For about a week now my horizontal top bar hive has been under siege by wasps and, more recently, by hornets. I reduced the 3 entrances to 1 and then reduced the size of that single entrance. I’ve cautiously put out wasp traps (knowing that this may increase the number of wasps and have found and destroyed 2 wasp nests. Last night in desperation I closed the last entrance knowing that it would be cool today and on the basis that the bees might recuperate and nothing could get in. The wasps are still there in numbers. I think they can smell honey/the colony through the mesh floor. For a few days the wasps were held at bay but yesterday wasps and a few hornets seemed to be entering with impunity. Is there anything else I can do? would moving the hive help? I plan to let the bees out later on today so they can get water but I am feeling increasingly helpless and hopeless. Any advice would be really welcomed.
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Watching a hive that is under wasp attack is one of the most distressing things one can do, not least because it is so difficult to stop once it starts. In my experience, horizontal top bar hives are particularly prone to attack; there seem to be lots of little gaps that the wasps can force themselves through – often where the wood has warped a tiny bit. Once inside the hive the wasps pick up hive scent and can then come and go with impunity. The bees don’t defend all these little gaps as they don’t see them as entrances; they are too small for bees.
So, tape up every little gap, even the small ones and shut the entrance down to a SINGLE bee width. If the entrances are round, cut a slot in a cork to create an entrance and place this cork in the entrance hole. Close up the mesh floor to minimise the scent escaping from the hive. You might even have to completely close the hive, as you have already done, for significant periods until the wasps give up.
Place wasp traps either side of the entrance (made from plastic water bottles) and bait them with cheap cider (wasps love the smell of apples). Place a bit of fish skin or other smelly meat in the trap to begin with to deter bees (wasps are carnivores, bees are not). Once dead wasps start to accumulate in the trap, the bees will not be attracted. Add a drop of washing up liquid to help the wasps to drown.
Yes, I know wasps have a place in the general ecology, but at this season if the only place they want to be is in your hives you have to harden your heart.
thanks. I have traps already but will add cider. I feel no sympathy for wasps. I could happily every last one. sorry, that’s not very eco but it pains me to watch this carnage. is there anything to be gained from moving the hive?
Is there anything to be gained from moving the hive?
Not easy to move a horizontal. And it would need to be moved somewhere well away where there are no wasps. A few feet won’t help as the wasps will soon find it again.
Also, have a really good look for more wasp nests. I found two this week, just 20 and 40 feet from my hives, as I did some tidying up outside. I moved a pot on the patio and realised they were in an air brick in our wall. Then I pulled ivy off a lean-to side roof and realised they were going into cracks between tiles. Squirting Raid into the gaps seemed to sort them out within a day. I intend checking our loft later.
I also saw a nest at someone else’s house where they were using a gap under a wooden sill to get in and out of the cavity wall.
Ask neighbours if they have wasps.
Wasps are very territorial. If you find the nearby nests, you have a good chance of stamping out the problem. I’ve read they often only operate within 300 yards of their nest, though I bet there are exceptions.
A word about hornets. They are active at night too. If you find their nest, be very careful.
I had enough problems of my own over the last 2 years with wasps and know exactly how bad they can get. Found 35 nests the year before last in and around my garden and had to tackle several of them twice. 300 yards is a good estimate for the max distance they can roam from but I always go a few dozen yards further. One such nest was at that limit and caused me a lot of grief. It was in the loose earth around a badgers sett entrance.
Remember! Every wasps nest can produce a dozen to 20 queens easily and they roost over winter to produce a new nest the following spring so going the extra few hundred yards is always a benefit because of the number of nests you can reduce. I have found dozens of queens roosting cheekily in the roof spaces of the Warre and top bar hives even when they are occupied. Also they roost under tarpaulin covers on hives as I have found to my surprise. Needless to say they get squished.
Look at the eaves of the surrounding houses near your garden. Any activity you spot will probably be a sure sign of a nest. Also try spraying a mist of water from a lawn watering device or something that will lightly soak the wasps. Then shower them with dry white flour. The flour will stick to them and that way you can follow them much easier to their nest, This can be done to locate robbing bees which I might add will be your next problem now that your colony has been attacked and probably weakened. The water mist spray may also deter them from coming back but don’t count on it. Only do the spraying when your bees are all locked in. To avoid dehydration spray water mist into the mesh floor from a hand sprayer bottle. Not a jet but a mist. That way you maintain humidity and cooler temperatures for the hive and they can stay in a little longer. Cover the hive in a white sheet raised off the hive a little so it helps to keep it cool in full sun.
As for hornets they cannot get through a tiny hole the size of a bee so they should be no problem. But beware of tackling any hornets without a bee smock on or you will know why they are feared so much. Same applies to dealing with wasps and especially at a height. Always protect yourself from being stung especially up a ladder.
If the wasps and hornets continue to cause trouble then moving the hive to another garden may help but be aware that you know your own garden and immediate surroundings better than some place else. Any nests in the new location will soon become aware of your hive.
