Reviving pest infested hive
Having a native bee hive come under attack by pests can be a very disheartening thing.
Prevention is better than a cure but sometimes things do not go to plan.
The following video will explain what you can do to help your pest infested hive.
How does this fix an infested hive?
The worker bees from the stronger colony sense the weaker colony’s distress. They also do not like having pest problems on their door step. The stronger colony’s signals go from “Collect pollen and honey” to “Get these invaders out now!!!”. The bees from the stronger colony grab the maggots in their mandibles and manually carry them out of the hive and drop them. Often ants gather on the ground below this area to accept the rain of maggots.
Notes on pest infested hives.
Before I continue it is important to note the hive shown in this video is an extreme case of infestation. For colonies subject to this amount of infestation some help is required, removing as many maggots by hand will help them a lot. Placing the hive in a freezer for a few hours prior to opening it will see a bulk of the maggots clump together for easy removal. Hives with half as many maggots can be handled fine by the bees on their own.
- Bees in the pest infested hive put up no fight but rather get a boost of energy when help arrives.
- Colonies that still have their brood intact can be disconnected post revive and rear a queen again.
Why do hives become pest infested?
There are many reasons a colony of bees will face pest problems. Here are some:
- Low bee numbers (micro colonies) face more threat because they simply don’t have enough guard bees to defend.
- Spilled honey and pollen. Pests are attracted to the scent of honey and pollen. Maintaining clean surfaces at the time of opening native bee hives is a must. Any honey or pollen should be thoroughly cleaned off the outside of your native bee hive box. Disinfect working tools by washing and then blow torching them is always a good idea.
- Poor entrance defense internally within a hive. Native bees use a tunnel they build inside the hive to help defend their home, it is lined with guard bees to stop any unwanted guests from reaching their valuable stores. When establishing a new colony , it should be given time to establish its entrance by screening off the door at night and placing inside for a few days or providing structure taken from the mother colony and placed around the inside of the hive hole entrance so the bees can work it into a tunnel.
- Swarms. At the time of a swarm bees release a pheromone. Many of the pests recognize this as an invitation to take an easy way in while the colony is distracted defending their home. This was the case with the hive I showed in the video above. In moving the hive during the swarm the hive lost its guard bees and the fly had free rein to enter in numbers and lay eggs.
- Large cracks in your hive. While a strong colony can handle large cracks or holes in a hive, it is best to prevent any unwanted pests by taping or filling those gaps in your hive. The mimic wasp loves to lay eggs in hive joins, she knows the best chance for her young is to enter through these flaws.
The most common pests to cause infestations are:
Phorid fly, fly mimic wasp, native hive beetle and, though very rare, small hive beetle.
You can see a picture of what the adults of these pests look like here.
Thanks Nick for some very useful information on a difficult subject. How do you decide which log is stronger, not being able to see inside limits an internal inspection. When 2 colonies are used to clean an infected one is it a tee piece at the back of the colony or 2 separate connections, is a strong colony removed mid way leaving the other to finish cleaning thus avoiding a fight when there are no more grubs to remove. I assume you added some brood when the clean-up was finished as I didn’t notice any in the box. Thanks David
I had done an eduction off the first log recently and the other one was natural having done none. So I knew it would be strong.
Two separate connections are needed when using multiple colonies to clean an infested colony. One hose in top box and one in base.
Normally brood is not attacked until last. The normal process involves doing exactly what you say in terms of disconnecting the box once maggots are gone and the colour of the wax returns to normal. If brood isn’t affected the queen will still be inside. If it is and has to be removed you would add a little brood after disconnection.
Hope this helps.
Do they also remove the eggs or wait until they hatch? I have just discovered that one of my hives has died from a Phorid Fly infestation and another is infested (doesn’t look as bad as yours in the video, but bee numbers are very low) with mostly eggs at this stage. I have removed as many flies, maggots and eggs as I could.
I also have another seemingly strong hive which upon inspection had a few flies inside and a very small quantity of eggs (mostly in the super and easily removed). I have set fly traps inside both of these hives now but I’m wondering whether, in your opinion, it would be safe to connect the two as you have done or would this possibly put too much strain on the healthier hive?
Is it common to find a couple of these flies even in a very strong, healthy hive?
Hey Joe! Phoridae are present sometimes but usually can be seen in stronger hives if a weaker is hosting them.
You can connect your weaker hive and clean it out but do what you can to remove anything major first. E.g. A clump of maggots.
Cells are the last thing that fly attack once brood is eaten their job is almost done.
Give it a go and by the end of the first day if they are clearing maggots out your weaker hive will be fine.
Thanks Nick, I’ve cleaned out anything nasty I could see and hooked them up. Fingers crossed!
How often would you check inside the hive during this process?
Rather then opening the hive all the time I normally lay a dark sheet out on the ground in front of the hive. If when you get home from work you see lots of little maggots on it you know the bees are repairing and ridding the hive of the pests. Check maybe everyday the first few days.