Apicultura Wiki



The enemies of bees are certain animals, birds and insects.

BEARS. Among animals, bears are known to be such lovers of honey as frequently to search out a bee-tree in the forest, gnaw a hole into the cavity occupied by the bees, and devour the honey. In some instances they have visited apiaries, overturned the hives, and helped themselves to the contents, honey, comb and bees.

SKUNKS. Skunks, or polecats, are also formidable enemies of the bee family. They search for and dig up the nests of wasps and hornets, humble bees, &c., eat the brood and mature insects and honey, if any is found. They also frequently visit apiaries, and if they find bees clustered on the outside of the hive, they will devour large numbers of them. If none are on the outside they scratch at the entrance, which causes the bees to run out, when they are devoured. If they can reach it, they will also devour the comb containing the brood and honey also. To prevent their ravages, elevate the hives two or three feet from the ground, so that they cannot reach them. A good dog, or the use of strychnine, will keep them away or give them their quietus.

RATS. Eats will also devour large quantities of honey, and destroy the comb, whenever they can gain access to it. I am not aware that they eat bees.

MICE. The white-bellied wood mouse is a formidable enemy. Entering the hive during cold weather, they mutilate the combs and build their nests, and not only create a noisome stench, but eat both bees and honey.

It might reasonably be supposed that the bees would sting them. This I suspect seldom happens, as they only take up their abode within the hive during the continuance of cool weather, and then are only in motion during the night. They should be excluded from the hive by a timely contraction of the entrance. When they are found to have made a lodgment, the hive should be carefully cleansed from all impurities, otherwise the bees are liable to desert it on the return of warm weather. The common house mouse is also an enemy.

TOADS. The toad will frequently visit a hive in the dusk of the evening, and either catch the bees as they cluster on the outside, or catch those that accidentally drop on the ground ; to prevent which, have the hive elevated one or two feet, and in such a manner that they cannot climb up to it ; or they may be forcibly ejected from the premises, and placed where their services are more particularly needed.

BIRDS OP CALIFORNIA. I have not noticed any kind of birds whatever catching bees in California, yet there may be some that do.

WOODPECKER. The red-headed woodpecker of the Atlantic States is an inveterate bee-catcher, and is perhaps the only one of the bird tribe that should be executed for this offense, as I doubt whether they destroy enough of other insects to compensate for what bees they kill.

KING BIRD. The king bird frequently catches bees, and I am always tempted to shoot at them when I see them depredating. Mr. Qumby thinks they only catch drones. I will " guess" that they prefer a dainty drop of honey to the gross carcass of the drone. PEWITT. The pewitt, and a few other varieties of birds, occasionally catch bees ; but as they render valuable services to man, in destroying other insects, I think they should be protected.

BEE MOTH. (GALLERIA CEREANA.) The bee moth has been known and described by various ancient authors, amongst whom are " Aristotle, Virgil and Columella." It seems to have been as destructive to the bees then as now. This insect is a distinct variety of the moth tribe, and is so dependent on honey bees for its subsistence, that no instance is known of its being found apart from them. Hence there is but little doubt that it has, at some period, been brought to this continent with the bees. We have no definite account of their depredations amongst the older settlements, but may it not have been that they were so well known as to excite no remark ?

It must be borne in mind, that at this early period, vegetation was luxuriant, and uncropped to a great extent by domestic animals, so that the bee had almost an uninterrupted harvest. This, it is well known, would give the worms less chance to increase than if a dearth of pasturage prevailed; for when bees are prosperous they subdue the worms with ease, but when not adding to existing stores they decrease, and thus afford the worms a season of peace and plenty which enables them to increase more rapidly. Owing to the peculiar habit of the honey bee in swarming and flying long distances before locating, they were enabled to leave the moths far in the rear ; they thus advanced westward without the aid of man, and being found by the settlers in the wilderness, who captured and cultivated them, no worms troubled them for many years. Hence it is not strange that when they did come they were mistaken for a new enemy.

It has been about forty years since the moth was first known west of the Alleghany mountains ; they crossed the Mississippi at a still later period. There are still places in the so-called " far west," where it is said no worms exist. Of all the bees that have been brought to California few have been free from worms, and frequently there have been more of them than bees. Great carelessness has been shown by some importers and purchasers in not destroying them. Hence a number of hives (even of those bred in this steal in and deposit their eggs on the combs, which they accomplish* unless prevented by the vigilant sentinels that are usually on guard.

