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Apihappy

Robbing and big apiaries.

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I suppose I'm looking for opinion as much as solutions here and I must point out I'm not blaming but observing. 

 

I had an apiary that I was slowly building up a few km to the West of us that did have 10 healthy hives. Three years ago a commercial operation started up on the boundary with more than 50 hives, I'm down to two hives. 

 

My mate down the road had four hives at the start of this season and similarly had a commercial move in with more than fifty hives. He's down to one hive and I don't think that will last. The robbing has been furious.

 

Out at my apiary I know the other beekeeper in that valley just packed up and left, but down the road it's a bit more suburban and there are dozens of hobby keepers. They will all be under threat from the big operation, who will be getting a good late autumn crop of honey but also varroa and other disease. Presumably over time all of these hobby hives will be killed off.

 

I imagine the commercial keeper in the latter area will have a few bad years with the diseases

and parasites but that will be offset by the extra honey and then will have the area to himself.

 

I could rant on about licensing and maximum number of hives to an area but I'm a hobbyist and I can find another hobby, it's not my livelihood. If the commercialisation of beekeeping does reduce the number of hobbyists there will still be the same number of bees pollinating the fruit trees and flowers which is why I took up the hobby but there will be a reduction in the diversity of approach to keeping bees and a reduction of respect for these beekeepers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I wonder if yrs and yrs ago apiaries were ever kept 4 klms  or so apart so they could not rob each other.

 

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Kaihoka, it would be interesting to get a picture of beekeeping at the turn of the 19th C. There would have been yards for fruit crop pollination and hives as part of mixed farming and everyday domestic honey production. But then properties were probably several miles apart anyway.

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I know in the Otira valley right to the taramakau there was only one beekeeper and I remember him having 9 apiaries whithn a 7 km radius. This was the 80's and 90's. He did move them in November and move them out in March

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5 hours ago, Apihappy said:

I suppose I'm looking for opinion as much as solutions here and I must point out I'm not blaming but observing. 

 

I had an apiary that I was slowly building up a few km to the West of us that did have 10 healthy hives. Three years ago a commercial operation started up on the boundary with more than 50 hives, I'm down to two hives. 

 

My mate down the road had four hives at the start of this season and similarly had a commercial move in with more than fifty hives. He's down to one hive and I don't think that will last. The robbing has been furious.

 

Out at my apiary I know the other beekeeper in that valley just packed up and left, but down the road it's a bit more suburban and there are dozens of hobby keepers. They will all be under threat from the big operation, who will be getting a good late autumn crop of honey but also varroa and other disease. Presumably over time all of these hobby hives will be killed off.

 

I imagine the commercial keeper in the latter area will have a few bad years with the diseases

and parasites but that will be offset by the extra honey and then will have the area to himself.

 

I could rant on about licensing and maximum number of hives to an area but I'm a hobbyist and I can find another hobby, it's not my livelihood. If the commercialisation of beekeeping does reduce the number of hobbyists there will still be the same number of bees pollinating the fruit trees and flowers which is why I took up the hobby but there will be a reduction in the diversity of approach to keeping bees and a reduction of respect for these beekeepers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doesn't sound too good for you.  Are your entrances closed right down to a bee width?  And are the hives strong / med strength?  I would have thought any reasonably healthy hive with a reduced entrance should be able to defend itself, even with many hives as neighbours.  I also not sure about your comment about them getting "a good late autumn crop of honey" - do you mean from robbing?  I wonder if robbing is taking the blame but maybe there are other issues with the hives?  I also don't see why there is an assumption that the commercial operator has the stronger hives - many hobbyists are excellent beekeepers and their hives are equally likely to rob as any other.  

 

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I believe that if you have lots of hives near to each other they all take a close look probing each other but they are all busy defending themselves too. So, net result is that the activity within the apiary tends to cancel itself out. However, if you move one hive out of that apiary and put it 300m away, then suddenly every colony in the whole apiary feels a fiduciary duty to go give it a sniff. So, now there are odds of 40 to 1 and soon the hive is spending more time defending than it is useful production. It is much nicer when you are inside the herd..

