As I was digging the tail end of the trench for the turkey coop I looked over at the bee hive which is only about 15 feet away. It seemed like there was an awful lot of activity on the front of the hive. I've been reading my beekeeping book for the last couple weeks and one of the topics it covered was robbing, when another hive tries to rob my hive of it's honey. The conditions it described were very similar to what I was seeing.
It looked like the bees were having a party on the porch. It was covered with bees as well as the bottom third of the front. I couldn't see any bees locked in combat but I did see bees crawling up the front of the hive and then taking off. The book says that these could be robbers that are loaded with honey and therefor have difficulty taking off because they are so heavy. Normally a forager would leave the hive empty handed and take off from the porch.
I suffered a moment of indecision but figured it would be better to overreact than under react. I ran down the hill to get my bee jacket and a sheet. When I got back to the top of the yard there were fewer bees but still a lot more than I'm used to seeing. There seemed to be an frenetic character to their movements rather than the deliberate coming and going that they normally show. There were also still bees crawling up the front. This photo does nothing to capture what I initially saw that sent me running down the hill.
This video might be too compressed to see anything but you may be able to see the bees crawling up the front of the hive.
I uploaded the video to youtube which shows more detail.
I blocked the door with a piece of wood to make the opening smaller and easier to guard. Then I covered the whole hive with a wet sheet. This is supposed to make the entrance harder for the robbers to find. As I was putting the piece of wood at the entrance I began to have doubts that they were being robbed. As soon as I touched the hive a bunch of bees came out to get me. I would have thought they would be too occupied fighting on the inside but maybe I was the more important threat. They didn't spend too much time on me.
My phone chose that moment to die so I didn't get a picture. I'll go up in a little while and check on them. Hopefully if they weren't being robbed my intervention won't cause them too much trouble. My grandmother's sheet, on the other hand, may never be the same.
I just checked on them and things seem much calmer.
The bees don't know how to get in though. They are congregating near where they would normally go in. I guess I'll leave the sheet on for now, not sure what else to do.
I took the sheet off this morning. There were still bees clustered near the entrance outside the sheet.
I left the piece of plywood in front of the entrance to make it easy to guard. Roberta says that I can add some bees to make the hive stronger so they will be less vulnerable. She has another cut out that she can give me. I need to get more boxes for the hive though.
I was afraid they might chew through the sheet but it was ok. They just left a yellow pollen smudge.