23 Common Enemies of Honey Bees — Bee Hives, Farm Fit Living
23 Common Enemies of Honey Bees & Bee Hives
- 1 23 Common Enemies of Honey Bees & Bee Hives
- 2 Are you aware of these common enemies of honey bees??
- 2.1 Wax Moths
- 2.2 Small Hive Beetle are Common Enemies of Honey Bees
- 2.3 Mites
- 2.4 Ants
- 2.5 Robber Bees
- 2.6 Aggressive Bees
- 2.7 Skunks/Raccoons
- 2.8 Bears
- 2.9 Mice & Other Rodents
- 2.10 Robbing & Vandalizing Humans
- 2.11 Other Insects:
- 2.12 Birds
- 2.13 Livestock
- 2.14 Frogs, Toads & Lizards
- 2.15 Prepare Yourself for Beekeeping Success by knowing the Common Enemies of Honey Bees
- 3 Solitary Bees
- 4 6 Common Bee Predators and How to Protect Your Hive
- 5 6 Most Common Bee Predators in the Wild
- 6 How Bees Defend Themselves
- 7 How to Help Defend Your Bees Against Bee Predators
Are you aware of these common enemies of honey bees??
A lot of times, we beekeepers have no idea what made our bees leave or what happened to the hives. I put together this list of common enemies of honey bees and beehives with some possible answers to your questions.
In this post, I will:
- Uncover 23 of the most common live enemies of honey bees .
- Describe some methods from preparing and protecting bee hives from bee predators .
- Some great bee information for kids and adults interested in keeping bees.
When bee hives grow weak, the wax moths come in.
With the guard bee population weak or lowered, the moths have an easier time of laying their eggs in cracks between hive parts. After they hatch, the damage is done. They tunnel into wax combs and just make a huge mess with their cocoons. You’ll see the cocoons attached to the wooden parts of equipment, their silk trails, and damaged combs all throughout the hive.
Controlling wax moths is not that hard:
- Keep colonies strong.
- Freeze frames and combs for a few days.
- Store empty combs with moth balls.
- Let the chickens clean up the larvae in the frames – They love this treat.
- Using fire ants to kill wax moths.
Small Hive Beetle are Common Enemies of Honey Bees
This enemy is a small reddish brown or black beetle covered in fine hair. The larvae is commonly confused with a young wax moth larvae. Beetle larve is different because they have three sets of legs behind the head, where wax moth larvvae have three sets of legs plus a series of paired prolegs all along the body.
Here’s what they do in the hive:
- Eat pollen, wax, honey, bee eggs and larvae.
- Poop in the honey, causing it to ferment.
- Cause Queens to stop laying eggs. This will eventually result in weak hives.
How to know if you have these beetles:
- You can see them in the hives running around.
- Larvae on the combs and bottom board.
- Fermented honey.
Ways to control them:
- Maintain strong colonies.
- Keep hives clean of all equipment.
- Extract honey as soon as it is removed from colonies.
- Destroy beetles using the following products:
Slug & Snail Pellets
This works great for beetle larvae that burrows into the ground. Sprinkle this around the base of your hives to help control larvae from coming to the entrance to your hives.
Apivar Miticide Strips
Kills 99.9% of mites and larvae in a 6 week period.
I’ll have a special post JUST for controlling Small Hive Beetle Soon
One of the most common parasites of bees. They have been known to be the bees worst enemy. And there’s so much information and so many different ways to treat mites. I just can’t fit it all into this post when I’m trying to mention all of the common enemies of honey bees.
Here are the two major types of mites that affect honey bees.
- Varroa – Attach themselves to the outside of adult bees.
- Tracheal – Lives inside the breathing organs of bees.
And there’s so much information about these mites because they have became a huge problem over the years! I plan to write more informative posts breaking down the information and my experiences for you in the future.
I’ll have posts just for controlling these mites soon!
For now, I’ll summarize briefly how I’m testing for each mite:
- Varroa: These you can see. Look for Disfigured or stunted bees or pale and dark reddish brown spots.
- There are three main ways to test for varroa. None of them are easy on the bees but they are necessary.
- The first is to pick up a frame of brood. Scratch the pupae out of the comb and examine. You should see at least 2 mites per cell.
- The second is the ether roll. Collect bees in a jar. Then, cover the bees with ether starter fluid and then shake the jar. This dislodges the mites from the bees and then roll the jar around for 10 minutes. The mites will stick to the side of the jar.
