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Bees under seige: wasps, robbers

In the last couple of years I have had great trouble with wasps (european wasps as we call them in Australia) as well as robber bees. Wasps invaded my bees last March/April, killing large numbers and robbing honey. On the advice of an experienced beekeeper I made a screen to cover the hive entrance. Which, that year, proved mostly successful. Bees survived winter with a little supplementary feeding. However then in spring October/November last year my hive was seriously attacked by robbers who stole ALL of the honey stores, seriously stressed bees. This was despite there being abundant flowing plants around - a flowering eucalypt which the bees love about 5 metres from the hive entrance. I had the screen in place, additionally reduced hive entrance to about 1 centimeter. I then decided that the now very small hive was too weak. So I requeened with a purchased queen from a different beekeeper to the original hive in November (hoping they might be a bit stronger). That was successful and the bees gradually built up their numbers over summer. However in mid April during a patch of fine weather wasps again attacked. I realised they had found their way behind the screen and were entering the hive there, despite some resistance from bees. To my dismay they were also slipping in and out of the flow insignia on the front gable end of the hive roof. Unlike bees they were just slender enough to slip through. Absolutely no honey left in hive. I’ve placed mesh over this insignia. Weather has been pretty poor the last couple of weeks so not much wasp activity since. And I’m now feeding sugar syrup to build up their stores before winter.

I am wondering if anyone has any advice. Should I requeen yet again? Should I start again with a new nucleus hive which I can hope might be more aggressive to robbers and wasps? If my bees survive another winter and spring should I relocate them for the autumn (late march - late May) when the wasps are at there worst? Or should I give up trying to keep bees here (least favourite option)? I have read other posts on this forum about wasps which were useful but I have now run out of ideas.

As background, I have been keeping bees for about 4 years. The first year was fabulous - strong active hive, lots of honey. Bees and humans happy. I accidentally let them swarm in the second spring, oops. Have harvested very little since. I live in a rural area in South Gippsland, Victoria, Australia. My bees have shown little sign of disease except a few hive beetles in warmer weather which the Apithor traps control very well. Some chalkbrood in spring and early summer, but not right now. Have a large garden with lots of flowers, particularly spring & summer but things flowering now. There is also some bush areas near here, and farm plantings. We do have quite a wasp problem. In the last four or five years I think we have killed over 30 nests on our place and the neighbouring farm. In the last 12 months we have gained new neighbours who are also taking control of nests they find on their property. We do still have wasps around, but not in excessive numbers.

I am hoping someone has the energy to read my long screed! I am very keen on receiving advice.
Thankyou.
RJ

I did read your post. I have a question. Do you see the robber wasps in action? If so, I have a practical solution that requires a bit of time. You could close the hive up during the night, making sure the bees have adequate ventilation. Then next morning as the wasps turn up, suck them up into a vacuum cleaner. That will stop them returning back to their nest & telling others about the honey, assuming they have similar methods of communication as bees.

It would depend on how much spare time you have to devote to such a task.

cheers

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Ha! Plenty of spare time at the moment. I will give that a go next fine morning
thanks Jeff

Hi & you’re welcome. Going by the number of wasps in your area, it could be challenging. I guess ultimately moving the hive well away to a different area would be one solution.

I think @JeffH 's idea with a vacuum cleaner is brilliant if you can run a power lead to the hive. Other than that you have done everything right that I can see.
Hope you win the battle with the wasps. I’m wondering if there is a wasp trap on the market.


This is a trap I bought from Bunnings and have several set up around the perimeter of my apiary hanging in low branches to trap SHB which makes internal hive traps almost obsolete and have never found a bee in it, maybe it would work on wasps too. Watch the video for the mixture on YouTube by Phil Bowman. It is too long for me to load it.
Cheers

Saw this on eBay.

I used to use the usual jamjar type traps to kill wasps, and while they certainly killed many wasps they didnt really improve the situation.
I think the reason is that these traps allow a proportion of wasps to escape and these go back to the nest with the information of the new sugar source near/at the hives.
Last year i began using these traps below, which are basically a cheap non-return funnel which you insert into a plastic baited bottle and I’ve found the results excellent. Wasp numbers declined around the apiary and never reached crisis levels. Wasps can easily takeout a nuc, once they have identified a target and mobilised themselves.

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Thank you all for your advice about wasp traps. I use both commercial traps and home-made traps made of 2L milk cartons with a mixture of blended apple, water and sugar, which catch many wasps. The old boot method is also effective on a cool morning. However, when up against a single nest of possibly over 10 000 individuals these things make little impact really. We will continue to hunt down those nests.

thanks for your responses.