The Birds and Bees?

Hello forum folks, Just getting started with my first hive. Got my western cedar hive in the mail yesterday and have a Nuc of bees on order for May. Getting my setup placement figured out. I also have bird feeders throughout the yard. Is there any problem with birds eating honeybees, should the bird feeders be moved away from hive areas? I am in NW Washington by Puget Sound area, so most of the birds in the yard are sparrows, robins, seagulls,finches, hummers, red wing blackbirds, starlings, etc. Thanks, Jim


I haven’t heard of this being a problem in the US. Australia and Africa do have specific bee-eating birds, but they haven’t crossed the oceans to the US yet, thank goodness!

You will have to consider other critters though, which may be attracted to leftovers from the bird feeders. Both skunks and raccoons can be a problem for bees. The skunks will scratch on the landing board at night, then gobble any guards which appear. You can deter them by raising the hive around 12-16" off the ground on a stand. When their soft bellies are exposed, the bees have a better chance of stinging the raider. Raccoons may try to take the top off the hive to get to the combs. You can either strap the hive together with a ratcheting strap, or weigh down the roof with a heavy brick or rock.


Hi Jim,

This is Gerald n I live about 3.2 ms east of Renton per my Wx station locator for NOAA n Cocorahs weather data reports.

Welcome to beekeeping ! Last year was my first year after being away for 55 years. Things have changed big time in the beekeeping world. Last year was very exciting n this year not much less !

What type of setting do you live in ! (Country, Rural, Farming area, Burbs, dense city ?)… I’m in a burbs setting here. We are allowed up to 10 colonies here in the county but last year I started with 3 n worked up to 5 because of catching a swarm n doing a successful split. Lost two last fall to varroa mites (so that’s a new experience for me)… We didn’t have those nasty critters back in the 1950’s n 60’s. I’m taking classes n have a great mentor helping me get my ducks n geese back in a row with the new challenges. I have four new Nuc’s scheduled for arrival in mid-April ( I was first person last fall on vender list )… I plan on raising my apiary hive number to 6 if all goes well this season. Six is my lid for full size hives. I have one 5 frame Nuc I wintered over that I’ll transfer as soon as the Wx moderates. I plan on keeping 3 to 4 Nuc hives around for swarm catching n splits. Hope to winter over a couple so I don’t have to buy next Spring 2018. At least that’s the plan but not counting my chickens before they are hatch.

Hmm, my cats n neighbor dogs seem to smoke out the coons n virmot thus far. No issues with the tweetie birds yet. Had to scold one of my hens. She seems to be satisfied pecking dead bees on the apiary ground n not trying to secure honey on the fly anymore. :grinning::+1:.

Stay in touch … We have several other Flow-hives here in Puget Sound. Take care Jim. It’s going to get busy when the Spring really pops. :blossom::cherry_blossom::hibiscus:

Thanks for the great and quick responses. I can see this is going to be a very active forum to get ideas and information about all things bees. Excellent helpful responses. I am in more of a country/suburb type area. I live 5 miles outside of Sequim town on a 1 acre lot. I have a dozen fruit trees on my property and the area is surrounded by lavender farms. I have been fascinated with honey bees since grade school when someone brought in honey comb and had a filmstrip bee presentation, I guess that gives a clue to my age.How many others remember filmstrip school presentations, the same people that remember rotary telephones I imagine. I have the opportunity now and decided to give it a go with being a bee keeper. I have not noticed any sign of skunks around here but we are rife with raccoon activity at night. We couldn’t leave cat food out on the porch once they caught on to that little buffet. Thanks for the heads up on them being a hive menace, that will definitely be one area to address. I figured on starting with one hive and a Nuc of Italian bees this year, and thinking of building it up to a 2 brood box hive. I noticed in your pictures that you have kept your flow hive to 1 brood box. Is it a better idea for the pacific NW to keep it to 1 brood box? I notice you also have a heater on your flow hive, did you get that set up from amazon, or is there a better place to buy bee equipment that will help support a bee product provider? What steps are required to combat the mite problem? Is there something that can and should be done during the hive set up to fend off the initial infiltration? A bee keeper friend says he has the legs of his bee stand in bowls of mineral oil to keep the ant infiltration down, I was wondering if this would help fend off mites also. Thanks for your input. Jim

List item

They tried but when applying for visas they hit a wall… :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: Unlike all the other pests… I’ll take birds any day.

