THE primary cause of robbery may be fairly traced to natural acquisitiveness ; which is, in the honey bee, highly developed. Without any modifying traits of character, it is not strange, therefore, that they sometimes seek to acquire that which does not belong to them. Without that propensity, they would be of no more use to man than any other of the myriads of winged insects that are so common. Being possessed of the bee, which has traits of character no less unchangeable than wonderful, it remains for us to control and direct them in such a manner as to secure the largest amount of honey for the money and labor invested.


The secondary cause, or that which leads to marauding, is a failure of pasturage ; for, while they can procure supplies from flowers sufficient to meet their wants, they are never found meddling with their neighbors, unless excited by a careless exposure of honey, or defenceless hives having honey.


The exposure of honey, the presence of worms creating a scent, a neglect of the bee-keeper to notice and remove queenless or deserted hives, or feeble swarms, are among the causes tending to excite robbers. If by these means they once get a taste, the propensity is aroused so as to endanger the lives even of good colonies. The question would here naturally arise Will not feeding produce this result ? The answer is, that it will, unless judiciously managed.


Robbers may easily be known, when making their first attacks, by their hovering around the hive, either seeking to alight at the entrance, or trying to force their way through any crevice that may be found in the hive. Their motions are quick and irregular ; first remaining poised on the wing, seemingly ready to alight, and then suddenly darting away, to again return in the same manner. If the swarm that is being attacked is on the alert, they try to catch and slay the intruders ; when they do this, there need be but little fear for their safety. When a colony is once conquered and their stores are being carried away, it is difficult to distinguish the robbers from the actual population of the hive, as they fly out with considerable regularity. This bears so strong a resemblance to the playing or "fly-out" of the young bees, that it is difficult to determine their true character. The robbers may be known by their crawling to the edge of the alighting board, or up the side of the hive, before flying ; their sacks being full of honey, gives them a larger appearance than that of playing bees. When some progress has been made at carrying away honey, there may be seen, at the entrance and under the hive, cuttings of the comb. Robbers may also be known by a peculiar sharp sound they make, when engaged in their depredations.


No hive having stores, and without a well organized colony to defend them, should be allowed to stand where it is accessible to robbers. Neither should honey or refuse combs be placed where bees can fly to them promiscuously, unless supplied with all they can remove for two or three days in succession for when they get a taste, they become excited and attack weak and strong hives alike, and of course, numbers are slain on both sides. As soon as pasturage becomes scarce, and symptoms of robbing are shown, let the entrance of each hive be so contracted that the guards can defend it. Care is required, however, to admit sufficient air, and to provide sufficient shade to prevent a half-melt, which is liable to occur when the weather is warm. All unnecessary opening of hives should be avoided at such times, (and when required, let it be done late in the afternoon) as it confuses them and allows the entrance of spies, who will appropriate at least one load, and probably return for more.


When a family is once conquered,[1] that contains a quantity of bees worth saving, the hive should be closed up till towards evening, and then opened, to allow the intruders to depart. By sprinkling flour on them as they are leaving, and observing the hives which they enter, they can be diverted for a time from their belligerent purpose by moving their hive one or two feet from its position, and uncapping some honey, to give them employment at home. The subdued hive may be kept closed for one or two days, and then a small aperture opened for their egress and ingress ; they are then to be carefully watched, to see if the attack is renewed. The hive should never be removed to a different place, unless to the distance of not less than half a mile ; this is found to be the most effective plan, as, by removing to a place remote from other bees, and a sufficient distance from the original stand to prevent their return, they are left at peace, to pursue their labors. But if they cannot be placed at least half a mile from the stronger stocks, it will not pay the trouble of removal ; it is then best to break them up, and add the remnants to the next weakest hive. This is the quickest and most effectual method to avoid trouble, and will in most cases save additional loss ; as, when robbers get a taste, they are not content to stop their depredations hence, it is good policy to keep them honest, by giving no opportunity to be dishonest.

Notes Edit

  1. That a conquered hive of bees incorporate themselves with the victors, is mere guess-work. I find no experiment on record to prove the assertion, and I have seen no instance that would for a moment lead to such a belief.

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