Why are wasps attacking your bee hive?
Early in the year wasps collect meat and carrion, including dead bees, which they masticate and pass on to feed their larvae in the nest. The protein helps the new bodies grow and the larvae in turn excrete a sugary honeydew which satisfies the wasp’s sweet tooth. In late summer/early autumn, the larvae have hatched and the adult wasps have to seek their sugar fix elsewhere, gatecrashing picnics and making forays into beehives.
Site of hive
Rubbish Although it is unlikely, do check your bee hive isn’t situated near rubbish bins or other sources of abandoned sugary substances.
Fruit Are there any fruit trees nearby, as fruit rotting on the ground will attract wasps into the vicinity?
Aphids The honeydew from insects (usually aphids) on trees can also appeal to wasps.
If you can rule out the above, the most likely answer to why the wasps are attacking your bee hive is, unfortunately, that the colony is weak enough to make it worth their while. They try it on with most hives at some point but will persist in numbers if they have success.
Are you feeding sugar to your bees?
What may be attracting wasps is sugar syrup fed at this time of year. Your bees may be strong enough to fight them off but they will spend a lot of energy doing so.
What can you do?
Narrow the entrance
Try to spot the problem early. Watch the entrance especially towards the end of summer and narrow the entrance of the hive to make it easier for the bees to defend. They can manage with a very small opening but do allow enough room for them to remove any dead bees from the hive.
Feeding the bees
Think about the issue of routine autumn feeding – see Feeding sugar to honey bees
Some strains of honey bee are more docile than others. The benefit of you not being stung may not outweigh the benefits to the bees of being able to defend themselves.
Shortage of food elsewhere
Feed the wasps! Like honey bees, wasps do feed on nectar. One of their favourite plant species is the figwort (common figwort Scrophuaria nodosa and water figwort S. auriculata). The inconspicuous figwort flowers from July to September. Whether providing nectar for wasps will keep them away from bee hives I don’t know but it would make a great experiment. To buy seed click here. When the ivy flow starts it will provide food for wasps as well as bees and the attacks should diminish.
Trap? Any good?
Jam jars containing a sweet solution will definitely drown wasps. Whether or not this has any serious effect on the numbers is difficult to determine.
The Waspinator is a pretend wasp’s nest purported to deter wasps from coming within range of it. Wasps defend the territory around their nest aggressively so they tend to avoid each other’s nests. Do it work? Seems so… the-cottage-gardener.blogspot.co.uk
To buy the Waspinator click the ad