Keeping Ants Out of Your Beehive
When protecting your beehive from an ant invasion, it’s best to be proactive rather than reactive. Pest management can include using physical deterrents to keep pests out of the beehive in the first place.
If you already have an invasive ant problem, there are several fast-acting solutions you can use to remove them. More importantly, these measures help ensure that those pesky ants will not come back.
Signs of a Bigger Problem
Ants in your beehive may be indicative of other problems. A strong, healthy and populous colony can generally keep ants away on its own.
If you do spot ants inside of your beehive, you shouldn’t worry too much initially. Most ant species are just an annoyance in the hive. They usually raise their offspring in warm, damp spaces that are relatively safe from bees. Usually, you’ll see them between the inside cover and the telescoping lid. While taking a look, have a quick inspection to ensure there aren’t any other destructive species in the hive, such as beetles or wax moths.
If you spot ants traveling to and from the colony itself, you should immediately do a full inspection of the beehive. Keep in mind that ants are opportunists and scavengers.
Ants will often take up residence in your home. Naturally, they’d do the same in a beehive — especially a weakly-defended one. A procession of ants leading into your hive may signal other festering problems in the colony, though. It might be weak and failing, and an ant invasion is usually a good indicator of that.
Effective Non-Invasive Measures
The safest and efficient way to remove ants from your beehive is to utilize a method based on mechanical separation. Both ants and bees are in the order Hymenoptera, meaning that they’re closely related. The closer that species are related, the more difficult it is to separate them by only using chemical means.
Keep it off the Ground
The first thing you should do is make sure your beehive is off the ground. A beehive sitting on the ground is an easy target. It’s also hard to see the ants entering when the hive is on the ground.
Invest in a good stand that’s at least 6 inches high for good protection from ants. Keep an eye on the legs of the stand. That’s the only way for the ants to get into the interior of the hive, so check on the legs whenever you can.
Keep Your Hive in Top Shape
Yes, it can be annoying and time-consuming to keep your hive in good shape all the time. Having big cracks, loose joints and jagged edges is a recipe for disaster. These structural weaknesses make it alarmingly easy for ants to infest the beehive.
It might be a bit tedious and arduous to fix up your beehive — especially if you have more than one. Filling up a few cracks and tightening up a few joints is far better than losing an entire colony to invasive ants.
When working your beehive, make sure to clean up pieces of burr comb and other hive debris. These little pieces may seem harmless; however, even the smallest trace of that sweet, indulgent hone can attract ants and many other pests. Try carrying a bucket with you while you work, and throw the debris in there as you go.
The most effective defense against ants is pooling vegetable oil around each leg of your hive stand. The best way to do this is by setting each leg into a can filled with oil. You can also use soapy water as it causes ants to drown. It doesn’t kill the ants right away, though. Instead, the soap breaks down the ants’ natural water-resistance — the hydrophobic coating — and drowns them. This is how people usually get rid of fire ant colonies.
Chemicals should always be used as a last resort. Most chemical products will weaken your beehive over time. Using botanicals such as cinnamon instead can help repel and get rid of ants while keeping your beehives strong and healthy.
Cinnamon is often used by beekeepers as a natural ant deterrent. You can use it both inside and outside the hive. It’s completely safe for your bees, don’t worry! Sprinkle it on the inner cover and liberally on the ground outside around the hive. Ants hate it and will stay far away.
- Keep your hive off the ground
- Maintain your hive
- Clean up
- Use oil as a barrier
These non-invasive measures are super effective in both repelling ants and keeping them out for good. Ants in your beehive are usually just a nuisance and won’t harm your bees. They’re usually a sign of a weak colony that is unable to defend itself, so be on the lookout! Luckily, your problem could be much worse.
Monitoring your beehive is an important first step. You need to be able to assess the situation to address it. Make sure you maintain your beehive and keep it in top shape. We recommend staying away from harsh chemicals — things like commercial ant powder and diatomaceous earth will weaken your beehive over time.