- The third way is to use tobacco smoke and a sticky board in the bottom of the colony. The sticky board is just a board coated with Vaseline. Smoke the colony about 6-10 times and then close up the hive for 20 minutes. This will cause the mites to fall off and land on the sticky board. You can then count the mites on your board and then treat accordingly.
- There are three main ways to test for varroa. None of them are easy on the bees but they are necessary.
- Tracheal: You cannot see these mites, so you have to kill bees and dissect them. Collect older bees. Place them in a 70% ethyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol solution. You can also freeze them in a glass jar.
- Then, deliver them to a state insect inspector if you have one. Find this person through your Extension Office.
- Or you can dissect them yourself. I’ll have a post on this topic as well, in the near future. (There’s only so much time in the day!)
- The bees can then be examined and dissected to see if they contain Tracheal mites.
Again – This is a very brief summary.
I will soon be posting more on this topic of bee parasites as time allows.
A quick word on treatment: Keeping your hives strong and healthy is the best management practice. However, treatments can include the Miticide strips above and also Oxylic Acid. These are the two best varroa mite treatment options.
Ants can be a serious problem in some places. These include:
- Carpenter Ants
- Fire Ants
- Argentine Ants
Here’s how you can keep ants from becoming a problem:
- Keep weeds down
- Get rid of debris and rotted wood.
- Ant control around the base of the hive.
- Painting the base of the hive with oil.
While these are minor enemies of bees, it’s still not a bad idea to be proactive and in control of ants by doing a few of the items on this list.
The best way to prevent robber bees from coming into your hives is to be smart about how you feed hives. Avoid placing bee food right outside the hives or on top of the hives.
This can prevent the robber bees from sniffing out the hives.
Africanized Honey bees are still types of honey bees that can be dangerous to you…and to your honey bees.
If you live in the southern states (Texas, Arizona, etc), you might have already been dealing with these. How do you know?
Here’s some 5 facts about bees that are Africanized:
- Smaller than the gentle European Breeds of Honey Bees
- Faster Moving
- More apt to swarm
- More apt to invade a gentle colony, making them common enemies of honey bees.
There are many beekeepers out there who keep the Africanized honey bees. However, there are also keepers do not, but find their bees have became more aggressive . It is a possibility that a swarm of Africanized honey bees with a queen could have forced themselves into a hive with a gentle Queen, killed her and then the Africanized Queen took over.
Therefore, keeping track of your hive with hive inspections and searching for your original Queen is important to solving this theory.
Did you know that skunks eat bees? Yes, it’s true but they can also cause extensive damage to equipment. They also dig up the bee yard around the hives looking for food.
Skunks are super sneaky in the way they lure the bees to come out of the hives. Their method is to scratch at the entrance. As the bees crawl out, the skunks can easily catch and enjoy them as a snack.
Raccoons can also be very destructive, throwing around equipment, such as feeders and frames of honey that have been left out.
Here’s some ways for controlling these common enemies of honey bees:
- Set your hives up at least 18 inches off the ground. This keeps skunks from reaching the entrance.
- Rock salt crystals on the ground around the hives will help keep vegetation from growing up around the hive.
- Live trapping these animals are a good way to take control.
- Contact your local wildlife agent to try to locate a nest and destroy or move them away from the area.
Like any other rodent, raccoons and skunks need to be controlled as soon as possible because they reproduce quickly. Here’s another mammal predator that is not so easy to deter from your bee hives.
If you’ve ever watched or read Winnie the Pooh, you know that bears love honey.
However, real bears are not like Pooh Bear. They don’t just stick their paw in, grab some honey and go on with life.
They mutilate bee hives and can cause real damage. I’ve seen many pictures from beekeepers where bears have destroyed hives. Here’s what that looks like:
- Overturned Hives
- Smashed Hive Bodies
- Scattered Frames
- Stolen Supers
If you know bears and their movements, you could try to keep hives away from those locations. Of course, it’s not always long-term since the bears can smell the honey and will be attracted to it no matter where it’s located.
A high-tensile electric fence around the hive yard can help deter bears away from the hive yard.
Mice & Other Rodents
Mice are one of the most damaging animals to bee hives. Just like our homes, they tend to come into hives in the Fall.
Here’s what they can do to a hive:
- Cause extensive damage to comb.
- Destroy wooden wires
- Eat the pollen, honey, larvae, brood, and even the bees!
