Can Bees Steal And Eat Honey From Other Bee Hives?


Honey is considered as liquid gold for so many reasons and is as precious to Bees as it is to us. Honey is the food of the gods as many believe and it is also the main food of bees. You could say then that this is an ideal target for theft and Bee espionage.

Can bees steal and eat honey from another bee hive? Yes, they can and will often do so. This, however, happens not because they are sharing their food but because the invading bees are robbing the hive of the stored honey. They will then take their looted honey from the colony back into their own hive.

This robbing mostly happens when there is an abundance of honey that neighboring bee colonies can smell. Sometimes a queen-less hive can also be a reason for this. Queen-less hives are weakened dramatically and this gives other colonies the opportunity to rob them of their stored honey.

Why do bees eat honey from other hives?

Before we answer this question, you must first know that the correct term for when bees eat other bees honey is robbing. Below is a more detailed description of what robbing is and what is the reason behind why bees do this.

What is robbing?

Robbing is the term used by beekeepers to describe the act of bees invading other beehives for the purpose of taking and gorging themselves with honey and then flying back to their hive. This can result in a fight between the guards of the invaded hive and the soldiers of the invaders.

Why do Bees go robbing?

Because bees are compulsive hoarders, they are hard-wired to collect honey and nectar from any source they can get which includes other hives, especially if the hive is weak and poorly guarded.

It can occur through the year but is prevalent in the months where there is a lack of nectar, or dearth. Late summer and early fall can be the time when robbing is at its peak too.

How to recognize robbing

Now that you know what robbing is you also need to recognize this scenario as it is happening to know what steps are needed to stop it.

  • If you see bees fighting near or in your hive, chances are robbing bees are present.
  • When you find dead bees on the landing board or on the ground.
  • If you see other bees examining cracks and other openings on the hive for possible entrance.
  • Notice if there are any bees that are shiny. This means that these bees have lost their hair during a fight.
  • Look for bees that don’t have pollen on them when they approach or enter the hive. They are the robbing bees.
  • Loud buzzing from bees. Robbing bees typically buzz louder.
  • Study your hive and colony and see if you spot bees that are crawling up the wall before flying away. They are the robbing bees. They do this behavior because they are loaded up with honey and needs higher ground in order to fly.

How to prevent robbing between colonies?

It is actually much better to accept the fact that robbing can, and will, happen to your hive especially if you own more than one hive. To prevent the decimation of an entire hive, here are some six key tips for you.

  1. Reduce entrance on the hive on the first sign of robbing.
  2. Be a bit extra vigilant if you are an owner of Italian bees. They are known to rob more often than any other species.
  3. Check if your beehive is queenless. They tend to be more vulnerable when queenless.
  4. Try to avoid entrance feeders during a nectar dearth. It has been observed that entrance feeders attract more robbing bees than any other type. Consider switching to a different type.
  5. Combine smaller hives together to create a stronger colony.
  6. Try using commercial robbing screens to help your hive prevent robbing bees from entering.

Keeping Bees fed and satisfied

There will be times when your bees need some winter beefing up. Some beekeepers will feed their bees with a sugar water solution or raw honey. They do this to those hives that have a shortage of honey supply for their colony. However, there are some drawbacks when doing this.

The sugar water solution needs to be processed by the bees for it to become honey. We all know that bees go into a form of survival mode during this time to protect their queen from the cold. They rely on the stored honey in their hive for food and are more likely to leave the sugar water solution alone until it is processed into honey. This is the reason why sometimes, there is a bitter aftertaste to the collected honey.

Feeding raw honey to bees may seem a more natural approach to supplementing your colony’s food supply. In a way, this is correct but only for very limited reasons. If you are planning to feed your bees with old honey that you have collected from the hive earlier, you need to put this in a shallow container where bees have zero chances of drowning in it.

In addition, feeding store-bought honey can be harmful to your bees because this type of honey has gone through processes that may expose them to viruses, bacteria, and fungal spores. These can cause infection of your bees and weaken the hive making them susceptible to robbing.

To make it simple, you need to remember the following:

  • Feed your bees with honey that you have gathered in your own disease-free beehive.
  • If you are going to feed your bees with honey from a different source, make sure that it is not a carrier of the American Foulbrood disease or any other harmful bacteria, viruses and contaminants.
  • Do not feed store bought honey to your bees even if they claim that it is raw or 100% natural. These can contain additives that may be harmful to your bees.
  • If you are not using a feeder, make sure that you do not put honey in the open for the bees to feed on. This can cause contamination and the bees that feed on the honey will then carry whatever bacteria they’ve collected from the honey into the hive.

What happens to bees when we take their honey?

Nothing happens to bees when we take honey from them especially if they are taken from man-made beehive boxes.

There seems to be an understanding between man and the bees, we provide them with somewhere they could live. A shelter where the elements and other predators can’t easily get them while they produce honey. Usually, the bees that live in a man-made beehive box produce more honey than they need and this is where we come along. We harvest the extra honey for human consumption.

Is it harmful to take honey from Bees?

No, it is not. You just need to make sure that you don’t over harvest the honey produced. Over-harvesting can result in the death of the whole hive, especially during winter. A hive will always produce more than enough honey to last them throughout the winter.

Bees are compulsive hoarders and will collect nectar and pollen that is way more than is needed to get them through the winter months. An experienced beekeeper said that 30 pounds of honey should be left inside the hive in order for the colony to survive the winter.

Related Question

Does honey kill bees?

Honey in its purest form is not harmful to bees but honey that is infected with a virus or disease can cause death. The best example is American Foulbrood disease. Beehives that are found to be containing this virus is burned together with the bees to prevent further spreading.

How much honey will a beehive produce?

A healthy bee colony can produce sixty to one hundred pounds of honey per year. In order for this to happen, a bee needs to visit fifty to one hundred flowers each collection flight. Two million flowers are required to be visited in order to collect enough nectar that will produce one pound of honey. Subsequently, a single bee can only produce 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey over its whole lifetime.

Conclusion

To summarize everything, bees can eat honey from other hives especially if the hive is a thriving healthy one. However, if you own several hives and you see robbing happening in your apiary, it is a sign that nectar dearth is happening or the victim hive is weak. You will also need to check if it is queenless because queenless hives are often preyed upon by robbing bees. If you find robbing happening, you will have to do something about it so that you will have a healthy colony of bees and maintain the integrity of all your hives.

There are a number of ways on how you can help your hive from being robbed, and utilizing those ways depends on your preference. Use any or a combination of all that has been mentioned to achieve your desired result.

Finally, you can supplement your bees with raw honey that is free from any spores, viruses, bacteria, and general disease.

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