We have a resident pair of birds called butcher birds and they just hang out at the hives picking away and happily singing.

And we also have the melodious singing honey eater that doesn’t mind a feed of bees.

And of course one of the largest nectarivorous birds in the world the red wattle bird.

These are the local residents however there are other visitors who I have been fortunate enough to spot and tick off my list.
Yes I’m a birder.
I’m planting out my yard to encourage the native wildlife back into the area, frequently hindered by neibourhood cats, grrrrrrrrrrr.
Yep ill take the birds over varroa and shb any day.


Afternoon Jim,

Love the Sequim region n love those lavender fields. That give you a possible taste of honey.

Heat !? Nope ! Not a heater. That’s a hive monitor that allows me to know internal temps, humidity, hive weight changes n battery levels charged by two small solar panels. I’m hoping to have a second next winter but too pricy to have one in each hive.

And Yaaaah ! Being up north it is a must to have minimum of double deep boxes or triple mediums. But since your Flow-hive is a deep I’d certainly would add the second deep hive box as your colony reaches about 80% full. Unless your very fortunate having your bee build out two boxes of honeycomb n backfill with needed winter resources (about 60 to 80 lbs) of honey don’t expect harvesting.

I got my Flow last week of June n a 15 frame triple deep swarm Nuc I captured mid May. In that six weeks the swarm exspanded to a three high of deeps (15 frames) to instantly install in my Flow. Unfortunately our main cash flow of nectar ( wild blackberries was about over) so not enough more nectar n pollens for getting a Flow-Super harvest. They did work in my the Flow-frames n added wax to the new seams ! So this year that should help me make a good harvest if we have a good Spring n Summer … Wish me LUCK ! And I
wish you luck as well !

Any other thots give us a Jingle…

. Computer temperature read-out as of this morning of my Flow-hive

Ta Ta,


Thanks Cowgirl, Excellent pictures and ideas on setup. And perfect timing too, I am working on my setup area this weekend and your post came in the morning I am getting started. I am in Puget Sound area and have no bear issues, but deer are almost domesticated in this area and wander freely from yard to yard in this neighborhood. I didn’t consider them a pest for hives, but I could be wrong. They like getting after sweet stuff too? A fence setup would work good on the raccoons we have though, and to keep the nosy pets away. I will post some pics after I get setup. Thanks again. Jim

@JPI A bunch of years ago when my brother was living on his sailboat down @ John Wayne marina there was a large herd of Elk. We use to drive up on Bell Hill and usually saw the group… Guess with the growing influence around Sequim n Marinia the elk have move back up into the Olympic’s, right ? You’ve choose a beautiful place to live n set up your apiary. My brother is now a snowbird thus sold his place on Chicken Coop Road area at the road. Not sure if Dearhawk lane or road is still there up to his acreage … Sure have been great bee area …

I need to take a day or two off and explore… My sis lives just across the Canal Bridge at Port Ludlow so don’t get beyond unless up to Pt Townscent of grocies …

Sounds like your on your way. Who are you getting your bees from ?! I’m getting four from my local vendor Bees in the Burbs n should see mine hopefully in about 3 weeks.

My neighbor over the back fence is really interested in learning but no time to actually own. Yesterday I had him visit n suited him up. I gave him a quick Beekeeper 101 class including opening my strong double deep Nuc.

I was able to use one of my autumn die-out n couple brand new hive bodies to help teach basic n use of beekeeper tool. He want to come back for the Nuc install. It’s really nice to share my bees n apiary with family n few neighbors. I guess that’s the teacher mode in me.

Looking forward to seeing pix’s Jim as you get all set up. Shown couple wide angle of your small but very important apiary. I’m sure it will grow with your interest n needs to prevent swarms n make splits !