- Pee and poop every where, leaving a big irritation to the hive colony.
This is why it’s also important to keep mice out of your hive storage room. They are so destructive and easily preventable with a few different strategies:
There is a product called the mouse guard that you can put in the bee hive entrances in the Fall.
This is the length for a 10-frame Langstroth hive. You can also get sizes easily for 8-frame hives as well. Place it in the entrance.
Robbing & Vandalizing Humans
Unfortunately, I’ve seen way too many posts on social media about bee hives that have been vandalized or robbed by other human beings. This is inhumane and uncalled for.
It’s actually the BIGGEST common enemies of bees, which is so disheartening.
The main reason humans decide to rob or destroy bee hives is generally unknown, but here are a few possible reasons:
- Demands of equipment – They need a piece but don’t want to buy it.
- Stealing honey.
The truth is that you can’t always control other people’s actions. BUT you can control how you react to this unfortunate situation:
- Placing hives near your home or a place where people are most of the time.
- Branding your hives in some way to find them if they are stolen.
- Put a locked fence up around bee yard.
- Camo-flauge your hive with a different color other than white.
- Assasin Bugs
- Fruit Moths
- Scarab Beetle
These are all pretty minor and especially not a problem for a strong hive. Yet another reason to keep bee hives as strong as possible.
Some birds like to eat bees. These include:
Also, woodpeckers are notorious for damaging equipment. However, there’s not a lot you can do about birds since just killing them is basically illegal.
My advice is to contact your wildlife control agent if you’re having a problem with birds destroying your equipment and your bee populations.
Cattle, sheep, goats and pigs might think that hives are toys. They can playfully rub or jump on hive and cause a big problem if the bees are disturbed.
I personally have one of my bee yards in the pasture where my livestock is. We put a fence up all the way around it and that keeps the livestock out easily.
Frogs, Toads & Lizards
These are very minor honey bees enemies but are also known to be bee eaters.
Usually having snakes or other beneficial wildlife can help keep control of these small enemies.
Prepare Yourself for Beekeeping Success by knowing the Common Enemies of Honey Bees
Now you are aware of some common enemies of honey bees that you might not have thought about before. You can be more proactive in the location of your hive yard as well as preventative practices to keep these common bee predators away.
Solitary bees make up the largest percent of the bee population, with 90% of bees being in the solitary category.
There are about 250 species of Solitary bee in Great Britain and 20,000 – 30,000 different species worldwide, including mason bees, leafcutters, mining bees, white faced bees, carder bees, digger bees and many more.
As the name suggests, Solitary bees are lone bees, which means they do not belong to a colony.
Only the female Solitary bee has a sting which is very feeble compared to other bees and will only ever sting you if you handle them roughly or pose a threat to them. Being loners, Solitary bees fly around by themselves and do not attack in swarms or groups like some other types of bees.
Generally, they are absolutely harmless. Solitary bees do not even bother to protect their own nests. Solitary bees create nests in hollow reeds or twigs, holes in wood, or, most commonly, in tunnels in the ground.
The female Solitary bee typically creates a compartment (a ‘cell’) with an egg and some provisions for the resulting larva, then seals it off. A nest may consist of numerous cells. When the nest is in wood, usually the last (those closer to the entrance) contain eggs that will become males.
The adult Solitary bee does not provide care for the brood once the egg is laid and usually dies after making one or more nests. The males typically emerge first and are ready for mating when the females emerge. Providing nest boxes for solitary bees is increasingly popular for gardeners. Solitary bees are either stingless or very unlikely to sting (only in self defense, if ever).
While solitary females each make individual nests, some species are gregarious, preferring to make nests near others of the same species, giving the appearance to the casual observer that they are social. Large groups of solitary bee nests are called aggregations, to distinguish them from colonies.
In some species, multiple females share a common nest, but each makes and provisions her own cells independently. This type of group is called ‘communal’ and is not uncommon. The primary advantage appears to be that a nest entrance is easier to defend from predators and parasites when there are multiple females using that same entrance on a regular basis.
Each cell will be stocked up with ample pollen and nectar to feed her offspring when they are born. She will lay one egg in each of the cells, seal it up and then fly away.
Solitary bees are very interesting to watch, you can see them regularly in your garden busying about, pollinating flowers and looking very efficient.
