Robber Flies: Cold-hearted honey bee killer

Submited by Jason Morgan

By now, most of us in our area have seen these dragon-fly looking things, and many more of us have seen them swooping in an eating our bees. They are called Robber Flies. How apropos. Some remain suspect, but I've seen bees swiped out of mid-air by these. Speaking to Garry Reeves, he believes he has lost several queens on their mating flights to robber flies as well.

It kind of explains some of my misfortunes with requeening. Of the 5 total queen cells I bought from Garry this year (at two different times, early July, and mid-August), only two of them made it back in to start laying. They seem to be everywhere I am.

When we talk about waiting to mark queens until they are back in the hive and laying, it's not only to let the queen "harden" up a bit (i.e. mature, and become stronger for handling by the beekeeper), but it's also to avoid putting a bright bulls-eye on the queens back for the robber flies, birds, and other predators to intercept.

I'm trying to thing of a trap for these now. Currently, I've found only a few options:

  • Smashing or smearing on the ground (while landed)
  • A tennis racquet or foot in the a** (mid-flight)

Limited, I know... and it doesn't offer up much in the way of guarding things when the beekeeper is not around. I just wanted to make sure everyone is as aware as I am to these. Both myself, and a few others have seen the robber flies flying around with a dead bee in their hands. It seems they fly off, feast, and fly back for another. It's not clear to me how many bees they are affecting yet, but I'm sure they don't discriminate between workers and queens, and that's a problem.

Has anyone else seen them? Does anyone have any ideas for trapping them?

Here's what they look like after dealing with them.

 

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