Good luck n cheers,

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Hey Gerald, My wife and I really love this area, moved here in June 2016. I
work for BPA as a substation electrician, had a job come open in June and I
took it and haven’t regretted it for a day. We stayed at the John Wayne
marina cabins when we first got here and were waiting for our house to
close. That is still one of my favorite area’s, that marina and the bay we
used to sit and watch otters and all kinks of wildlife. We bought a nice
place on Anderson Rd about a mile from Dungeness Spit. Those elk must have
moved up higher, we see the sign lights flashing all the time by 101, but
haven’t seen elk once in the 9 months we have been here. This is an awesome
area and should be great for raising bees, there is alot of agriculture in
this area as far as farms, lavender and fruit trees. I drive around now
looking for hives, but am surprised at how few I see out here.
I am getting a Nuc from Tarboobees out of Quilcene, really great people to
deal with and very helpful when I told them this was my first rodeo with
bees. The girls are due to arrive the first week in May, I just got back in
from working on my bee site in the back yard. I will take and post some
pictures, I have a spot facing east behind my shop that is protected from
the wind, which can really get a good head of steam up coming off of the
Strait I found out. In my yard I have fruit trees, fir trees,getting a
garden going, and Wanda is checking into flowers to plant that bees like.
So there should be enough to keep one hive occupied this summer. thanks
for the pics, it helps me to see how others are set up and the equipment
they have going. I am reading alot about them now and am looking forward to
this hobby. take care, Jim

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Excellent question, with many answers. First of all, you will never “combat” varroa mites. You may control them, but they always come back. I blame those dirty old drones - they visit untreated hives and bring them all the time! :blush:

You should read as much as you can, and decide what you are willing to do. Some people are dead set on being “all-natural”. You can go some way to achieving this by choosing bees which have genetics giving them “hygienic” (VSH) behavior. However, even these bees can be overwhelmed by mites, so don’t get complacent.

My approach is to monitor every month or two with a “sugar roll” test, as invented by the Univ of Minnesota. This is fairly accurate, and doesn’t usually kill bees. You can do the more accurate alcohol wash test, but this is lethal to the 300 or so bees that you are testing. If the mite counts are worrying, I treat. Also, if I see evidence of mite-borne viral disease, like deformed wing virus (DWV), I will treat even if the mite counts are not worrying. DWV and its colleagues can kill off a colony within a few months.

There are lot of choices for treatment, and it will depend on whether you have a honey harvesting super on the hive or not. If you want to be “organic”, you can use Oxalic Acid or Formic Acid. These are both naturally-occurring acids which are pretty good at killing mites. They can be hard on bees too, so make sure you read thoroughly about how to use them. Some people use Thymol - I have no personal experience, but it is also a natural product and it additionally kills tracheal mites. Another accepted but non-organic method is Apivar. This is actually an insecticide, but kills mites at lower doses than that required to kill bees. It is controversial among “natural” beekeepers, who wouldn’t be seen dead using it. :blush:

Ant moats will not stop mites - they are hitchhikers on bees, they don’t walk in. :wink:

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Thank you Dawn, Your e-mail was an entire mite class in synoptic form. Alot of good information for me to follow up on. I will do more research and talk to the bee people in this area to see what they have experienced as far as infestation and what’s worked for fending them off. Thymol sounds like it might be a good double wammy alternative if tracheal mites are an issue here. Or is that a prevalent issue everywhere? I am 1/2 way through the book Beekeeping for Dummies authored by Howland Blackiston and am finding it very helpful in the basic knowledge presentation and the insight it provides for a novice, I will have to fast forward to the mite section to follow up on what you have shared with me. Thanks for the info. How did your hives fare this winter? Alot of bee keepers in this area have said they have lost hives because of the extended uncharacteristic cold stretch that stretched through this winter. Hope yours all survived. Jim


Dawn hit the nail on the head. Mites are my/our biggest issue too … Beekeeping was a piece of cake back in the 1950’s n 60’s before varroa mites. I’m envolved in a local hive n mite n winter over study with one of our local colleges

Last Autumn I lost two very healthy colonies from mites. (Boom !) I had done mite count (sugar-roll method). So I knew I had elevated mite levels already in at least two of my five hives. Another was marginal level. I was a greenhorns so was n am still learning… Our group had a planned treatment time in two weeks (being our first organized treatment) we would be doing it all the same weekend. Well, the treatment went off as planned but I soon noticed two hives were really dumping mites (lots) n a third hive @ fairly high levels too… Great !! Right ? I was thinking sooooo … Within in several more weeks these two exceptionally strong hives had reduced foragers … Hmm… Not good I thot. I was right … No Good at all ! There were a few bees left in the hives n piles outside. I’m guessing my treatment was a dollar short n too late to kill off the mites because the hive was on a population nose dive already ! I doubt any treatment since waiting that extra time would have been effective. A lesson well learned n hoping not to repeat if possible for the same reason.

