§ 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
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.