Solitary bees are important pollinators and pollen is gathered for provisioning the nest with food for their brood. Often it is mixed with nectar to form a paste-like consistency. Some solitary bees have very advanced types of pollen carrying structures on their bodies. A very few species of solitary bees are being increasingly cultured for commercial pollination.
Solitary bees are often oligoleges (bees that exhibit a narrow, specialized preference for pollen sources), in that they only gather pollen from one or a few species/genera of plants (unlike honey bees and bumblebees which are generalists). Oligolectic bees will visit multiple plants for nectar, but there are no bees which visit only one plant for nectar while also gathering pollen from many different sources.
6 Common Bee Predators and How to Protect Your Hive
Amanda is a self-sufficiency farmer and beekeeper, operating a small apiary consisting of three beehives on her farm in Wisconsin. As an avid beekeeper and advocate against the declining bee population, Amanda extracts, prepares, shares, and sells her honey and wax locally and enjoys chatting with her customers about bees and their positive impact on the environment, as well as the many uses of honey. Although she and her husband weren’t born into farming families, their passion for self-sufficiency and animal husbandry led them to purchase a 200-year-old Wisconsin homestead where they have filled the vacated dairy barn with meat rabbits, bull calves, chickens, and goats.
If you buy an item via links on this page, we may earn a commission. Our editorial content is not influenced by commissions. Read the full disclosure.
As a beekeeper, you pride yourself in keeping your hive thriving and growing. You love the products your bees provide, year after year. It may be easy to assume that your colony can fend for itself, and in many cases, it can and does, but there are a few bee predators that you need to be aware of, some you can fend off, and others you should just know about.
If something changes with your hive, it will be beneficial to be able to identify why and what bee predators may be causing sudden changes.
6 Most Common Bee Predators in the Wild
The following predators are wild animals and insects that prey on bees specifically. While you should always be on the lookout for small parasitic predators, like the Varroa Mite, there are a few others that can cause hive loss, or even swarming.
Bears are probably the first thing that comes to your mind when thinking about bee predators. Yes, we are talking about the big bears: the Grizzly and the Black and Brown Bears.
These wild giants do love honey as much as Pooh Bear, but they are much larger and destructive than Winnie. The bears you need to be on the lookout for not only enjoy honey but also the actual brood for the protein content.
When a bear has supper from your hive, it can be a devastating massacre. Bears can destroy an entire hive by ripping it apart or tipping it on its side to get to the honey and bees.
You will know if a skunk has raided your hive if there are remnants of bees laying about outside the hive. Skunks enjoy eating bees themselves, and they will actually suck on the bees, and spit out the parts they aren’t interested in eating.
A skunk will collect bees from the lower entrance of your hive, so if you can, raise your hive a few feet off the ground. This will deter this smelly nuisance from eating your bees. Skunks don’t want to stretch itself out and expose its soft belly to the threat of bee stings.
3. Beewolves AKA Wasps
Beewolves are also known as wasps. These nasty insects prefer to eat bees and use them to feed their developing brood. Beewolves tunnel into the ground, where they lay their eggs on top of paralyzed, or dead, honeybees. The honeybees are kept alive as long as possible to keep them fresh for the wasps’ developing larva to consume.
According to Science Daily, studies have shown that the wasps use gas to preserve the bees in the brood cells while preventing bacteria and fungus from growing.
When a beewolf attacks a honeybee, it stings and paralyzes the bee. A honeybee may try to defend itself by stinging; however, the wasp has powerful armor that can deflect the bees attempt at defending itself.
Wasps will enter your beehive and attack the bees within it. In doing so, they are also exposing the hive to the danger of other robbers and predators by busting up the cells and allowing the sweet aroma of honey to drift into the wild.
While beewolves usually pick off a few bees here and there, this predator does not usually cause as much devastation as some of the others on this list.
4. Bee-Eater Birds
Luckily this predator is only found in certain parts of the world, mostly in Africa and Asia. Birds, in general, may choose to consume bees, but this family of birds, Meropidae, seeks out bees specifically.
Bee Eaters are careful in their hunt, as they expertly attack bees in mid-flight, and proceed to smash them on hard surfaces to remove the stinger, and any remaining venom; then they enjoy their meal.
Bee Eaters are actually quite beautiful birds with bright colors and a delicate long beak, perfect for bee-catching.
In general, you have very little control over bird predators, but rest easy knowing that any bee loss due to birds is actually going to be quite minimal.