They are not often baffled in their purpose ; and having effected an entrance, they at once make their way to the upper portion of the hive, where they encounter less bees than at or near the mouth. Having thus gained an entrance, they deposit their eggs on the brood comb. Great sagacity is displayed in thus depositing their eggs where they will be hatched by the heat naturally ascending from the bees below, and also remaining above to obtain ample food without molestation during the first stage of their existence. Should they fail to effect an entrance, they seek to deposit their eggs in cracks or at the entrance of the hive, where they will be likely to come in contact with, adhere to, and be borne into the hive by the pollen and propolis with which the entering bees are loaded. By whatever means they are carried to the center of the hive, they become attached to the comb, where they soon hatch out and burrow under the cappings of the sealed brood. They at once commence to form galleries at first so small as scarcely to be perceptible ; in fact, their presence is only detected by a fine, thread-like filament, with numerous small particles of wax adhering. But as they gain in size, they extend and enlarge their gallery, till it presents the appearance as shown in plate

  • As soon as the eggs are deposited, the moth dies.

v, fig. 14, (AA is the gallery and B is a break in it) and fig. 15, the gallery separate. The bees, having discovered the presence of the worm, immediately set to work to remove it, together with its silken shroud. If not caught and carried out by the bees, it drops down on the bottom board, and seeks a corner or crevice in which to spin a cocoon to protect itself while undergoing the transformation from the worm to the moth. (See plate vi, fig. 16, showing the worm during its first stage of growth, also after having nearly completed its cocoon ; fig. 17, pupa in the advanced stage, also cocoon from which the moth has emerged.)

Each young bee over which the worm extends its gallery, is either killed or mutilated, and is carried out of the hive by the bees. . Sometimes the worms penetrate to the center of the comb containing brood, and there form galleries, entangling the young bees so that they cannot get free from it. The worker bees discovering this, immediately detach a portion of the comb, together with the young bees and worms, which falls to the bottom of the hive, there, perhaps, to form the nucleus of a web soon to entangle and destroy the whole colony. When enough worms are present to cause the bees to abandon the portion of comb occupied by them, they spin innumerable threads, extending in every direction, enveloping the comb in a thick net-work. This is extended on all sides, and securely attached to the top and walls of the hive it then serves, also to support the combs while they, with their contents, are being devoured by the voracious worms.


Plate V FIGURE 14. Worm Gallery on surface of Brood Comb.


Plate V FIGURE 15. Worm Gallery, separate.


Plate VI FIGURE 16. Worms at different stages of growth.


Plate VI FIGURE 17. Pupa and Cocoon of Moth.


Plate VI FIGURE 18. A mass of Cocoons.

Each worm, as soon as arrived at the requisite age, spins a cocoon separate for itself ; but numbers of these are generally joined together, forming large, compact masses ; (as shown in fig. 18) then the work of destruction progresses, till scarcely a vestige of the handiwork of the bees remains. The worms, like the human, or rather the inhuman, pillagers of cities, abandon the hive as soon as nothing remains to live on or to destroy. Queenless colonies and small swarms having newly built combs, are the most liable to their attacks. The new combs are most frequently penetrated to the center, while old comb is more generally traversed at the surface hence the latter is but little injured, while the former is ruined. Young swarms are frequently thus destroyed during the first summer ; but an old hive, having a prolific queen, seldom falls a victim to their ravages, particularly if the hives are so constructed as to enable the bees to easily remove all impurities. Queenless hives, suffered to remain so for months, become hot-beds for the propagation of worms. One or two such hives will, if suffered to remain, breed enough moths to effectually pollute a large apiary. It is like permitting a field of Canada thistles to go to seed, which, by means of their wings, are sure to be carried to adjoining fields.

INDICATIONS OF MOTH WORMS. The first indication of the presence of worms in a hive, is their excrement. It is either dark brown or black, and is in grains resembling gunpowder, and is either small or large, according to the size of the worm voiding it. By raising the hive and carefully examining the droppings on the bottom board, it is easily distinguished from the cuttings of the combs, the latter being of a lighter color and composed of wax. The number of worms will be in proportion to the amount of excrement. "Where hives are provided with inclined bottom boards, it may be seen at the entrance without even removing the slide. This indication is next followed by finding an occasional worm cast down on the bottom, dragged or driven outside, or encased in cracks and underneath the hive. Young bees, or portions of them, may next be found in the morning, some of them, perhaps, living, but with mutilated wings, and having a portion of the worm web sticking to them, crawling upon the bench or on the ground near the hive, making vain efforts to fly.

