies overpowered. The breaking down of combs of honey from excessive heat (64) or the injudicious exposing of their stores by the apiarist in times of scarcity may induce this.

§ 87. The sudden robbing of a colony through accident is often indicated to the experienced apiarist without even having to go to the apiary, as the bees become so excited by the mutual information which seems to spread like wild fire, that some plunder is to be had that they fly about the apiary and about the house yard with great diligence and this flight does not at all resemble the quiet hum of field workers going back and forth to the honey harvest.

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