 

Aside from that it could well be because all hobby hives are all weak and varroa ridden; as some are always keen to suggest, and sometimes this will be right.

However, I've developed the feeling it isn't always as simple as that. 

 

It is notable that lots of hobbyist beekeepers need to use robbing screens, but commercially they are rare. The hyfe-gate  and mesh screens are effective, but the largest enemy is usually wasps and vespex is a cost effective solution and no screens are needed commercially.

I think one reason for the screens is that individual hives can be picked on whereas large apiaries offer some degree of protection from the herd.

A single hive isn't going to go the other way over the fence to hassle 40 hives and if it did the efforts would be too diluted.

 

I'd recommend getting a hyfe-gate from NZ beeswax and as well as a hiveguard from hiveguard.co.nz and put them both on your hive together. It may not make any difference or you may have already done that (?). It would be great to know how you get on. I've made some guards we are putting on hives and testing too. It will be interesting to see if it makes any difference. 

 

It would be interesting to know what would happen if forty hobbyists all put their hives together in one apiary, instead of having the 40 hives distributed singly over the same forage area. But that's never going to be practical.

In regards robbing I think it is a big versus small issue; where hives are otherwise healthy and well managed.

The km spacing issue is definitely an issue for production and feeding i.e. if you ever are going to get honey or just be feed year round.

Within our area of operation there are stark differences between honey producing areas (aka golf courses) and those non-productive areas with over-crowding on the rural fringe. So, I would definitely recommend exploring lots of different apiaries and learning what's good and what's not.

 

 

 

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9 hours ago, Apihappy said:

I suppose I'm looking for opinion as much as solutions here and I must point out I'm not blaming but observing. 

 

I had an apiary that I was slowly building up a few km to the West of us that did have 10 healthy hives. Three years ago a commercial operation started up on the boundary with more than 50 hives, I'm down to two hives. 

 

My mate down the road had four hives at the start of this season and similarly had a commercial move in with more than fifty hives. He's down to one hive and I don't think that will last. The robbing has been furious.

 

Out at my apiary I know the other beekeeper in that valley just packed up and left, but down the road it's a bit more suburban and there are dozens of hobby keepers. They will all be under threat from the big operation, who will be getting a good late autumn crop of honey but also varroa and other disease. Presumably over time all of these hobby hives will be killed off.

 

I imagine the commercial keeper in the latter area will have a few bad years with the diseases

and parasites but that will be offset by the extra honey and then will have the area to himself.

 

I could rant on about licensing and maximum number of hives to an area but I'm a hobbyist and I can find another hobby, it's not my livelihood. If the commercialisation of beekeeping does reduce the number of hobbyists there will still be the same number of bees pollinating the fruit trees and flowers which is why I took up the hobby but there will be a reduction in the diversity of approach to keeping bees and a reduction of respect for these beekeepers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seen as you are looking for opinion I will offer mine, but first I have to say that I do not agree with people plonking commercial numbers of hives close to existing commercial sized apiaries. I also feel that a hobbyist with a few hives can't realisticly expect to have a whole area to themselves but a decient commercial beekeeper should be reasonable about where they put hives in order to give the hobbyist a fair go.

 

Having said that it has been my observation that very often hobbyists blame the big bad commercial beehives for robbing out their hives almost as though they are a different species .

 

Generally, as harsh as it may sound, a hive only gets robbed out after it has been mismanaged ie mites not controlled, split too small, hive left queenless etc. The reality is that many new beekeepers (hobbyist and others) don't realise or underestimate  what is involved in keeping hives healthy and functioning throughout the season's.

 

I don't want to necessarily discourage hobbyist beekeepers from having hives but I am over having my hives blamed for robbing out hives that have been mismanaged by overly optimistic and under educated / experienced beekeepers who have often plonked their hives far too close to my long established apiaries. 

The last thing that I want is my hives robbing out these crappy hives.