MOTHS SHOULD BE EXTERMINATED. The only effectual remedy that will avail the beekeeper is the extermination of the race. No weak or queenless hives should be allowed to remain so, as they, sooner or later, fall a prey to worms. Nor should combs or honey be exposed, to afford them food and shelter. Old hives, that have been used for a length of time, but from which the bees have been transferred, are frequently occupied by the worm as a nursery. These should always be burnt. All hives should be frequently and carefully examined, from April to November, and every worm destroyed that can be found. A sharp watch should also be kept for the moths, as they can be found during the day sticking on the hive, or other objects near it; or, in the evening, caught flying around the hives; each one found, should be instantly killed. By persevering in the destruction of the worms in all stages, and preventing their propagation, as above directed, no great damage can ever result from them ; but if these admonitions are disregarded, vexation and loss are sure to ensue.

NO MOTH-PROOF HIVE. There being no such thing as a moth-proof hive in existence, nor any prospect of such a discovery ever being made, we are compelled to be content with that which makes the nearest approach to it viz: one that gives the bee-keeper easy access to the worms. The best yet known is the adjustable frame, or California hive, which gives the control of each comb separately, in combination with the inclined bottom, whereby the bees are enabled to remove any filth that would otherwise accumulate. The dead space in flat bottomed hives serves to accommodate the moth with a nest and comfortable quarters for her progeny, to the great detriment of the bee. The bee-keeper is only able to remove them by lifting out the frames, and this is quite likely to be neglected, as it is a formidable undertaking to most persons, particularly if it has to be repeated often.

ANTS. Some have been of opinion that bees might require to be protected against ants ; but Reaumur says that ants never originate the pillage of a hive, but are ready to join in it after it has been commenced by others. In this I quite agree with him, having never known an instance to the contrary. When, therefore, ants are seen entering in a predatory manner, it may fairly be suspected that gome other enemy has been at work. M. Reaumur was of opinion that ants are not to be reckoned among the enemies of bees ; and he relates an instance of their living as very close neighbors, yet in perfect harmony! " The ants established themselves between the glass panes of this bee-box and the wooden_ shutters which covered them ;" and as a similar circumstance occurred to Bonnet and in other of Reaumur's hives also, it seems probable that the ants took up their quarters in this situation for the sake of the equable warmth that the bees would impart to their eggs. "Ants were without the hive," says Reaumur, " and bees within ; a single glass only separating two nations so different in manners, in customs and genius. The bees were abundantly provided with a dainty of which ants are exceedingly fond I mean honey. The ants had just reason to be apprehensive, and the bees would be uneasy and jealous to preserve so precious a treasure ; nevertheless, the utmost harmony and concord prevailed between the two nations. Not a single ant was tempted to enter the hive, how strongly soever she might be invited by the fragrance of the honey ; nor did any bee disturb the ants, though superior to them in power ; the several individuals, on each side, went in and out peaceably ; they would meet in the way without teasing or molesting one another, respect on one side and complacency on the other, were the foundation of this peace." Natural History of Bees, p. 352. Ants frequently intrude themselves into the chambers of a hive that contains honey boxes ; they do so for the sake of the warmth imparted by the bees ; they do no harm, as they seldom have access to the stores. They are, however, seriously in the way when the boxes are to be removed. If any of them chance to get among the bees, the latter are forced to run away, on account of the pungent odor given off by the ants.

TO DRIVE ANTS AWAY. Ants may be driven away by sprinkling a liberal quantity of dry ashes or quick-lime in the spaces around the boxes. Ants are a serious annoyance in getting into honey after it is removed from the bees. I have found no other efficient way to prevent them from doing so, except to place it on a table, the legs of which are set in cans of water.

WASPS AND YELLOW-JACKETS. Wasps and yellow-jackets have, by some, been reckoned as enemies, and doubtless are in some places. I have seen them occasionally carrying off honey from weak swarms, but never have seen them make any formidable attacks on strong hives.

SPIDERS. There is one species of large black spider (quite common in California) that is a great enemy to bees. They seek a hive that is weak or only partially full, in which to make their abode. They lay their ropes so as to entangle the bees, which they seem to be partial to as food. There are other species, which spread their nets in the vicinity of hives, and occasionally within them ; straggling bees are sometimes caught in these nets, and a portion of th"eir bodies eaten. When their ropes or nets are noticed, they should not only be removed, but the spiders (for there are generally two) searched for and killed.