Getting the neighbours to help spot nests of wasps in and around their properties and telling you is easy with the promise of a jar of honey. Amazing what people will do to help then. 🙂
Good luck with the battle but don’t give up.
My gosh, I am having the same problem. I went out to see my “east side” hive last night. To my surprise they were all out on the landing shelf and extremely agitated. I opened up one of the observatory windows to check and some of the guard bees from in front came around and I was stung four or five times in the arm. I had no protective gear on since this hive is normally very gently and I never have any worries. Then I turned my head and saw a huge hornet hovering around the front door just above the landing shelf. I went away to water the garden and just by luck observed the hornets entering and exiting a hole in the stone wall. I called a friend for advice, which was throw a cup of gasoline on the hole early in the morning before they wake up and start moving out. And of course don’t light it with match. Then I called the local chapter of the Api Association. I was told to eliminate the hornets’ nest with an aerosol insetticide “Vespe” produced by Duracid. Anyone have any experience with either on of these two methods of elimination? P.S. I did wear my Bee suite and hat and gloves and boots and tried to kill a few with a rock and fly swatter. Killed a dozen or so. Many thanks for the Hornet Queen information. Very helpful.
Thanks for all the advice and comments. Today feels even more hopeless. there are no bees to be seen at or around the hive entrance and wasps coming and going without a care in the world. Its hard to believe at this point that there is a colony left. I’m reluctant to close the entrances again as its so hot here today and the wasp numbers are increasing. At what point do I accept defeat and open up to have a look?
I am shocked to hear all the ‘kill wasps’. ‘kill hornets’ messages!. Wasps and hornets are part of nature and do a useful job cleaning up debris and dead insects as well as play a part in natural selection . When advised to use wasp traps in my apiary, they seemed to attract foraging wasps in their 100s, so I stopped using them.
Wasps are good at sensing weakness and I use them as an indicator of failing colonies..
Once wasps breach the guard bee defences, other robbers quickly follow and the colony is doomed; its own bees will often join the robbing band and carry booty to a different hive. In this case I have sacrificed the colony, shaken out the bees, harvested honey and destroyed brood.. I leave the hive open to show robbers there is nothing left to steal. Clean comb will be useful as a swarm lure in future.
I think that open mesh floors, leaking vapours of honey and feeding brood, attract the wasps.. They also disrupt the nest atmosphere and warmth; making it difficult for bees to maintain nest warmth essential to healthy brood development.. Poor quality brood leads to weak colonies.
Strong colonies with small nest entrances can repel wasps and I often observe healthy colonies’ guard bees drive off interested wasp scouts; hopefully these wasps will return home with a less than encouraging message. I recently watch a hornet take a bee off the landing platform, of a Warre hive, and carry it to a post where it dismembered and ate it. It returned and dived straight into the entrance. After 7 or 8 seconds, the hornet reappeared with half a dozen bees attached, stinging actively; the ball of fighting bees and hornet fell to the ground .where the hornet managed to disengage and fly off. I have watched for its return but have not seen it. The bees seem to know how to cope..
I know that wasps can nest in really inconvenient places and may need to be destroyed. One option, to keep them away from your area, is to place food several hundred metres away. Another is to hang up a false nest to occupy the territory and put off any home seeking scouts; these manmade fabric nests look like a partially deflated grey football; people who use them assure me they do work.
My basic message is – keep only strong colonies and do not advertise the presence of hives by allowing clouds of nest aroma to drift downwind.. It is disappointing to shake out a failing hive but I would rather do that than watch the colony being eaten by wasps. John H Over Wallop.
I am shocked at myself as I have always tried to take your approach. I am rather sad and emotional about loosing a colony of bees which I thought was strong and, more importantly, happy. I know that is ridiculous at one level but there we are.
I mentioned a false wasp nest which you can find here together with reviews http://www.amazon.co.uk/Waspinator-pack-of-2/dp/B001EVBFEY/ref=pd_cp_86_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=1Q9R21FKNAR68Y8348B6
I reckon it should be in place before the real nest are constructed. John H
Thanks all. Most of this will be advice for next summer as I fear this colony is gone.
have just opened the hive and found hundreds of wax moth lavae/pupae and moths. so John was right – this was a colony which was weakened by moth infestation and the wasps moved in later. any thoughts on how i could have prevented this? might prevent it in the future. as always, advice welcomed
As John H points out, and as the evidence has shown, what we see in a bee hive is often a symptom rather than a cause: in this case a weak hive that has been discovered by wasps rather than a hive that has been rendered weak by wasps. That said, I have seen even strong hives destroyed by wasps but those were hives of the horizontal pattern and the wasps initially came in through gaps as I described above; one more reason why I gave up using such hives. For those interested, other reasons are here.
One trick I heard about was to actively seek the buildup of hornet nests around the apiary, for example by placing wooden boxes in your garden. Yes they tend to catch some bees, but they also prey on wasps. So when there is hornets around, wasps shouldn’t become a problem. Yes hornets do also hunt bees, but as hornet colonies are much smaller in size and number than wasp colonies, the overall loss to the beehives is much less severe this way.