When inspecting your beehive, you may find more than just bees in there. Ants are notorious for trying to get into beehives and set up shop. You may notice them on the ground around the hive, crawling up the legs of your hive stand, and even in the hive itself. If you have a problem with ants in your beehive, this article is for you. I will be sharing tips for protecting beehives from ants.
Do Ants Harm Beehives?
Sure, ants are annoying, but do ants harm beehives? Ants are usually attracted to beehives because they want to get to the sugar water in the feeder or the honey. A few ants are not a big deal and will likely be ignored by the bees. But a large invasion of ants is a different story, as it may be a sign of a weakly defended hive.
It is possible for ants to cause hive failure, especially if the ants are an aggressive species.
Argentine ants are spreading and attacking beehives everywhere. This type of ant is particularly harmful to beehives because they are tiny enough to fit in the brood box and they have very large colonies. Fire ants can also be detrimental to bee colonies.
A large, strong bee colony should be able to fight ants off, but smaller colonies, new packages of bees, and new nucs will need help. It is not unusual for a bee colony to abscond due to ant infestation. As beekeepers, protecting beehives from ants is important and there are a few ways to go about it.
Protecting Beehives From Ants
Now that you know the problem ants can cause for beehives, what is the best method for protecting beehives from ants? Different beekeepers will give you different answers, and what works for them may not work for you. Generally though, you want to do 2 things:
To protect your beehive from ants use a hive stand and create a barrier.
There are several methods used for protecting beehives from ants. All methods will not work for everyone, but it’s good to have ideas to start with. One or more of these methods should be useful for your hives.
- Use a hive stand
- Remove tall grass and weeds
- Repair bee boxes
- Research ants in your area
- Clean your apiary
- Make an oil barrier
- Cinnamon or Diatomaceous Earth
Use a Hive Stand
The first thing you should do is get your beehive off the ground. Hive stands are great for protecting beehives from ants. There are even “ant proof” hive stands, with built in moats around the legs.
Remove tall Grass and Weeds
You should also remove all tall grass, weeds, and vegetation immediately around your beehives. Not only do ants hide in grass and weeds, they will crawl up the grass and use it as a bridge to you hive. Having a clear area also makes it easier to observe your hives unobstructed.
Ants will get access to your hive through small cracks and holes in the bee boxes. By repairing the boxes and keeping them in good shape the ants will not be able to find a way in. During inspections, check for ants crawling on the comb. If you see any, it is a sign of a problem. See where the ants are getting into the hive and repair it quickly.
Research Ants in Your Area
You may find it helpful to research ants in your region. You should find out what type of ants are in your area, as well as what season they peak in. Look up what kind of things attract and repel them and you can make a game plan for protecting beehives from ants. It’s best to be proactive.
Clean Your Apiary
When fighting off an ant invasion it is important to have a clean bee yard. It is common for beekeepers to toss burr comb on the ground when working on hives. But don’t do this! Burr comb left on the ground is sure to attract ants. Instead, carry a bag or bucket with you when working on hives. That way you will have a trash receptacle close to you at all times.
Another common method beekeepers use to protect their hives from ants is to make an oil barrier. To do this, place a can or container around each leg of the hive stand. Fill them with vegetable oil, or even soapy water. This barrier prevents ants from climbing up to your beehive.
Tanglefoot is an insect barrier that is usually used on fruit trees. To use tanglefoot you must fasten a band around each leg of the hive stand. Then apply Tanglefoot to the barrier using a putty knife. It is very sticky and will trap any insect that walks across it. The cons of Tanglefoot is that it can be quite messy and you do risk the chance of bees getting caught in it as well.
If you are not a fan of sticky barriers you can also try a powder barrier. Diatomaceous Earth and cinnamon are usually used for this. Sprinkle a circle of either one around each hive stand leg to keep ants at bay. If going with this method remember that you must be diligent about reapplication. Wind, rain, or debris can easily destroy the barrier.
AntCant offers a unique method of stopping ants. It creates a barrier coating that is slippery. Therefore, ants are not able to get a grip on those areas to climb upwards. Unable to get traction, ants will slip off the area and leave. AntCant works great applied to the legs of the hive stand. It dries completely, so it’s not messy and it is safe for bees.
Bee Friendly Ant Killers
Are there any bee friendly ant killers? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Anything that kills ants has the potential to kill bees too. Even oil barriers and soapy water moats may cause some bees to drown. The safest thing to do is to prevent ants from getting to the hive. If you do want to use an ant pesticide, use a granular form, placed away from your beehives.
If you are choosing between oil, cinnamon, diatomaceous earth, Tanglefoot, and AntCant as barriers, the most bee friendly one is AntCant. It creates the only barrier that will not harm bees at all.
It is possible for ants to harm beehives. A large amount of ants can cause hive failure. Protecting beehives from ants is important and beekeepers should be proactive about it. There are several different methods to protect beehives from ants. Using a hive stand and creating a barrier usually works best.