I’ve kept careful individual hive logs plus mite count logs on each hive colony during the season. Hallelujah ! This year I’ve not seen mites other than one mite each on my drop mite check n other two hives no mites on the SBBoard. These were dead mites so possible dumped as workers cleaned the comb from winter starting to get ready for season 2917. As soon as it warms up enough I’ll do a full sugar roll test/this will be my double check.

Are we having FUN YET ! I’m glad my mentor is the chief researcher of this group ! My beehives (voluntary) are part of this group. I have sensors in my Flow-hive that also allows the group to check my hive Temp/Humidity/Weight … Knowing this data we can help determine food resources being consumed n/or brought into my Flow-hive. Also seeing temps n humidities show us when the queen probably is starting to rev up egg laying. Dawn has a more exotic brand that does the same information collection n interpretation as well. Hers is even cooler than mine. I’m hoping to add one more monitor/sensor unit before next autumn if I can swing the expense.

I’m guessing I’m into beekeeping for several reason: education, research to get ahead of the mite, pollenate flowers n plants locally as well if we can keep local bees alive n healthy. So far I have three of my five still alive n winter over. I’d call that a success story thus far. As this works out maybe some good old Liquid Gold/Honey later in the summer from my second season Flow-hive. Not counting my honey before it Flows !

To help short term I will try using multiple mechanical, organic n if need be non-organic mite controllers. Since there are wild colonies as well as people not treating their bees locally I will have to stay carefully alert. I’m aware of at least three small local apiaries that aren’t even trying building up resistant species so I’m being constantly reinfected each season. The fight is finding the safe level of mites my personal bees can manage n live with. We just need to learn how to stay ahead of the curve n keep the varroa mites from building up resistances like in medicines. I’ll continue using SBBoards, Powder sugar, trying controlled brood break (got to get a handle on that one more), going to try some natural comb size using foundationless frames, as well as MAGS n oxilic acid n etc as I learn about them.

Just a note for what it’s worth: the college had a controlled test group of hives this winter. One group wasn’t treated n left to their own. The results was 100% die-out. The other group thus far are winter survivors. Knock on wood some data n help will be forth coming to help myself n local Beekeepers. As a small time apiary I can’t afford not to stand by n hope my 5 or 6 hives will somehow figure out the destruction code for the varroa mites n survive. Lossing two colonies this last year puts me at the 60% survival level. That’s not half bad. I can easily live with that but want to do better. 80 to 90 % plus would be nice.

I’m with Dawn, Dee n others … I need my bees to have a better fighting chance. So I’m looking at everything I can . I can’t swallow it all in one or even several seasonS but I’m enjoying being part of a great cause n helping our bees make it ! Yes ! I’ve lost two colonies bees so far but I haven’t failed, I’ve learned n I will continue to learn.

Hope these notes aren’t not too negative. But just informative. Wish I knew last Spring 2016 what I know now. Last year I jumped into this hook, line n sucker not knowing about mites. I dont want you to get caught Jim. It’s not that big of deal to di mite checks n put an effective defense in place as well as a treatment program into place. Replacing bees gets expensive n can be emotional. I’m researching even thinking of investing in those new types of cleaning bees n other ideas. Heck ! I really enjoy this hobby … We are Beekeepers n mite havers. Nothing to panic about ! And keep good notes n records. Your brain will fail you !

Cheers n good luck :four_leaf_clover:,


@JPI just remember a bird bath might be no good for bees. Bees can’t swim so need something to land on. There’s another thread here on water features that might be useful to see what bees need to land on.

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and these mischief makers, sit above the hive and take the bees as they exit,


Maybe she’s helping apply Darwin’s theory of evolution to your bee population :yum:


She’s been teaching her family all summer long! The hive they ere picking on was the weakest, from a cutout & queenless. I thought they were going to wipe it out!

I have a pesty red wattle bird that visits daily and catches many bees on the fly!! I guess it cant take too many but it visits several times per day. A local willy wag tail also picks up the dead one (usually drones that have been expelled from the hive) and takes them back to its nest to feed its young. Im very happy with that.

I shouted at the wattle bird today so hopefully it will get the message.

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Correction: Darwin’s theory of natural selection. :yum:

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I know this birds can eat bee: the summer tanager

Surprisingly, various birds with a technique that can catch bees consume them regularly. For instance, Bee-eaters and some Tanagers enjoy eating adult bees, which make up 60 – 70% of their diet. That is so unbelievable, right?