My wonderful Boardman feeders are attracting wasps to the hive, and man are they nasty. Wasps and honey bees do not get along. I’ve already seen some wasps attack and kill a few honey bees. It’s pretty gruesome.
A few wasps hanging around aren’t usually a problem, but I read it can become a problem if the wasps nest is close to the hive. The bees become constantly on the defence. If some wasps actually get into a hive, well, it’s not good — and I just noticed a wasps nest in the apple tree close to my shed, about 50 feet away from the hives.
It’s times like this I wish there was a Newfoundland beekeepers association. I’ve done plenty of research, but research and real world practice are not the same. Confidence comes from practice, not from research. I wish there was a local beekeeper I could meet with close by.
But I’m on my own and so I decided to remove the feeders, at least until I can deal with the wasps nest so close to the hives. I don’t like messing around with the bee hives so much. I would much rather leave them alone and only poke my head in for an inspection every two weeks. But I have to deal with the wasps because I’m not comfortable with them in our small backyard (there’s nowhere to run). They’re just too nasty to be around, and I’m pretty sure the bees don’t like them either.
So until I know the wasps are gone, I’ve placed a bag feeder (essentially a Ziplock bag full of syrup with a slit in the bag) into each hive, just laying the bags on top of the frames. The bees drink from the slit and it doesn’t attract wasps like an outdoor Boardman feeder. I put the bag feeders in yesterday. I took a quick look under the hive covers this morning to see how they’re doing and they’re doing fine, slowing sipping away at the syrup.
UPDATE (Aug. 15/10): I didn’t like the bag feeders, so I went back to Boardman feeders and made a few modifications to keep wasps away. I’ve also ordered some frame feeders. I added a second brood chamber to Hive #1 yesterday. The colony is growing fast. I’ve noticed some wasps hanging around the hive again, but they don’t go near the entrance. I think there are too many bees for them to mess with now. I’ve actually seen the bees attack the wasps more than once. So I’m not worried about the wasps pestering the bees anymore.
UPDATE (Oct. 20/10): The wasps were around the hives all summer and got much worse in September. It’s more than a month and a half later now, and they’re finally starting to die off. But they were pretty thick there for a while even long after I stopped using external Boardman feeders. The bees would fight them off every day, and I often saw wasps walking straight into the hives. I’ve read on the beesource.com forums that the bees can deal with the wasps, but there are two things I can do to make it a bit easier for the bees:
1) Don’t use external feeders (e.g. Boardman feeders). External feeders encourage robbing and attract wasps and ants. For developing colonies, I plan to use frame feeders, top hive feeders and jar feeders protected inside a super.
2) Place a jar of sugar water away from the hive to lure wasps away. The wasps will be attracted to the hives no matter what, but they’ll be even more attracted to a sugar source they don’t have to fight with bees to get to. I haven’t tried this yet, but I will in 2011. I’ll probably set up Boardman feeders just for the wasps — if they get too thick around the hives again.
UPDATE (Aug. 27/11): Don’t bother trying to lure the wasps away. Just don’t use external feeders. You can also use a wasp trap.
PHOTOS NOTE (AUGUST 2015): The photos in this post may not display properly because they were uploaded through Google’s Picasa online photo album service, a service I no longer use because certain updates created more work for me instead of streamlining the process. I will eventually replace the photos with ones hosted on the Mud Songs server. This note will disappear when (or if) that happens.