Signs of robbing: the brown staining on the front of the hive is left by robbers during a massive robbing attack. The robbers stuff themselves with honey and then excrete some as they start flying home. If you see more bees than you expected zipping in and out if the hive at this time of year, brown staining on the entrance side of the hive is a sure sign of robbing. Other things to look for:
- Unlike returning foragers laden with nectar and pollen, robbers may not shoot right into the entrance. Instead, they fly from side to side, waiting for an opportune moment to sneak past the guard bees.
- You may see bees fighting at the entrance or on the ground in front of the hive. These are the guard bees defending their colony to the death, and this behavior is a sure indication of robbing.
- Unlike foragers that leave the hive empty, robbers leave the hive heavily laden with honey, making flying difficult. They tend to climb up the front of the hive before taking off, and once they’re airborne, there’s a characteristic dip in their flight path.
Photo courtesy of Oliver Frank