honey bee behavior predators

Update on ants

The post titled “Bad-ant ant advice and the ascension of bees” coaxed readers out of the woodwork. Some agreed with me that the ants were not the problem, some thought they were definitely the problem, and others thought there wasn’t enough information. I have to say that I learned a lot from the discussion. As with all beekeeping issues, the ant problem seems to hinge on the local environment: some places have troublesome ants and some don’t.

The reader who posed the original question has shared more information. It turns out I was right about new wood and no starters. He says, “I built a Warré hive . . . of new wood without foundation nor starter strips, just bare top bars.” He goes on to defend his decision to go with Warré, but I don’t consider that a problem. The shape and design of Warré hives is just fine and I have stolen a lot of good ideas from Warré beekeepers.

However, he goes on to describe the ants, “The ants are tiny and black, and I assume they are Argentine ants (I live in California).” Based on reader comments, it seems that California is one of the places where ants can definitely be a problem and Argentine ants can cause bees to flee.

The good news is we haven’t lost the beekeeper. He says, “I am okay with waiting until next year to try again.” He doesn’t want to buy a nuc because it won’t fit in his Warré, which is a good point. He adds, “After reading your posting (and reader comments) I accept that even without ants, my bees may still have left. But I will try and figure out a way of keeping ants out of my next hive.”

So for next year, I recommend the following:

  • Use starter strips or a bead of wax on the top bars (same as in a top-bar hive)
  • Keep the queen caged until the bees begin to build comb
  • In addition, you could place a pheromone lure inside the hive for a few days to give it a good homey smell before dumping the package
  • Use one or more of the reader-suggested ways to control Argentine ants

That’s where we stand at the moment. Besides being a bit wiser about ants, I’m ecstatic about having a new word in my bee vocabulary. But the thought of having to wait a whole year to hear how it all works out is nearly unbearable.


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