Tag Archive | ants

Ants, Swarms and Honey

July 23, 2016, Saturday

Wow, this summer is flying by.  Unreal.  As much as I’ve think about updating everyone on the bees, we’ve just been so stinking busy this summer.  We’ve had several more swarms since early summer, but other than that, the girls have been working hard gathering nectar and food and making honey.  There’s hasn’t been much more to tell until now.  So here’s a few bits to catch you up.

Ants

I can’t say I’ve experienced ant problems.  We add a base to the bottom of each hive with PVC cups that I keep filled with water.  They really help keep the ants  and crawly critters out of the hives.  But the other day I saw a TON of ants collecting at the base of one hive.

Hubster repositions and levels GH1 base and adds ant deterring frame.

Base frame with ant-deterring PVC cups that we keep filled with water.

I thought of several options for removing them, but most are not good for the bees.  What I came up with was cinnamon.  I added several tablespoons of cinnamon to an old spice bottle and shook the cinnamon over the ants and around the base of the hive on the ground and on the cinder blocks.  Worked like a charm.  They picked up and moved someplace else that’s not around my hives.

Swarms

I received a frantic call from my neighbor this morning…one of those “your bees are swarming!” calls.  Ugh.  I ran out and watched a large swarm of bees buzzing their usual 30+ feet up into a pine trees.  I ran to my hives to see if I could tell which hive was the culprit.  No signs whatsoever, just business as usual.  Usually they all go nuts when one of the hives swarms.  But they were quietly going about their business.  So I have to wonder if it came from one of my hives, or maybe it was one of my swarms still looking for a place to live.  To bee honest, I’m not sure how long swarms hang around before they find refuge or meet their demise.

Anyway, I had to do something, so I made a quickie swarm trap, as follows:

  • I grabbed a copier box and cut a small hole in the bottom for an entrance.
  • Added one frame of old comb and one frame of fresh foundation.
  • Lined the inside with lemongrass essential oil.
  • Added the lid and lined the outside of the entrance with lemongrass oil.
  • Taped every possible opening to make it secure and ensure the entrance was the only place where they could come and go.
  • Then found the hubster’s old ladder, climbed the tree and placed it between some strong branches and secured with cable ties.  Not too bad, really.

Do I think it will work.  Heck no, but I have a better chance than not doing anything at all.  So we shall see.
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Honey

On the honey front, I’ve collected about 5 or 6 frames and plan to collect more this weekend.  They’ve produced lots of honey, but still a lot of capping to do.  Unlike past years, I’m collecting as I go then will extract around Labor Day weekend.

New Addition

One last thing, I have to introduce Pink Hive, our newest addition to the apiary.  Pink Hive is a split from Purple Hive, and next week I’ll be checking to make sure we have a good laying queen.  Purple Hive is my strongest hive, the one with the Pennsylvania queen.  Purple Hive is one that swarmed recently.  They are mite-resistant bees, they populate like crazy, make lots of honey, overwintered like a charm, and until now, haven’t swarmed.  Plus, they’re gentle to work with.  Polar opposite of my Texas queens.  I bought my queen from Log Cabin Bee Farm.  The mated queens aren’t cheap, but they are top quality and worth every penny.  You only need one good hive to get more hives going.  My goal is to get all of my hives transitioned to this amazing PA stock.
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So there you go, the latest and greatest.  The girls are doing great.  At least they’re getting their swarming out of the way before it’s too late in the season.  They still have time to build back up for winter.  Fingers crossed for a good honey harvest!  Happy summer everyone!

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Inspect-Move-Deter

June 21, 2013 (Day 42)

The objectives included:  Inspect GH1 for Queen, Add the Ant Deterring Additions, and Make Room for a Third Hive

For the first time, we entered the hives at dusk when the bee activity was very low.  That’s because we had to move the hives.  Temps were in the mid-80s, sun had gone down, not much breeze, just a beautiful day that turned to a beautiful evening.  Both hives were highly active around 5PM.  Our mission began around 7:30PM.

