How to Manage Ants in a Beehive
Natural Ways to Repel Ants and How to Kill Ants
Reading Time: 4 minutes
There is nothing quite like the sights and sounds of bees buzzing around, gathering pollen and nectar on a warm summer day. Summer and bees just seem to go together; unfortunately, so do summer and pests. And beehives are often the target of pests such as varroa mites, ants, wax moths, and mice. Fortunately, there are many natural ways to control these pests. After all, no one wants ants in a beehive.
By practicing integrated pest management, you can do quite a bit to help your bee colonies stay healthy and strong. The idea behind integrated pest management is that you use various tools to prevent and treat pests instead of using chemicals.
Integrated pest management for bee colonies starts with deciding what race of bees to purchase. Some bee races are more resistant to certain pests than others; for instance, if varroa mites are a concern for you, consider purchasing Russian bees which tend to fair well against varroa mites.
Another part of pest management is using physical deterrents to keep pests out of the hive in the first place. It also includes using traps to kill and remove the pests once they do get in.
Botanicals can be used to repel pests from your apiary. Planting herbs such as thyme and mint around the hives can help repel other insects like wax moths and varroa mites. You will need to plant quite a bit; this is one time where mint’s invasiveness is a positive thing. Also, try planting close to the hive opening if possible.
Chemicals should always be used only as a last resort, or not at all. Most chemicals will weaken a hive over time which is not what we want. We want to do everything we can to help our hives be healthy and strong since healthy and strong hives have a wonderful ability to deal with pests on their own.
How to Repel and How to Kill Ants
Ants are often found loitering around trying to get into beehives. And who can blame them? The hive is full of wonderful sweetness. A few ants here and there aren’t a problem, and a healthy hive can easily defend itself against them. But when there are a lot of ants in a beehive, the bees may abscond by filling up with honey and leaving the hive.
Just like learning how to get rid of mice naturally, learning how to get rid of ants in a beehive naturally is pretty simple and you want to start with the least invasive methods first.
The best way to keep ants out of your hives is to put your hives on a platform and create a moat of oil around the legs. Plus, when you’re working in the hives, it’s nice to have them taller and up off the ground so this is a secondary benefit.
To create an oil moat, you will need to put each leg of your platform in a can or bucket. The size of the can or bucket will depend on the size of the legs. You don’t need the can or bucket to be deep; you just need it wide enough to get the legs in. Once you have the legs in the can or bucket, put a few inches of oil in the can.
Many beekeepers use old motor oil, however, I prefer to use food-grade oils such as vegetable oil. When it rains, the oil will probably overflow the bucket and get into your soil, which is why I don’t use motor oil. Motor oil is a contaminant to soil and you don’t want your bees foraging flowers that are growing in contaminated soil. You will need to refill the oil periodically. When the ants climb up the side of the can and try to cross the moat they will fall into the oil and die. It sounds harsh, but it will keep ants out of the beehive.
Botanicals are a great way to repel pests from a beehive. While mint can be used as a wax moth treatment, cinnamon can be used as an ant deterrent. Cinnamon can be used inside and outside of the hive to keep ants off the beehive. To use it outside the hive, sprinkle it liberally on the ground around the hive. To use cinnamon inside the hive, sprinkle it on the inner cover. The bees don’t mind, but the ants don’t like it and will stay away.
These two non-invasive practices should keep the ants out of the hives. Which will mean there’s one less pest the colony needs to worry about and can focus their attention on other pests. Some pests are harder to keep under control even with good integrated pest management; this includes varroa mite treatment.
Ants in a beehive are really more of a nuisance than a huge beekeeping issue if you monitor the hives and use these measures to repel the ants. Have you found natural ways to keep ants out of your beehives? We’d love to hear about it.