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2 minutes ago, Jamo said:

Seen as you are looking for opinion I will offer mine, but first I have to say that I do not agree with people plonking commercial numbers of hives close to existing commercial sized apiaries. I also feel that a hobbyist with a few hives can't realisticly expect to have a whole area to themselves but a decient commercial beekeeper should be reasonable about where they put hives in order to give the hobbyist a fair go.

 

Having said that it has been my observation that very often hobbyists blame the big bad commercial beehives for robbing out their hives almost as though they are a different species .

 

Generally, as harsh as it may sound, a hive only gets robbed out after it has been mismanaged ie mites not controlled, split too small, hive left queenless etc. The reality is that many new beekeepers (hobbyist and others) don't realise or underestimate  what is involved in keeping hives healthy and functioning throughout the season's.

 

I don't want to necessarily discourage hobbyist beekeepers from having hives but I am over having my hives blamed for robbing out hives that have been mismanaged by overly optimistic and under educated / experienced beekeepers who have often plonked their hives far too close to my long established apiaries. 

The last thing that I want is my hives robbing out these crappy hives.

 

i was going to say much the same thing.

more often than not robbing is due to bad hives or making a hive a target during robbing season.

tho there can be issues with migrant beeks moving hives in for the flow.

 

to give you some idea we have storage sites, nuc sites and honey site within 500m of each other and there is a huge number of hives there with no robbing issues.

 

same thing with wasps. if you remember the feeders full of dead wasps pics, we get wasps now and then but we have never needed closed up entrances or fitted guards.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, tristan said:

more often than not robbing is due to bad hives or making a hive a target during robbing season.

a lot of robbing of hobby hives starts just after an inspection.

People forget that leaving a single hive open for an hour plus for an inspection, often while leaving boxes off the stack uncovered as well, allows a lot of foragers from other hives to get in, get a belly full of honey on board and then go home to tell their mates.

Even a strong and healthy hive is going to struggle in that situation.

 

I can understand people preferring to blame the "big bad commercials" rather than look in the mirror at their own capability, but it's a shame that's the first response rather than the conclusion after considering the alternatives

 

as an example: a near neighbour once called me and asked if i could stop my bees robbing his hive - he knew i had bees nearby so figured it might be my bees. I went over to his place to have a look. First thing i asked was why he had two broken frames lying on the ground outside the hive - they had been full of honey, he'd dropped them the day before and they'd broken, and he hadn't got around to sorting them out yet. That sort of thing happens, but people forget that the robbing might be due to their own actions.

Edited by tommy dave
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For me, one of the reasons that hobby hives get robbed is because the sensible ones leave a generous amount of honey on for winter when at all possible, and many of the so called commercial hives are only left with the sugar they have been fed, and when they smell a hive with proper food in it the battle is all on, and the hobby hive gets totally stripped - this was very obvious when 2000+ hives were dumped in the Riverhead Forest for several winters by the corporate lot - every apiary in the area with real honey in was utterly hammered, regardless of whether they were commercial or hobbyist hives. 

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14 minutes ago, Sailabee said:

For me, one of the reasons that hobby hives get robbed is because the sensible ones leave a generous amount of honey on for winter when at all possible, and many of the so called commercial hives are only left with the sugar they have been fed, and when they smell a hive with proper food in it the battle is all on, and the hobby hive gets totally stripped - this was very obvious when 2000+ hives were dumped in the Riverhead Forest for several winters by the corporate lot - every apiary in the area with real honey in was utterly hammered, regardless of whether they were commercial or hobbyist hives. 

interesting point, and sounds reasonable. The one addition i have is that leaving quite a bit of honey on (something i do with my hives) means that the hives go into autumn/winter with a greater number of boxes on the hive - which in combination with reducing bee numbers can leave the bottom box less in use = fewer bees around the entrance, so a less well defended hive

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12 hours ago, Sailabee said:

For me, one of the reasons that hobby hives get robbed is because the sensible ones leave a generous amount of honey on for winter when at all possible, and many of the so called commercial hives are only left with the sugar they have been fed, and when they smell a hive with proper food in it the battle is all on, and the hobby hive gets totally stripped - this was very obvious when 2000+ hives were dumped in the Riverhead Forest for several winters by the corporate lot - every apiary in the area with real honey in was utterly hammered, regardless of whether they were commercial or hobbyist hives. 

i doubt the honey vers sugar idea.

