Bee hives attacked by wasps
Beekeeping is bringing to the fore a character trait I’m not proud of, procrastination. Following natural beekeeping principles leads to inaction rather than action on the whole but sometimes, for example when the hives are being attacked by wasps, action is necessary. Or is it?
I sauntered up the garden one sunny day to find a full-scale battle in progress and many dead bees on the paving slabs at the front and side of the hives. It’s easy to see wasps attacking — lots of flying activity outside the hive, the zigzagging motion of the wasps and their bright yellow stripes make them relatively easy to spot.
Narrowing the entrance to the hive
The advice is to narrow the entrance so that the guard bees can patrol more effectively. Clear and simple. How to do this exactly is more open to interpretation and turns out not to be quite so straight forward in my case.
Siting bee hives
We have to go back to the issue of siting the hive and two problems with my choice emerge: firstly the hives, although in an otherwise perfect ‘woody glade’, are right beside a plum and apple tree. What they gain in the easy vertical access to the sky, undisturbed by the threat of humans crossing their flight path, they lose in proximity to a wasp larder. Sweet, rotting plums are drawing wasps to the area and what a bonus they find, a hive heavy with honey. This wasn’t something I could change easily in mid battle.
How to narrow the entrance
Narrowing the entrance was something I could potentially do then and there … except that still I wasn’t sure if I should interfere. Part of me wanted to believe this strong colony of mine could and would defend itself without human help. I even dreamt up the excuse for not taking action that closing down the entrance would reduce ventilation and create problems inside the hive, especially in the wet weather. I had a further technical problem — how to reduce the opening. Previously I had placed a length of wood three quarters of the way over the entrance and taped it to the wall of the hive. It looked ugly but did the job, only needing to be replaced once all winter. I improved this design(!) later with a sophisticated block of wood propped up close to the hive with a brick. My new hives don’t have enough room for the width of wood and brick however and will need to to be moved back on their stands. Oh for a little more foresight at the siting stage.
Two weeks later
The battle is long over and although I have seen zigzagging yellow jackets having a stab at penetrating the honey palace there hasn’t been anything like a war zone, thank goodness. This almost makes it harder to decide whether to do anything!
In fact I am now decided to narrow the entrances and in moving the hives back a few inches I can heft at the same time. I have also thought long and hard about whether to open the hives for a pre-winter check and I’m torn between having a look to educate myself and leaving them well alone.
All this dithering comes from weighing up two opposing views, one that accuses beekeepers who take no action of neglect and the other that trusts the bees know what they’re doing. For a beginner judging when action is required is difficult. These sort of decisions require experience and although I am a member of Hants natural beekeeping group I’m not very good at running all my ‘mini dilemmas’ past the experts and unfortunately no one is local enough for me to gain practical experience that way.