The bees have been in a pitched battle with ants, and I didn’t realize it.
I had noticed they were rather testy lately, quite irritable when I go to close their door at night. They had briskly seen me off a few times and I was even stung. I thought that was odd because they used to be so mild. Now I get it.
Once in awhile I’d seen an ant on the bottom board drawer, but no biggie, right, if they aren’t in the hive. A couple days ago I pulled the drawer and there was a pile of sticks on it, the kind of collections ants like to build, and more ants. Hmmm.
Looking in where the drawer goes, there were ants on the front wall, right underneath the bee entrance/ledge. Well, I thought, the bees I’m sure are handling them. A healthy hive can protect itself from ants. I dumped out the antwork and replaced the drawer.
Last night I arrive to shut the bees at night (they don’t get shut in, I reduce the opening so they don’t have a big draft and can keep it warm more easily) and just as I got there, I saw a bee pop out on the ledge holding an ant, and take off. I assume she went and dropped it somewhere. Wow! And hmmmm.
I checked the drawer and uhoh, there appeared to be a pitched battle taking place at the front of the hive. There was also a high pitched bee distress buzz happening, but I couldn’t locate the distressed bee.
Rush to the internet. Quickly learn that ants can be disastrous for a hive, in short order, especially the nasty red and black ants (my ants!). I don’t love interacting with these ants. They pinch, or bite. It stings. Ant colonies abound here. The hens are using their mounds for La-Z-boys.
If it’s not one thing it’s another. I blithely thought bees and ants got along just fine. They are related. These ants lived under the hive, dragged off the dead bees… but no, they wanted more!
The only solution on offer that was actionable immediately was powdered cinnamon. I dredged the legs of the hive stand and the front of the bottom board drawer with cinnamon, and also kicked off the board covering the ant colony, to give them something else to focus on.
Today – no ants! I can’t believe it! The cinnamon worked! (but I think I’ll moat the legs of the stand next since some people say cinnamon is only a temporary fix).
The bees are acting differently too, not all crowded along the ledge like they’ve been lately in the evening (instead, they’re filling the drone salon). They’ve been cranky because they’ve been in a prolonged battle with a bunch of stupid ants! – in fight mode.
The ceiling of this space, where the drawer slides in, is the mesh bottom surface of the hive, the main floor that they generally come and go from. Debris and dropped pollen balls fall through it onto drawer. You can see little bee legs poking through as they walk around on it. In the front and the right edge there’s a mysterious hanging garden of sticks and debris, and it seems to be glued or stuck in place (?). Possibly the bees have been building a barrier, trying to block out the ants. I read or heard about bees encasing a dead mouse that died in the hive in propolis, to protect the hive from side effects of the decomposition.
I can’t wait for a decent day to open the hive. Maybe I’ll get to see what’s really going on. I suspect they may already need another super!