A few days ago, I wrote about the way new beekeepers are generally sure about the right way to keep bees while oldtimers are reticent when it comes to answering questions. Sometimes there are a dozen ways to solve a bee issue but maybe only one of them is right at any particular time. Anyway, on that earlier post, I introduced the following questions which were overheard at a recent bee meeting. I intend to eventually answer all of them. Just keep in mind that my solutions are likely wrong.
Here are some questions that were tossed around at the meeting:
- My honey isn’t capped. What should I do with it? (I heard that one from three different beefolks.)
- Wasps are attacking my hives. How can I stop them? (Today’s topic)
- What’s the best extractor to buy?
- There was a pile of brood in front of my hive. Why?
- I have four good hives, but I think that the fifth might be queenless. What should I do?
I tried to answer the first question, about uncapped honey, a couple of days ago.
Today, I’m going to look at those nasty wasps. But first, an awful joke: What do you do with a limp wasp? Take it to a waspital. Or, step on it a second time.
Wasps deserve their bad rap. I’ll admit that I don’t like wasps (the insect kind) at all. Their stings are dreadful – one knocked me off a ladder years ago and I’ve never forgiven any of them for that. Even now, I can feel the pain of those stings on my forehead while I was holding paintbrush and paint can. Even now, as I type these words, I get a shutter down my back. The pain is unmended.
My dislike of wasps goes way back. I was a farm kid. If insects didn’t pollinate or produce some sort of crop, they weren’t welcome. I’m trying to come around to the PC view that all of nature’s little buddies have their job to do, but wasps will take me a while.
Around the apiary, wasps may mean the end of your beekeeping career. We don’t see many wasps in Calgary, where I live now, but up near the Rockies, beekeepers seem to have serious wasp problems. Now that autumn is close and bee populations are dwindling, the harassment caused by wasps is increasing.
What to do? I think you really need to minimize beekeeping activity, reduce entrances and keep colonies strong. Minimize activity by working quickly and deliberately. Don’t leave the covers off while you’re eating your lunch. Reduce entrances. Maybe duct tape holes in boxes and close extra entrances if the wasps are attacking. Keeping colonies strong is good policy all the time. Bees will defend themselves if they can. What about decoy wasp nests? I have no idea if they work.
Strong hives try to fight wasp invasions. Here’s a picture from China. Wasps there attack Apis cerana and Apis mellifera with equal malice. You can see that the bees have surrounded a wasp and are killing it. They have tightened around the intruder, raising body temperatures by 5 ºC – they’ll persist until the wasp is dead.
Last August, my friend Dieter sent me the picture below. It shows a honey excluder which has trapped large black wasps by the dozens. I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. I don’t know the whole story – maybe wasps had found an upper entrance and were trying to get down to the brood nest. If you look closely, you can see a honey bee near the center, clasping a dead wasp, probably pulling it towards the great garden cemetery just outside the door. All of this is good evidence that small restricted passages (especially since the honey season is over now) and a strong colony are the best defence against these awful dreadful horrible foul deadly creatures.