Despite closing both hives for a few days several times, the robbing continued. Part of my effort to stop it and save the honey (though it was being robbed by one of my own hives) involved using a refractometer to confirm the uncapped honey was ready to harvest (it was) and remove those harvestable frames.
During the inspection my husband made a comment that helped me decide the next move: “Since they want food, can you feed only them?” Hmmmm. Generally you don’t want to feed only one hive if you have several nearby. But since the orange hive is the largest hive it is unlikely to be robbed by one of the smaller ones, and since they clearly wanted stores I decided to feed JUST the one hive that was doing the robbing, to see if feeding would help. And you know what? I think it actually did. I’ve been looking out there and there haven’t been the large numbers of bees flying from one hive to the other, the orange hive is nicely preoccupied with their own influx of stores apparently.
I gave the large hive a quart of syrup Monday night, it was empty Wednesday evening. So I pulled off the empty jar and replaced it with my rapid feeder which holds 1/2 gallon of syrup. In doing so I saw that they were building out the new deep 4.9mm foundation I had added AND were filling the medium frames with sugar syrup. As they fill frames, I’m going to start distributing them to the other hives since the other hive population numbers are much lower and would benefit from some drawn and filled frames.
To prepare the hives for winter I need to feed them, measure mite levels and treat, and very likely equalize hive strength for food and brood.
I plan to start feeding the remainder of the hives this weekend. I would like to do sequential varroa sugar rolls over the next few weeks (this robbing thing put a damper on my earlier plans) and then treat them (if necessary). Here’s the rub: if I equalize brood levels I will likely have to treat all the hives because if I share brood then I share mites. But maybe with 4 hives I can NOT treat and just split the survivors in the spring…if there are any. That’s something else I need to think about.