For Beekeepers Everywhere

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For beekeepers, fall is sometimes the time for raider bees: those bees that look for the year’s last source of food, which is sometimes a weak hive.   The raiders make for the entrance en force and then raid food stores of the hive. Once in, the raiders have no problems, as the defense of the hive is limited. The raiders gorge themselves with food and make their way out of the raided hive and to their own.

Raiding is a problem for beekeepers because it often leads to the death of hives during and sometimes before winter but the issue is not that bees raid; that’s what bees do: survive. The issue is how to stop raiding bees. In my battles with raiding bees I noticed that I was approaching the problem as a human being rather than approaching the problem from the perspective of the bee.

As humans we are capable of empathy, but bees are not empathetic. As humans we approach things intellectually, but bees are not and do not respond to intellect. As humans we understand praise and penalties, but bees do not make these correlations.

With this in mind, I fashioned a screen with some scrap wire and fitted it to the entrance of the hive being raided. I did this early in the morning before the raiders showed up. In the afternoon the raiding bees were bunched up on the screen as were my own bees, but in the safety of their own hive.

I felt bad for my bees being locked in. Later in the day, in fact late in the afternoon I noticed that the raiding bees began to thin out. At that time a removed the screen until the next morning giving my bees a few hours outside and the ability to defend the hive against the few remaining raiding bees.

During this time I provided feed for the hive with a top bar feeder. I have found that after a few days, or at worst after the first freeze that the raiding bees ceased and desisted. My problem, then, was only supporting the weak hive over the winter. Some say that supporting a weak hive is not worth the effort, but after all I am only human; my empathy a weakness, my love of lost causes a fortune.

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