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“There are ants in my beehive!” is a common complaint among beekeepers. It’s not surprising because ants are often attracted to sugary foods.  So finding a beehive full of sweet honey must be like hitting the jackpot for them. 

But for beekeepers, while ants are a nuisance, at what point do you step in and get rid of the ants?  Do ants harm beehives?  

Why Ants Like Beehives

honey does a bee make featured

Like most creatures that try to invade a beehive, ants are attracted to the smell of honey.  Just like ant traps use a sweet smelling bait to lure ants, honey is the reason ants will enter a hive. Furthermore, if you are feeding your bees sugar water, that can attract ants too. 

On top of that, ants are opportunists.  So when they see a hive full of honey, especially one that is weakly defended, they will quickly move in to collect resources.  

A strong colony will typically not have a problem with ants, as they can usually fight them off.  However, if you find an ant infestation in one of your hives, that is a sign that the colony is weakened somehow.  

Do Ants Harm Beehives?

Ants are everywhere, so it’s not surprising that they would be in a beehive too, but do ants harm beehives?  At what point does the beekeeper need to step in?

A small amount of ants is not a big deal and will not bother the bees, but a large infestation is another story.  A large invasion of ants means that the bee colony is not adequately defending the hive.  If this goes on, especially with aggressive ant species, it could cause hive failure. 

If an aggressive ant infestation is not stopped, the bees will likely leave to find a new home. 

How to Stop Ants from Invading Beehives

The key to keeping your hive safe from ants is prevention.  Once the ants are in there, it’s hard to get all of them out. Especially because you cannot use chemical sprays that would kill your bees too.  

There are several bee friendly ways to prevent ants from getting into a beehive.  

  • Use a hive stand to elevate your hive off the ground.
  • Keep hive boxes in good repair.  That way, the ants will not be able to enter the hive through cracks and holes.
  • Keep your apiary clean.  Ants are attracted to discarded burr comb and debris.
  • Keep the area around your hives free of tall grass and weeds.  
  • If you notice ants climbing up the hive stand, make an oil barrier around each leg.  Place a small container around the hive stand leg and fill with oil.  The oil will prevent ants from climbing.
  • Spread diatomaceous earth or cinnamon around your hives.  This creates a powder barrier for ants.
  • Use a sticky barrier like Tanglefoot.  Commonly used on trees, this sticky substance will trap any ant that tries to walk over it.
  • Create a slippery barrier by using AntCant.  When AntCant is used, ants cannot gain enough traction to walk across the barrier. 

Each method has it’s own pros and cons, so you should choose the methods that work best for your apiary.  However, the 2 things every beekeeper should do to prevent ants from harming beehives is to use a hive stand and keep a clean apiary.  Those are the best things to do to prevent ants and other pests. 

Summary

Ants in a beehive is a common complaint among beekeepers.  They are attracted to the smell of honey and sugar water and will enter the hive to get it.  Ants do harm beehives if it is a large infestation.  There are several methods to prevent ants from harming a beehive. 

Holly

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