Thursday, September 6, 2012

Robbing Wasps? Not So Fast!

September is here and my bees are still in the hive! Something to celebrate after last year's debacle. However, I can't say they're super strong either. I'm positive they didn't make enough honey to get through the upcoming winter without some additional feeding. So next on my list is learning how to supplement their nutritional needs during inclimate weather.

In the meantime, I've started feeding them sugar water since I noticed one hive had actually eaten half of their previously stored honey. I feel really bad about this since it's most likely a management issue on my part. The only thing that makes me feel better is having read Bill Turnbull's book, Confessions of a Bad Beekeeper. Besides thoroughly entertaining me, he's put my mind at ease... it's still possible to mess up and still keep going!

One thing I think I've done right? I believe I've helped my bees avert an all out war. The last couple of days I noticed wasps hovering all around the hive. Fighting in the hive itself had not yet commenced, but as the wasp numbers increased, I had a impending sense of doom... robbing was about to ensue. In fact, little battles had begun in the garden and the bees weren't doing too well.

In the past, I've used Rescue Yellow Jacket Traps around the patio so we could dine in peace during the warmer months. The wasps love meat and within moments, they'd descend upon us, terrorizing the family and causing us to grab our plates and head in side. The traps, hung just far enough to attract them away from the dining area, seemed to be the ticket.

So when I noticed wasps around the bees' abode, I hung a trap about 4 feet behind the hives. The packaging claimed it would not attract honey bees, but just to be sure, I watched for a while to put my mind at ease. Within 2 minutes (or less), the party was on and word got around to the wasp horde that dinner was being served elsewhere. Soon, crowding was underway and I departed, not seeing a single bee interested in the trap.

The next morning, I went out to investigate inorder to confirm that it was only attracting wasps. Sure enough, the bag was filling...

wasps: about a gazillion
bees: zero

Today the wasps are still hanging around, but their numbers are reduced enough that I'm confident my bees can handle the job from here. Guards are on duty, standing at the entrance...

And so... while I'm sorry that the wasps met their demise (after all, they're God's creation, too), they're typically very aggressive and troublesome around a homestead. All my little bees want to do is visit flowers, hum gracefully, raise babies, and make honey. Hopefully, they can now pursue those interests in peace!

Now if only they made easy to use traps for hive moths, varroa mites, and all the other nasty pests that plaque the sweet honey bee...


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