 

odds are its simply 2000 hives means huge amounts of bees searching for food in a small aera. plus a lot of those guys are feeding over winter as well, so those hives get stirred up a fair bit.

 

12 hours ago, tommy dave said:

 hives go into autumn/winter with a greater number of boxes on the hive - which in combination with reducing bee numbers can leave the bottom box less in use = fewer bees around the entrance, so a less well defended hive

absolutly. bees move up into the space and can leave entrance exposed. also extra boxes often means extra gaps for bees to get in or smell to get out.

hobbyist who leave all their boxes on the hives over winter make things much harder for themselves. 

week hives are easy pickings for robbers or wasps.

20 hours ago, tommy dave said:

a lot of robbing of hobby hives starts just after an inspection.

People forget that leaving a single hive open for an hour plus for an inspection, often while leaving boxes off the stack uncovered as well, allows a lot of foragers from other hives to get in, get a belly full of honey on board and then go home to tell their mates.

 

absolutly. the amount of times i see people mucking about with hives. spending way to long with an open hive. 

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Hmmm .... I don't want to stir the pot, but  just offer a perspective.

 

After the main flow in  December /January we move all our bees to the Dew. They come in in truck loads of 96.  We put two truckloads at home, about 800 metres on a Beeline from the shed.

If you keep the fan going and the doors shut all is sweet. The problem comes when the Dew is washed off the trees and 'someone' leaves the shed door open for half an hour.

Then the robbing becomes frantic and the only solution is to take all the bees away.

 

Over the hill where we have yards of 96 and double that, at 1km spacing. We having no robbing issues at all. 

The secret , I think,is  to leave the bees alone during that robbing season of April.   If you don't show them the sweet stuff, they never know and will happily coexist ..... hundreds within a short space of each other.

 

The tricky bit is when you have multiple bee keepers  in close proximity with varying skill levels tinkering with their hives.  

We are lucky down here in that Beekeeping is not a very lucrative pastime .... and is reflected in the concentration of different beekeepers.

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, jamesc said:

Hmmm .... I don't want to stir the pot, but  just offer a perspective.

 

After the main flow in  December /January we move all our bees to the Dew. They come in in truck loads of 96.  We put two truckloads at home, about 800 metres on a Beeline from the shed.

If you keep the fan going and the doors shut all is sweet. The problem comes when the Dew is washed off the trees and 'someone' leaves the shed door open for half an hour.

Then the robbing becomes frantic and the only solution is to take all the bees away.

 

Over the hill where we have yards of 96 and double that, at 1km spacing. We having no robbing issues at all. 

The secret , I think,is  to leave the bees alone during that robbing season of April.   If you don't show them the sweet stuff, they never know and will happily coexist ..... hundreds within a short space of each other.

 

The tricky bit is when you have multiple bee keepers  in close proximity with varying skill levels tinkering with their hives.  

We are lucky down here in that Beekeeping is not a very lucrative pastime .... and is reflected in the concentration of different beekeepers.

 

 

 

Hmmm. . I can tell when the new commercial over the road feeds his hives as all ours get agitated, start bearding around the entrances and are aggressive if I work them for a few days after. We try to leave enough honey on so that we don’t need to feed until spring. I’ve noticed this autumn our hives are getting through their stores already when normally they’d be bringing in enough to sustain themselves.

Varroa re-invasion is also an issue this autumn. I’ve had to treat hives for a second time. No deformed wing or pms but mites riding around on bees. 

Makes me wonder if he’ll be here next year,  I hope we are. 

 

 

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I lost a hive to robbing this yr .

It was a weak hive and the normal flow finished unexpectedly early and I still had large entrances.

If I had reduced the entrance earlier the hive would have defended itself ok .

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