Do you wonder who visits your bee hive at night? Have you thought about which of your hive’s many callers prefer the cover of darkness? Well, some of the smaller guests were recently caught red-handed by Cal Early, a beekeeper living near Olympia.
Cal was wondering who was eating the dead bees on his landing board, leaving only the heads. I’ve wondered about this, too. Whereas most dead bees are hauled out intact, if you leave them on the landing board, the bodies are often chewed off during the night.
Catching critters in the act
To answer the question, Cal set up a game camera on the leg of a nearby hive stand. He explains, “Its infrared LEDs illuminate the area in front of the camera at night without animals being aware of it. I got a nice photo of a mouse sitting on the landing board, beady little eyes reflecting the glow of the IR LEDs.”
Whoa! Is that ever cool! Those glowing eyes certainly look like trouble. The mouse is resting on the landing board, peacefully chowing down on the dead bees. Behind him, or maybe her, is a mouse guard. Good thought, Cal!
I asked about the particulars of the camera since I don’t know anything about them. Cal described them like this:
Images are typically saved on SD cards and the cameras connect to a computer via USB for viewing and downloading. They combine motion detector and digital camera technology, and vary widely in features such as image quality and programmability. They usually record still images as well as short videos.
Daytime recordings are in color and nighttime are in black-and-white. Nighttime images are illuminated using multiple infrared LEDs, which the animals can’t see. Image sizes tend to range 8-14 megapixels, depending on the camera model. There’s a plethora of these things on the market with a broad range of price and features.
Currently, I can find cheap ones on Walmart’s website for about $45 and broad range of prices at Cabela’s, up to several hundred dollars. The one I used cost about $90 and records 2-14 MP stills and 720 or 1280P HD videos with sound. It’s rated to detect motion out to about 100′. They come with a strap to attach the camera to a post or tree.
The cameras use about 8 AA batteries but they last quite a while for just still images. Recording nighttime videos will burn them up faster, due to the LEDs being lit up a lot. I have one up discretely near my hives, which are in a spot where it wouldn’t be difficult to vandalize or steal them, to help provide evidence if such unfortunate things happen.
A bee hive at night is busy
Dual purpose. That’s cool. Just for fun I looked on Amazon and found a raft of trail cameras, also listed as game, scouting, or hunting cameras. As Cal says, they have various options and prices vary along with the feature count. I think it’s amusing that so many come in camouflage designs—as if black may not be sufficient in the dead of night.
In addition to the mouse, Cal was visited by a rabbit. It was just passin’ through, I suspect, as rabbits are not partial to dead bees. But it sure is cute.
Honey Bee Suite