Stingless Bee Pests
Pests are something that anyone keeping bees will encounter. Figuring out which one you have can be a problem if you have never seen them before. This video shows you what to look for so you can identify your own pests. Hopefully you can prevent an attack around your hives.
Pests and prevention tips
- These little fly enter your hive and can really make a mess of it in a short amount of time. Prevention is as simple as keeping strong colonies. Make sure your colonies of bees are really full before splitting or propagating from them. Like I always say “one strong hive is worth three weak hives”. With the popularity of small colonies, thinking about what the fly eats will help you prevent them. Make sure your little colonies never have broken honey or pollen pots. If they do, hide these hives (Sealed in with fly screen) inside your home until your bees make the necessary repairs. I have found phorid to breed up in heavy numbers in honey bee hives that are damaged in some way. If you keep honey bees as well as stingless, be sure to work in a clean environment to prevent them from breeding.
Wasp mimic fly
- These need open joins, cracks or holes to lay their eggs in. Make sure all joins in your hive are sealed tightly. If they are not, cover or fill them – especially if your colony is new. While these fly can take a colony on their own, they normally appear after or with phorid fly attacks. The reason for this is their young are normally carried out before they grow too big and start to cause damage. If your colony is healthy, you need not worry about these as they very rarely take a strong colony in a clean tight hive box. Tight joins and well constructed hives are needed to prevent this fly.
Small hive beetle
- While these have never been a problem for me, they are down south towards Sydney. Many honey bee keepers move their hives following the flowering seasons from inland to the coastal regions of Australia. Honey bee hives are a small hive beetle’s favorite place to breed and so with the moving of hives we see a continual spike in the small hive beetle’s numbers. While cold climates hold away some pests, it leaves this pest to rule the roost. Small hive beetle can smell honey from kilometers away and larva quickly cause hives to ferment by defecating in the stores. Again, strong colonies and clean management of your honey bee hives will prevent these. Some stingless bee species deal with hive beetle more aggressively – both my Tetragonula hockingsi and Austroplebeia do this very very well.
Native hive beetle (Blue arrow above)
These are a very subtle attacker and can often be found within your hive. They live naturally alongside stingless bees within log hives and for the most part don’t cause much damage. I have found two different types (inland and coastal). These beetle wait till bee numbers drop before launching any large scale attack and often go unnoticed by hobbyist bee keepers. If you have an old dead hive you have left out you will notice the wax begins to disintegrate and small 2mm holes can bee seen in pollen pots. This is not a natural disintegration but rather the native hive beetle doing their work. Once the beetle has reduced the hive to dust you normally will get what I call myrtle mites moving in. I don’t have a species name for these mites but, when squashed, a very strong lemon myrtle smell can be smelt. See below if interested.
- Ants are a difficult one with almost all log hives I have opened contain some species of ant. While green tree ants can be bad, it is my belief that a lot of the ants patrolling your hives are actually looking to eat small eggs and such laid by other predators. When are ants bad? When they start to enter the hive! Most ants will be deterred by your hive entrance smell. Cadaghi resin contains many chemicals that are insect deterrents. If you do have an ant problem, use a piece of pipe to bring your hive entrance out from the hive. If this doesn’t work, lift your hive up away from the ants by hanging it from a piece of wire or placing it on a post. Grease can be used (I use a high temperature grease) smeared around the post in two locations, top and base of post. Water barriers built around the post are another method I have seen deployed.
- Lightening speeds with precision accuracy makes this pest hard to stop once it decides to make a meal out of your bees. My friend, Dean Haley, had these nesting at his house in an old sand pit. Dean bought a seed mix and planted it in the sand pit which made it very hard for the wasp to nest there anymore. One theory explained to me was that these wasp only attack the drone bees but after watching the wasp work I believe they will take whatever they can grab.
- Out of all the pests I have seen, this one seems to be the most sinister in how it does its work. When I first filmed these at work I was horrified seeing my poor little bees being stabbed with something that makes a grub grow inside them. The grub itself is able to avoid disrupting the bee’s central nervous system and daily functions, at least for a time. Later the bee goes wandering outside the hive and its locations systems switch off. Curly antenna and a confused lost look bests describes what the bee goes through before it finds a quiet place to die outside the hive. Late winter is the beginning of braconid wasp season and it goes year round. Prevent these wasp by screening your vent hole and using long entrance tubes so the wasp is forced into the open.
- While these bugs can sit on your hive for most of the day they tend to move on after a while. They are slow to gather large amounts of bees and can take some time digesting one bee. They are one of the slower variety of pests. A word of warning when handling these pests is that they are capable of stabbing through human skin and will give you a nasty bite if handled. Birds will grab these if they see them so use natural methods of forcing the assassin bug to work for its meal by protecting your entrance with – you guessed it – a long entrance tube. Vinyl tubing works a treat.
Black soldier fly
- This fly at the moment can almost be considered a new stingless bee pest among the pests. Normally breeding in worm farms or compost heaps, its traditional use as a composting tool is growing in popularity among permaculturalist’s. This year was the first time I have seen a colony of stingless bees completely annihilated by this fly. Treat this fly the same as the mimic fly with the added measure of keeping your hives dry. The colony I saw had received heavy rainfall prior to the fly taking over.
Resin collecting bees
- Resin bees normally show up when your bee numbers are low. While resin bees are not toot much of a problem on the pests scale the honey bee can be a different story. I have a friend who’s hive was completely cleared out by honey bees while his stingless bees lived inside. They first removed parts of the entrance tube creating a ventilation problem for the stingless bees. Once the entrance tube internally is gone stingless bees have a very hard time defending their home. The honey bees then proceeded to collect all the wax leaving the stingless bees with nothing. He now runs a course mesh that only a stingless bee can fit through over his hive holes.
- Asian house gecko. If there is a pest that is determined to hang around and eat all your bees then this would be it. A gecko can eat about a bee a minute if it has a covered area to hunt from. Push geckos into the open by removing branches or anything away that they might hide under. Loose fitting Styrofoam covers and/or over-hanging roof designs are shockers for this.
- Cane toad. One of the most greedy pests! Lift those hives up and keep your bees out of reach of toads. Toads will prop themselves up and eat bee after bee if you let them. Remove rotten debris from your garden so they don’t have a place to hide near your hives.