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Ants are a pest that many beekeepers need to deal with one time or another.  While a few ants may be no big deal, it is important for beekeepers to avoid an infestation.  Of course, the difficult thing about getting rid of ants is that you do not want to harm the bees too.  For that reason, you must find a bee friendly ant killer. 

Why Ants are Attracted to Beehives

Ants love sweets, so it makes sense that they are attracted to the scent of honey in the hive.  Another thing that attracts ants to beehives is sugar water in a bee feeder.  

Are Ants Harmful to Bees?

A few ants in your hive every now and then are to be expected, and is no reason to panic.  However, if you see a large amount of ants in your beehive it is time to intervene. While a few ants do not hurt the colony, a large ant invasion can cause hive failure.  

Large, strong bee colonies are usually able to defend their hive from ants on their own, but smaller, weaker colonies may need your help.  A new package of bees or a newly caught swarm could be vulnerable to an ant infestation.  If you see ants invading a strong colony, that could be a sign that the colony has weakened and may abscond.

How to Get Rid of Ants in a Beehive

While it’s important to get rid of ants in a beehive, you must be sure to do so without harming the bees.  That means that you cannot use insect killer on ants. But there are other methods that are safe for bees.  The main things you must do to get rid of ants is elevate your hive and use a bee friendly ant killer.  

Use a Hive Stand

It’s good to use a hive stand regardless of ants, but if ants are a problem in your area it’s essential.  Hive stands keep the beehive off of the ground and further away from ants.  Some hive stands even have built in moats on the legs that prevent ants from climbing up.  

Repair Cracks and Holes in the Hive

Ants usually access the beehive through cracks and holes in the wood. Check all boxes of your hive regularly to make sure there aren’t any unwanted openings. 

Clean Your Apiary

During hive inspections you may toss burr comb to the side.  However, burr comb left on the ground is likely to attract ants.  When dealing with an ant invasion, keep your apiary clean and free from comb on the ground.  Instead, carry a small bag or bucket with you during inspections so you can promptly remove burr comb and debris.

Create a Barrier

Use an oil barrier to prevent ants from climbing up the legs of the hive stand. Place a small container around each leg.  Fill the container with vegetable oil.  Soapy water works as well.  The ants will not be able to get past the barrier to climb up to the hive. 

Tree Tanglefoot also works as a barrier for ants.  Using a putty knife, apply tanglefoot around each leg of the hive stand. Tanglefoot is a sticky substance so the ants will get stuck in it.  A con of Tanglefoot is that it isn’t the most bee friendly, as there is a chance that bees will get stuck in it too.  It can also be messy.  

Best Bee Friendly Ant Killer 

After you’ve done everything to prevent ants you can look into using a bee friendly ant killer.  

Diatomaceous Earth can be used to make a powder barrier around each leg.  It works by getting into the ants joints and exoskeleton, drying up their body fluids and getting absorbed into their breathing tubes. Diatomaceous Earth takes 16 – 24 hours to kill ants.  It’s quite effective and is non-toxic to kids, birds, and pets.

Be sure not to get any Diatomaceous Earth in the beehive.  A simple ring around each hive stand leg is enough to do the trick.  

Ant Cant is another great way to stop ants.  It doesn’t kill ants, per say, but it does a really good job at stopping them from reaching the hive.  Instead of an oil or sticky barrier, Ant Cant creates a slippery barrier.  

Applied around each hive stand leg, Ant Cant prevents ants from getting a grip on the surface.  The ants cannot get traction and therefore cannot climb up to the hive. Ant Cant is very bee friendly; it dries completely and does not harm bees at all.  

Summary

An ant infestation can be harmful to a small or weakened bee colony.  To stop ants you must elevate your hive, create a barrier, and use a bee friendly ant killer. 

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