Bee! I’m Expecting You
Bee! I’m expecting you!
Was saying yesterday
To someone you know
That you were due.
The frogs got home last week,
Are settled, and at work;
Birds, mostly back,
The clover warm and thick.
You’ll get my letter by
The seventeenth; reply
Or better, be with me,
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.
This is what I do.
Several times a day, to be exact. I pull up a chair with a cup of coffee in the morning. Around noontime, I make a quick stop to make sure all is well. In the evenings and late afternoons, I curl up beside the hive, to see what news the honeybees may have.
I pretend that I’m letting them grow accustomed to me; that when we harvest the honey they will be so familiar with my smell they will let us have the honey with no resistance.
I don’t want to be stung, because that would mean one of my poor little bees would have to die.
If you come to visit, this is what we’ll do. We’ll watch the bees. 🙂
James and I walked out to the hive this afternoon, for a little honeybee observational therapy. I will sit in front of the hive for half an hour at a time, mesmerized by their activity.
Today, the hive was behaving a bit strangely, with LOTS of activity going on at the entrance. The bees looked aggravated! My first thought (and it’s probably yours too, if you’re a beekeeper) was: “there’s a robbery going on!”
I looked hard at the entrance, trying to detect any bees that may have been out of place. Nothing there. Eventually, the hive calmed down, only to spring to alarm once again! There, descending onto the hive, was an adorably fat and buzzy bumble-bee.
I can tell you that our honeybees found nothing adorable about this bumble-bee as she tried to muscle her way into the hive. She was quite brazen about it, not even bothering to be sneaky with her intentions. Thankfully, Ms. Bumble eventually went away, allowing our hive to proceed with business as usual.
All in all, it was a nice and easy way to be introduced to robbing behavior. I read up a bit on it and now I know to cover the hive with a wet bed sheet should a more serious robbery occur.
Any beekeepers out there? Have you dealt with this occurrence? What did you do?