Why Are There Bald-Faced Hornets in my Top Feeder?
Ask the Expert!
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Kris Krogstad writes: I found a ton of dead, large black and white, what I think might be bald-faced hornets dead inside of a feeder. I killed a bunch outside my hives too. Entrance reducer was on also. Should I worry? I’m thrilled The Hive was strong enough to kill all the intruders at least.
Rusty Burlew replies: Your invaders certainly do look like bald-faced hornets, but I’m perplexed as to how they got into the hive. I wouldn’t worry, but I would try to contain the problem before it gets worse.
Make sure your hive doesn’t have any openings where the hornets could get in, such as a tear in the screened bottom board (if you are using one) or two boxes that are not aligned properly.
Sometimes an entrance reducer can cause more problems than it solves because the odor of the hive goes out through that one small opening and leads the wasps straight to the front door. It’s like posting a sign that says, “Entrance.”
Instead of the reducer (or in addition to it) use a robbing screen. A robbing screen works by providing an outer entrance away from the actual entrance. You attach it to the front of the hive and open the gate that is on the opposite end from the real entrance.
If you’ve never used one, it’s scary at first because it confuses the bees and all you see is pandemonium. But as soon as the bees begin to figure it out, they fan their pheromones and lead their sisters to the new entrance. Essentially, they go through an outer entrance, walk across the front of the hive, and then go into their regular entrance.
The wasps, on the other hand, continue to follow their sense of smell and can be seen butting into the area where the hive scent comes out instead of the alternate entrance. These screens work surprisingly well, and some people who have lots of wasps leave them on year-round.
If you live in a northern area, the wasp colonies will die off with the first hard freeze and the gynes (next year’s queens) will hibernate in the soil. In the meantime, don’t be surprised to see wasps continue to hang around your hives. They often pick up dead bees from the ground and take them home, or they may sometimes snatch bees out of the air. If you keep a small butterfly net handy, you can catch and kill enough to make a difference.
Although your colony can do a pretty good job of defending itself, the bees really deserve a safe haven—a place away from danger. I think it is worth the effort to keep the predators out of the hive.
Kris Krogstad replies: Thanks for the advice, Rusty. I put the robbing screens in place per your recommendation. Unfortunately, I had already lost one hive to robbing. I’m hoping they help keep robbers away from the other hives.