Pests of bees

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Pests of bees

A wide range of pests and predators can affect the productivity of beekeeping. Traditionally, pests are categorised differently from predators; the difference being that predators attack the whole colony, usually to eat its energy-rich honey harvest while pests use the colony or bee products as part of their own life cycles.

Many beekeeping pests are inconsequential and relatively easily controlled, for example, the hive beetles. These are divided into small and large hive beetles with some variability among large hive beetle being found in many hives. The small hive beetle (Aethena tumida) has recently increased its range into the temperate honey bees and has become a significant pest, although it appears to cause little damage to its native host, the African bee. Nonetheless, observations of the bees suggest they are uncomfortable when these beetles are present in the hive.

A number of moths can also inhabit hives. The most notable of these are the two wax moths; the greater wax moth (Galleria mellonella) and the lesser wax moth (Achroia grisella and the Deaths Head Hawk moth (Acherontia atropos). In all cases keeping strong colonies with small entrances will help the bees to resist entrance by the moths. The wax moths are sometimes called the 'beekeepers friend' as when they reduce old comb and weak colonies to dust they also remove infectious diseases and prevent them spreading to other colonies. The wax moth is one reason why keeping wax combs from one year to the next, as practised in frame hive beekeeping, is a poor idea under tropical conditions.

Rodents, especially rats and nice can move into a weak colony or uncolonised hive and kill the bees with their nesting activity or render an uncolonised hive uninhabitable. Keeping entrances small and carrying out regular inspections will prevent this occurring. Sterilising empty hives (this can be done over a fire) that have housed a rat or mouse family is necessary to get rid of the smell before the bees will consider it attractive again.

The most damaging pests in tropical beekeeping are ants. Ants can infest and destroy whole colonies of bees very quickly. Beekeepers can deter them by placing a physical barrier to the ants and taking constant care. Termites too can be very damaging to beehives. Protected hive stands or the use of hanging wires can prevent ants and termites from accessing the colony.

Other animals such snakes, scorpions or millipedes may also find hives attractive places to shelter. Sometimes snakes will sit in the hive roof protection especially if leaves or grasses are used to keep hives cool.  Beware of snakes in the grass. Animals infesting an empty hive will deter colonisation by bees so even empty hives need regular checking and cleaning.

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  • Language English
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  • Author Bees for Development
  • Publisher Bees for Development
  • Published Date October 2016
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