The battle of the bees
As if bees didn’t have enough challenges facing their survival… along comes the European wasp. Two years ago I lost a beehive from a wasp attack and this autumn the wasps are trying it again on another hive (see video above).
There is nothing more frustrating then when you check your beehive in the morning before leaving for work and there are numerous wasps at the entrance of the hive, knocking your bees to the ground, trying to decapitate them and flying off with bits and pieces of bee. It makes me feel like putting on my beekeeping suit and joining my bees to stand guard at the entrance, swatting any wasp that dares to come near. Unfortunately I must go to work to pay the bills…so what can you do to assist your bees from being attacked by wasps?
Well, after doing a bit of research and consulting some of the other beekeepers in my local beekeeping club, I’ve discovered a number of things that may help. Firstly reduce your hive entrance so that the bees have less space to defend (I’ve now reduced mine to about 5cm). Our weather is cooling down now in mid autumn, but if your hive is being attacked at the height of summer you will need to make sure there is still enough ventilation so the bees can cool the hive if needed. I’ve read some people use wire mesh to reduce the entrance, which still allows enough air flow on warm days.
Another thing is to make sure your hive is healthy and that there is a strong population of bees available to keep the wasps out. At this time of year reduce your hives down to two supers for a strong colony and down to one super for a new or weaker colony, many bees packed into a small space make it hard for wasps to get in.
You can set wasp traps up around your hive which you can make yourself from plastic bottles (there are heaps of examples on youtube) or buy them from your local hardware store. Although it feels great to see the wasps dying in the trap, the dozen or so you catch is nothing compared to the thousands of wasps found in most nests. Most importantly therefore is to try and find the wasp nest and kill it. This will also reduce the number of wasps for the following season.
So regardless of whether or not you keep bees yourself, you can help bees and your local beekeepers by being vigilant about any wasps that may be nesting in your garden and taking the steps to eradicate them.