Challenge with Moving Hives

In beekeeping class, they tell you to place the hives where you plan to keep them, because moving hives is no easy feat.  When filled with bees, honey and comb, one 8-frame medium box can weigh about 40 lbs.  It has to be done in chunks and, believe me, the girls do not like to be moved around.  Bees also become easily disoriented when their hives are moved.  Even if moved only a few inches, they may have trouble finding their way home after flying out.  The rule is, anything more than 2 feet doesn’t matter.  You may as well move it 2 miles.  Of course, I’ve watched a number of YouTube videos on the subject, but since we were talking inches rather than feet, we decided to take the risk and just shift them without further measure.

We had both hives on 2 levels of cinder blocks.  Since the hives are growing in height, we decided to lower them down one level. We also decided this would be a good opportunity to move Green Hive 1 (GH1) to the left about 8 inches so we can add a third hive in the center, when that time comes.  Just for the record, I never said anything about a third hive.  That suggestion came from straight from the hubster.  Not that I haven’t been thinking it, but I wasn’t gonna say it.

Ant Deterring Additions

Ants have been a problem for several weeks now.  Every time I lift the top covers, ants scurry around the feeders and down the sides of the boxes.  Not a huge infestation, but enough to be annoying.  I also see spider mites and other creepy crawlies that are enticed by sweet sugar syrup and the smell of honey.

I’d previously posted the hive enhancements shared by members of my beekeeping association.  These enhancements consist of PVC end caps that, when filled with water or vegetable oil, form mini-moats at the base of the hives.  So unless the insects are good swimmers, they’ll likely become floaters.   Mine will be filled with water so they’re easy to fill and easy to flush out.  This will be done regularly because floaters make good stepping stones.

Thank goodness the hubster loves projects.  We made our usual 4 or 5 trips to Home Depot to get exactly what was needed for his “improved” design.  For some reason, men can never just look at another design and replicate it.  There always has to be a one-up.  This is not a complaint, just an observation.  In fact, his one-ups are pretty ingenious and have a high success rate.  He created bottom frames footed with the PVC caps and held on with heavy screws and bolts.  They’re very solid and the hives set right on top of them.

Two ant deterring frames footed with PVC caps that will be filled with water.

Two ant deterring frames footed with PVC caps that will be filled with water.

Preparing for Our Mission
I suited up, the hubster brought up the frames, and I carried up 4 quarts of sugar syrup. I started separating GH1 and realized I’d forgotten my hive tool and brush. Had to run and grab those. Hubster set two cinder blocks between the hives as a place to set the boxes. The feeder pail was completely empty. They’d gone through about 5 quarts of syrup over the last week, so they’ve been feeding like crazy.  Just before filling their buckets, the hubster asked me if I’d added the Honey B Healthy supplement ($30 a bottle!) to their feed.  I forgot AGAIN – 2nd week in a row. Ugh!

GH1 Having Queen Issues
I opened GH1 and saw a comb ladder leading to the top board.  Immediately, I ran down to the shop to get a new box and frames.  GH1 bees weren’t active. Just going about their business. I decided to inspect for the queen. I’ve been digging into this hive for over a month trying to determine whether it’s queen-right. The side frames on the top box haven’t been touched, so false alarm – no need for a third box yet. The bee population is not increasing, and may even be decreasing. I looked at every frame and saw no sign of the marked queen. Doesn’t mean there isn’t another queen in there, I just can’t find her. On a good note, there were no drone cells and no supercedure queen cells, but I didn’t see any new larvae either.  I can’t keep waiting to figure it out.  I’ve decided to purchase a new marked and mated queen and solicit help from someone in my bee club who can identify and remove the existing queen, if there is one.

Adding the Ant Deterrents

We moved GH1 in two chunks to the temporary holding place.  Hubster removed the original top blocks, shifted the bottom blocks 8 inches outward and leveled them.  We added the PVC frame and positioned the bottom board over the frame.  Perfect fit!   Just in time, since GH1 was starting to get irritable.  I assembled the rest of the hive and moved on to Yellow Hive 2 (YH2).

