Pest and predators of honey bees

This photo of a skunk(Mephitis mephitis) was taken when it was leaving my apiary this spring.

Skunk feces with bee parts in it is a good indication the skunk has been feeding on bees.  Another sign is digging/scratching in front of the hive entrance.  The bees are sometimes ornery from skunk feeding on them at night

As the weather starts to warm and flowers start to bloom, honey bee colonies start hoarding pollen and nectar to rear brood. At the same time, honey bee pests start to awaken from their winter slumbers or eclose from an egg. What are these pest interested in? Most pests feed on the bees themselves, bee brood (for protein), sugar/corn syrup or pollen patties. The chances of these pests attacking hives are higher when food is scarce or when there are large apiaries of 40 or more hives. Some beekeepers use electric fences in hopes to deter some of these pests (image below of an electric fence). Others use carpet tack strips near the entrance or other deterrents. It is amazing to see how wily these pests can be when they are hungry and are in competition with each other.

Bear fence set-up.

Toads will often sit by hive entrances to eat bees at night in warm weather.

Lizards also sit around hive entrances to eat bees.

I have included different images above of some honey bee preditors I have photographed over the past few years. There are descriptions below the image explaining a little more about each photo. There are a few pest I did not have pictures of mice, ears, raccoons and opossums. Pest will go after top feeders, inside feeders and nucleus colonies. Please share any pest stories you have in the comment section.

Unfortuanly many honey bees fall prey to other arthropods.

A spider wrapping a honey bee in web.

Jumping spider(Salticidae) waiting to attack a honey bee.

…to be continued.

Written By: Rob Snyder

Rob Snyder has written 66 post in this blog.

I currently work out of the Butte County Cooperative Extension in Oroville, CA as a Crop Protection Agent. I received my B.S. in biology from Delaware Valley College, PA. There I attained a majority of my entomological knowledge from Dr. Chris Tipping and Dr. Robert Berthold. After graduation, I was an apiary inspector for 2 years at the Department of Agriculture in Pennsylvania. In my third year there, I still inspected some colonies but I mainly focused on The Pennsylvania Native Bee Survey (PANBS) where I pinned, labeled, entered data and identified native bees to genus species. Leo Donavall assisted me in learning the basics on positive Identifications of the native bees. Around the same time I began working on coordinating kit construction and distribution for the APHIS National Honey Bee Survey. I was also fortunate to conduct many of these surveys with fellow co-worker Mike Andree and Nathan Rice of USDA/ARS throughout California. All of these experiences have led me to where I am today, working to assist beekeepers in maintaining genetic diverse colonies resistant to parasites while reducing the use of chemical treatments in colonies. The BIP Diagnostic Lab at the University of MD is in an integral part of this process by generating reports in which we can track change and report to beekeepers vital information in a timely manner which may influence their treatment decisions.


22 Responses to “Pest and predators of honey bees”

  1. Henry B. Robertson II

    Does anyone see birds that catch bees in the air? What is the name of the birds that do catch bees? I have seen bees caught in the air by a type of bird and do not know the name of it.

  2. Rob Snyder

    There are many birds that feed on bees, a catbird is one type.

  3. Delbert Chumley

    Do Guniea Fowl present problems as predators if they are allowed to move around the hives? I understand that they are very good at keeping insects such as ticks removed.

  4. mason

    ive noticed a large number of red wasps around our hives.
    the bees seem agitated by their presence.

  5. Jack

    Wasps will kill bees and get into hives I put the reducer on when I see them. I also try to kill those bad boys…

  6. Ken Wilkinson

    Hi, I discovered a nest of what I thought were yellow jackets. I found the nest located in a low bush one day when cutting my lawn. They really did not bother me as long as I did not stick the lawn mower near their home!

    Well today, I found what looks like the remains of their honey comb. I also detected the gamey smell of some kind of animal – quite frankly, it smells like a ground hog. I do not think ground hogs bother bees nests, so I am thinking a racoon or skunk.

    I took some pictures and would welcome any comments.

  7. Paul fogarty

    I have a solitary bee house that had about30/35 bees housed, when I came home the other day( November 8th) I noticed that all of them had had their leaves removed, as if they had hatched, didn’t think this was possible in November, could they have been attacked by something? Please help.