Bee Hive Pests, Predators and Diseases

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Understanding Honey Bee Pests

Many of us have dreams of keeping honey bees. Whether you want to produce buckets of fresh honey or increase pollination in the garden, beekeeping is an enduring hobby. But we are not the only ones hoping to benefit from the work of bees. There are many bee hive pests and predators that threaten the health and productivity of our hives. Keeping our bees healthy depends on understanding the various pests of the hive and how to deal with them.

Webbing from wax moth pests in a beehive image.

Beekeepers are farmers with livestock that is not under complete control. No matter how well you manage your bee hives, you can not keep them completely safe.

Honey bees forage far and near gathering food for the colony. Millions of blooming plants are visited to collect nectar and pollen.

As the busy worker bee collects necessary resources for the hive, she is at risk. Foraging is a dangerous activity with numerous honey bee predators around.

Her short life may end prematurely and this is the very reason that a honey bee family has thousands of individuals. They work together for the benefit of the colony.

small hive beetles a pest of beehives on honeycomb - bee hive pests major and minor

Pests Inside the Bee Hive

While the foraging bee takes the greatest risk on a day by day basis, house bees are also in danger.

Several types of bee pests do their damage inside the actual hive. Here they consume resources and spread diseases that affect the entire colony.

The amount of damage inflected varies. The presence of some of these pests place the colony at a high risk of failure.

Others are more of a nuisance and only become a major problem in a colony that is sick or weak for other reasons.

Controlling Varroa Mites

A relatively new pest to the European Honey Bee ( found in the Us) is the varroa mite. This external pest of the honey bee is a small reddish mite.

They are not the only mites in the hive but they are the most deadly. Varroa are small but large enough to be seen with the naked eye.

Varroa Mites are the #1 killer of bee hives world wide. Feeding on bees and brood, these mites weaken colonies and result in deformed, disease ridden adults.

Varroa mites reproducing on brood inside beehive image.

It is vital for the beekeeper to monitor the level of varroa infestation in any beehive. Then treatment options can be considered if needed.

There are several ways of testing for varroa that the beekeeper can use to gage how bad things are in the hive. You can not rely on visible inspection because most of the mites will be hidden inside the brood cells.

Even beekeepers familiar with the dangers of mite infestations may fail to act quickly. Knowing when to treat your bees for mites before it is too late is critical.

There is sometimes a tendency to wait until Fall to treat. This can be a devastating mistake for bee colonies. If the mite population reaches very high levels-it may be too late to save the colony.

The beekeeper has several different choices to consider when choosing the best varroa mite treatments for bees. Some methods are easier to use and others represent possible contamination of the comb and honey inside.

In recent years, the use of oxalic acid for varroa mite control has become popular in the US. Used successfully for years in Europe, American beekeepers have added this tool to their mite control program.

The search continues for more natural ways to deal with varroa mite problems. Can essential oils help honey bees be healthier?

Many beekeepers say yes. They have developed essential oil recipes for honey bee health and believe they are useful. However, any method of mite control requires constant monitoring to make sure it worked.

Dangers of Small Hive Beetles

Small Hive Beetles originated in Africa. A hard shelled black beetle, they can fly for miles. They are a major pest for beekeepers in many parts of the United States.

Small Hive Beetles are a pest in many regions of the US. One of the best ways to deal with hive beetles is to understand their behavior. They are less of a problem in strong hives.

In addition to keeping populous colonies, there are several different types of Small Hive Beetle Traps that may help.

Minor Bee Pests in the Hive

Some types of bee hive pests are more of a nuisance than a true threat to the colony. Of course, that does not mean that they pose no threat.

A weak, sick colony may succumb to even a mild threat. That is why it is important to do everything in our power to keep our colonies strong and healthy.

Preventing Wax Moths

Wax Moths get a bad rap in the world of beekeeping. Blamed for the death of many colonies, they are actually nature’s scavengers.

Did Wax Moths kill your bees? It may seem to be the case but moths rarely kill healthy hives.

Moths can destroy valuable honey comb and hive resources. They are only a problem when the bee colony is weak for some other reason. Wax Moth infestations are a symptom of another problem.

Ants as a Nuisance Pest Usually

Some species of ants can certainly cause colony failure. If you live in a region with especially viscous ants, extra precautions may be necessary.

However, most of the time, ants bother the beekeepers more than the bees themselves. These tiny insects seems to be able to get in the smallest cracks.

Beehive on metal stand to protect from ant pests image.

Attracted to the honey and sugar water located in a hive, they can become very aggravating.

In addition to keeping hives on stands up off the ground, there are other methods to keep ants out of beehives. Or, at least reduce their number.

Beehive Predators to Watch For

  • humans
  • bears
  • wasps-hornets

Of course, foraging bees are subject to attack by many different predators. Sadly humans can be hive predators as many colonies are stolen every year.

Create your beeyard in a safe place where it can be watched by yourself or neighbors. Yes, people will still bee colonies – not all beekeepers are honest.

In some regions, bears destroy beehives each season. If you live in an area with a bear population, it is best to build a electric bear fence right away.

And some of predators actually fly right up to the front of the hive to attack. Flying insects such as wasps and hornets will capture foragers near the hive entrance.

Recently, a new insect -the Giant Asian Hornet– has caused beekeepers to worry.

Diseases of Honey Bees

Live most living things, honey bees fall prey to various diseases. Whether they are caused by bacteria, fungus or viruses, disease can take a toll on the productivity of a bee colony.

One of the most feared diseases in beekeeping is American Foulbrood. This malady has not real cure and can be found in old equipment for decades.

Beekeepers must be vigilant and watch for signs of unhealthy hives and then take what precautions they can.

Final Tips on Common Beehive Pests, Predators and Diseases

Every serious beekeeper wants to do everything possible to help our bee colonies be healthy and productive. In many cases, a good colony needs little help.

But there will be times when the beekeeper must intervene to ensure survival of the hive.

Learning the nature of each one of the common beehive pests and predators will help you protect your bees.

Beekeeper Charlotte

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