Robbing: a sad but pretty incredible phenomenon to witness. Honeybees have a sense of smell at least as good as a dog (and are in fact replacing dogs in some bomb-sniffing situations). When you leave frames of honey sitting outside the hive for too long, bees from nearby hives will show up and try to take it. This sets off a robbing frenzy, with some bees trying to steal honey and others trying to protect it. Fighting ensues.
Because the deep I have is full of honey and weighs about 70 pounds, I have to take about half the frames out before I can even lift it off the hive to get to the boxes below. This particular day, a few weeks ago, I wanted to take a good look at the activity in all the boxes, so the frames of honey were sitting out in the open for quite a while. I knew what would happen, but I couldn’t see any way around it. So I just went as quickly as I could, relying on my trusty bee suit to keep me from getting stung. My poor bees didn’t have suits. I was also stupid for not closing the entrance to that hive during the robbing.
I was pretty amazed by what was happening by the time I was done inspecting, so I took a video (http://youtu.be/vtGNKa8lH2I). You can see bees rolling around on the ground trying to sting each other. The clicking you hear–especially near the end of the video–is the bees. I’m not sure if it’s just from them rolling around, or if it’s their stingers hitting the cardboard, or what.
A couple of hours later, I went out and took the picture below. All those bees on the ground and cardboard in front of the hive are dead. I felt horrible knowing I caused it. Yet another reason why I’m switching to all medium (i.e., lighter) boxes next year. I went out the next morning, and all those dead bees were gone. The remaining bees in the hive had dragged them as far away from the hive as they could get them. Super-tidy bees. Pretty astounding.
Also: No stings for me. I’d say that’s pretty amazing for being in the middle of that frenzy for so long. Bee suit for the win!