Wednesday, September 5, 2012

the bees were robbed!

So among bees, there is a phenomenon known as robbing - when the nectar flow begins to ebb, sometimes bees from one colony will descend upon another colony and try to rob them of their honey. This usually happens right around now in the Pacific Northwest - the days are getting shorter, the nectar flow is getting sparse...it will soon be time to get ready for overwintering, where the bees will hibernate, depending on their stores for getting through the winter.

Today, because my bees are right outside my front window and my husband happened to be near the hive, we got to witness the battle of the bees firsthand. My huband came running to the backyard and said, "Something unusual is happening with the bees. You need to see this. It looks like they're fighting, there are dead bees all over the place."

What the what?!?

Yeah, it's been a year since I've had bees, and last time, they were on a property that was a 25 minute drive from my home. So I didn't get to witness much of the day to day. And now, my memory of what could have been witnessed is a bit hazy...

So I run to look out the front door window, which has a great view of the hive without the exposure that might allow for stinging. Sure enough, there was a flurry of activity in front of the hive, and some pretty heavy bearding on he front, but also on the sides, which was weird. We saw some that were actually fighting in midair, one on one, to defend their hive - my girls! There were dead bee bodies everywhere.

I freaked! I'm not in the bee club yet! What should I do? Who can I call???

The beekeeper who gave me the swarm! Now where did I put that number? .... apparently into the ether. Damn.

So I look at the Oregon Beekeepers Association website, and there is a swarm catching list! Yes! I look for someone near me, just in case they want to come out....no answer. I go to the next person on this list, and score - they're home! I explain my predicament, and they are happy to answer my questions. Thank you, Universe, that beekeepers tend to love helping out new beekeepers!

After listening to my predicament, he and his daughter say sounds like robbing, although it could also be them putting out the drones. I told him they pout out the drones three weeks ago, but maybe again? So kindly they let me know I could put in the entrance reducer to help them protect the hive, and also to put a block in front of the entrance a few inches out, so they'd have to slow down to go in - to protect from wasps divebombing the hive, which apparently they wil begin to do in a week or two here.

Then later in the day, the first beekeeper I'd called calls me back, and has a lovely english accent to boot  - did I have a bee problem? I explained the sitch and that it was well in hand from the previous advice, and he still wanted to know all about it, so I told him the story, and he asked, "Do you have Langstroth (traditionally used by modern beekeepers) hives, or Warre, or...?" Warre. He said they have several Warres, then proceeds to give me all kinds of other advice about managing Warres, then gives me his email address so he can send me more information about the bee club locally and more links...and hen he invites me to come out to his farm and see HIS bees!

He also said I can call him any time with questions and he is happy to help. Yes! I have a Warre mentor! Squee! I am so damn excited.

So back to my girls - the fighting continued, but not for long, and pretty soon everything had settled back down. It looks like our hive is strong, though, and they triumphed. There are still bee bodies scattered everywhere, and they are on guard outside the hive tonight, making sure no one else comes a robbing. So now I'm not sure how to get the entrance reducer in, because the bees are filling the entrance and making their own entrance reducer, only made of bees instead of wood.

I wish I could communicate with them to let them know this device will make their job so much easier...hey won't have to expend all that energy protecting the hive at night and keeping themselves warm, because there will be less space for others to get in.

I will figure out a way.

Meanwhile, I took a little video of the hive while the fight was happening. You can't really see any fighting per se, but you can see the bearding out front and the agitation of the girls and all of the dead bee bodies strewn everywhere. I recommend expanding your screen view for maximum detail.

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