5. Crab Spiders
It’s no secret that the reason spiders build webs is to catch other insects to feast upon. This is no different for bees getting caught in a spider’s web.
There are some sneaky spiders, referred to as flower crab spiders, that hideout amongst bees’ favorite flowers hoping to catch their prey off guard. These spiders can even change color, camouflaging them against the flower they are hunting from.
Because crab spiders eat anything and everything, they don’t care whether they are eating a honeybee pollinator or another type of insect. Unless you have a significant spider problem, it usually doesn’t justify worrying about bee loss. However, some people decide to pursue pesticide options, which can do more harm than good for the bees.
6. Hive Beetles
The Small Hive Beetle is another invasive bug that infiltrates a beehive and sets up shop. Typically, these little beetles do not enter hives of healthy bees, because they risk being killed easily by worker bees.
If a hive is weak, ill, or otherwise, the beetles can quickly overtake an entire colony, or cause the hive to swarm.
How Bees Defend Themselves
Honeybees tend to take excellent care of themselves, however, unlike most animals we care for, we have very little control over what happens when a busy bee leaves its hive in pursuit of pollen.
1. The Sting
A honeybee’s primary defense mechanism is its ability to sting a predator, injecting a debilitating, sometimes deadly, venom. Even the Bee Eater birds are not immune to this line of defense, and that is why they take care to remove the venom before eating the honeybee.
Amazingly, only female honeybees can deliver a sting to its enemies, and despite what most people believe, the bee does not die after stinging its attacker, unless it has stung a mammal with fleshy skin–aka humans.
There are barbs on a bee’s stinger, invisible to the naked eye, that when plunged into mammal skin, cannot be removed; thus the bee loses its stinger, and whatever other internal elements go with it. With that being said, honeybees can use their stingers as defense mechanisms against other insects and non-mammalian animals and survive.
2. The Hot Ball
The Japanese honeybee has come up with an ingenious way to kill larger insects that pose a threat to their hives, like the wasp.
If an intruder is nearby, the honeybees will plot to ambush the unwanted visitor. Literally, they get together, hide, and then attack the intruder.
The bees attack the predator by forming a “bee ball” around it and begin flapping their wings to create an intolerable, deadly, environment for the predator. Heat and carbon monoxide from the rapid wing-flapping suffocate and kill the intruder.
There is hope that this trait can be bred into other types of bees, but at this time, there has been little success.
Bees actually create their own entrance reducer with propolis— a strong mixture of wax, saliva, and sap. Honeybees have rarely been known to take this action on their own. Most of the reports of a bee-made reducer come after a manmade reducer has been removed. I guess they liked the idea!
How to Help Defend Your Bees Against Bee Predators
The way bees defend themselves is impressive, and they continue to evolve in ways that keep them resilient against outside attacks from the wild. However, sometimes, they need your help against bee predators. The following tips are ways you can give your bees a helping hand.
1. Fence Your Hive In
Fencing is an easy way to keep large predators out of your hives. Using anything from chicken wire to hot fencing can help keep paws off your precious honey stores.
2. Keep Your Hive Off The Ground
Raising your hive a few feet off the ground will discourage skunks from stretching out and reaching up into your hive. They don’t want to be stung on their bellies.
3. Live Traps
Live traps are ok for smaller bee-seeking critters, but be warned…if you catch a skunk, you are going to start your day off on the wrong foot. Live traps work best for predators like raccoons; however, they are more like band-aids rather than solutions to the problem.
4. Spike Strip
Ok, so this measure seems a little mean, but it has worked for fellow beekeepers. Basically, they make a board with nails or tacks poking upward to keep mammals away from the hive. Ouch!
5. Robbing Screens
These are screens meant to keep unwanted wasps, robbing bees, or beewolves, out of the hive while allowing resident bees to come and go. The screen confuses insects that do not live in the hive because they can smell the honey, and try to enter where they can smell it. The screen allows those leaving the hive to learn how to leave while keeping the intruders at bay.
6. Entrance Reduction
These are additions to a hive that allows for the small honeybees to enter the hive and not larger predators like wasps.
7. Natural Deterrents
Sometimes you can research smells that certain predators find unsavory. For example, certain kinds of urine or oil from other animals can deter predators from attempting to enter your hive.
Yes, bees do a great job of defending their colony, but if you know who has been dipping into the honey pot, you can also find out what rubs predators the wrong way and deploy your best artillery.