Hubster repositions and levels GH1 base and adds ant deterring frame.

Hubster repositions and levels GH1 base and adds ant deterring frame.

On to YH2

Unlike GH1, YH2 is growing like crazy and the girls are much more irritable and active.  We moved quickly on this one, no inspections.  I transferred the bee-filled boxes, the hubster aligned and leveled the blocks and added the frame, then I started to reassemble.  The girls were getting angrier.  That’s when the smoker burned out.  Hubster made an emergency run to reignite the smoker.  I was left with angry, darting bees.  Even in full gear, I worked faster and faster.  I decided not to wait for the smoker and just slid the boxes back on, taking down a few casualties in the process.  Hubster returned with an active smoker and a few choice words, but the deed was done.

Bees do not like it when other bees are killed.  Communication in the hive is instantaneous, which is why smoke is so important to keep them settled.  The sides of YH2 were lined with bees trying to inspect the damage and clean bee parts that extruded from between the boxes.  It’s what they do, clean house, remove the dead, protect the hive.  Oh, the guilt!

End Result

I visited the hives this morning.  Both are active and GH1 bees are flying in and out of the right hive.  Good news.  The PVC caps are filled with water, ready to foil any hive robbery attempts by the ants and creepy crawlers.  I’ve determined my next action for fixing GH1’s queen issues.  And I’ve decided to install a white board checklist in the greenhouse, to be reviewed before each inspection…because lack of preparation is unacceptable.

It wasn’t pretty, but mission accomplished.

PVC caps filled with water.

PVC caps filled with water.

Deter Ants with PVC Caps

I walked up to the hives one morning and noticed ants crawling around.  Ugh!  I knew exactly why, because I remembered leaving a small sugar syrup spill in the feeder box.  Shame on me.  I quickly ran and grabbed a wet towel, opened the top cover and wiped up the syrup.  I also wiped all around the hives to clear off the ants.  I haven’t seen any since, but I certainly learned my lesson about leaving sugary messes around the hive.

Ants are a big problem for many beekeepers, but I learned an easy way to mitigate this issue long term.  Two gentlemen from the Frederick County Beekeeping Association (FCBA) use PVC caps at the base of their hive stands to keep the ants and other ground climbing pests off of their hives.

Dave Maloney, President of the FCBA put four of his hives on stands with legs. The legs have bolts set in PVC caps filled with vegetable oil. “No ants in those hives”, he claims.

Dave Mahoney of the FCBA fills his PVC caps with vegetable oil to track ants and other climbing insects.

Dave Maloney of the FCBA fills his PVC caps with vegetable oil to trap ants and other climbing insects before they get to the hives.

Chuck Schwalbe also uses PVC caps to keep the ants out of his hives.  He says, “I screwed lag bolts into the bottom of the legs of my hive stand.  These sit in PVC end caps.  When filled with water, the moat keeps ants and earwigs at bay.  Its a lot more durable and cleaner than tack trap or grease around the base.  Rain usually keeps the cups full.  Flooding them with a bucket of water flushes debris out.”

Chuck Schwalbe of the FCBA uses PVC caps filled with water at the base of his hive stands.  (Image courtesy of Chuck Schwalbe of FCBA)

Chuck Schwalbe of the FCBA uses PVC caps filled with water at the base of his hive stands. (Image courtesy of Chuck Schwalbe of FCBA)

Close up view of PVC caps installed at the bottom of a hive stand (image courtesy of Chuck Schwalbe of the FCBA)

Close up view of PVC caps installed at the bottom of a hive stand (image courtesy of Chuck Schwalbe of the FCBA)

Have you used this method or other methods to keep ants and climbing pests at bay?    Leave a comment and tell us your methods and experiences keeping ants and other pesky climbing insects from entering your bee hives!