Honeybee Pests

The One I Especially Avoid

I was so happy that two out of three hives survived the winter. The survivors are happily foraging now and busy bringing in a lot of pollen. The smaller of the two survivors stood alone outside the fence, ten feet away from the main two hives during winter. I had already dismantled the dead hive creating an empty base of cement blocks which I had plan to put a new hive on when I can split the first hive later this spring.

What I found two days ago in front of the un-fenced, small hive was alarming.  A few droppings were in front of the hive containing what turned out to be partially digested bees.  The only animal that eats bees at night had left me a calling card. Great!  We have a skunk.  I was more concerned about raccoons because they are frequent nocturnal visitors in the yard poaching bird food. I chased four of them up a tree one evening.   Another night three of them were climbing on the pool fence looking for suet.  But I didn’t expect a skunk to be devouring my bees.

One of the calling cards the skunk left in front of the hive
One of the calling cards the skunk left in front of the hive

I have brushed off wasps,  and chased raccoons but I can’t do much about a skunk.  Chasing or confronting one is not an option, as it frequently leads to an onerous, odorous, uncompromising event.  So I moved the hive inside the fence and I’m hoping he’ll find easier pickings on someone else’s property.  Since we had an empty base already fenced in, we waited until dark and then lifted the entire hive moving it inside the fence.

I checked the bees this morning and found some of them gathering at the empty base of the third hive.  Not that many of them to worry about.  The majority seemed to know where their new home is.  I think these girls will eventually find their way back home just ten feet away.  I should have taken away the base completely so there wouldn’t be a queen scent left over to confuse them.

I will have to keep my eye out for skunks from now on.  If they manage to dig in under the fence, I will have to employ the next strategy… a mixed solution of Bhut Jolokia chili pepper and garlic.  If this doesn’t work, I will contract the owl and Red-tailed hawk to do the job.

Some bees still gathered at the empty base
Some bees still gathered at the empty base
Confused bees back from gathering pollen, try to find out where their hive has gone
Confused bees back from gathering pollen, try to find out where their hive has gone

4 thoughts on “Honeybee Pests

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  1. So interesting reading about your bees. Hope you can solve your skunk problem with entering a contract with the owl or Red-tailed hawk (or maybe that would be most effective, but paying their benefits might be costly.)

    1. I haven’t seen any more calling cards in the last couple of days. I hope the skunk finds an easier target. A couple of years ago I fractured my ankle chasing a mole, so the bird feeders were empty for a week while I learned to move around in a hard cast. When I was able to hop to the garden, I found half a mole left right where I slipped. I think the songbirds had put a contract out on it. So you never know.

  2. Indeed, confronting skunks never ends well. Best of luck with yours.

    We have heard of them treating hives as vending machines. They knock on the front and when the guard bee comes to investigate it gets eaten. Repeat until skunk tummy is full. That suggests a taller base may be helpful if it does not make the hive unmanageable.

    Did you induce the bees to re-orient with some obstacle at the entrance after the move?

    1. Moving the hive seems to have stymied the skunk for now. Of course, if I come out one morning and find a skunk sized ladder up against the fence, …..

      Since we moved the hive after dark, I thought the bees would reorient their compass when the sun came up. There were just a few of them at the old place, most of them know where their new home is.

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