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Cue panic attack.

What you are seeing here is a hive entrance reducer.  Reducers are used to ensure that bees enter the hive only one at a time and that nothing can go in to disturb the bees.  Normally, it’s used for young or weak hives.  We do not have a young hive.  That means: our hive has been weakened.

And I’m sad.

And feeling pretty dumb.

But, after all, we are very new to this whole beekeeping business.  We installed this hive on April 23rd and hit the ground running.  We’ve harvested about 15 quarts of honey this summer and our bees have been very healthy all along.  They have survived me freaking out the last time I (mistakenly) thought they were being robbed.

This time, we’re dealing with a full-fledged robbing (and not of the human kind).

What brought about this robbery?  Well, several things conspired to weaken our bees.   I robbed two weeks ago (a little later than I should have).  After extracting the honey, I thought I would be nice and put the wet comb near our bees so they could harvest any leftover honey for themselves.  As you more experienced beekeepers know, basically I attracted foraging honeybees, bumblebees and carpenter bees to our lone hive.  The first few days, there didn’t appear to be a problem.  However, this week, I have noticed extra activity around the entrance to the hive.  It didn’t appear to be too bad–and I wasn’t sure it wasn’t just young bees orienting themselves.

This morning had all the earmarks of a full scale robbery.  I debated calling Doc or Mr. Murphy to see what they would advise.  I knew there was a quick and easy fix if I could just calm myself long enough to remember.  I went quickly to an online bee forum and saw someone recommend using the entrance reducer.  Bingo!  That was the elusive fix!  I fired up the bee smoker and took my entrance reducer to the hive.  Smoked the bees to clear the landing board and inserted the reducer.  Much better immediately.

How does the reducer help the bees during a robbery?  Well, they only have to protect one entrance.  It’s like the battle of Helm’s Deep.  When the elves and the dwarves and the humans only had the one entrance to defend all was well.  When the orcs came streaming over the sides, Middle Earth was in trouble.  Basically, it’s like a moat in a castle.

So, we’ll just have to see what kind of damage has been done.  Hopefully, the bees are fine and didn’t lose too many of their stores.  I’ll be keeping an even closer eye on them and we’ll see.