Beehives draw an amazing variety of inquisitive and aggressive visitors. Depending on where you live, your apiary could be the target of skunks, raccoons or even bears seeking the insects and their offspring and the delicious sweet product. If you’re facing some of these critters, count yourself still lucky; some beekeepers also have to fend off honey badgers and elephants. We’ll stick with typical North American and European concerns here, though.
Preparing for Unwelcome Visitors in Your Hive Design
Your defenses shouldn’t be piecemeal; they should be an integral part of your beekeeping plan in order to be most effective and least problematic. Use a bit of storytelling to envision how each defense will work. To design a well-fortified collection of hives, describe the interest, approach and invasion or avoidance of the visitor. For instance, “Drawn by the smell and sound, the skunk slips past the fencing and approaches the elevated hive. As his paws touch the sharp spikes just above the base of the structure, his interest diminishes, and he wanders off.”
Simulating Your Design: Checking for Effectiveness
Make sure that your complete design covers these essential functions:
- Keeping the yellow jacket threat down
- Protecting guard bee activity
- Multiplying your hives in the future
- Integrating seasonal changes
- Encouraging natural bee routes and behavior
Trace the paths of the hungry lumbering beasts, big and small, that can wreak havoc out of hunger or simple curiosity, and determine how they might respond to your design. Bears, raccoons and skunks each have different ideas of how to attack your hive and what’s tasty in it.
Hives that are frequently visited by predators tend to have agitated, stressed bees. Your ultimate goal is to create a peaceful, deterrent environment that makes your apiary uninteresting to creatures exploring your neighborhood. Here’s what it could include.
Protecting Against Size and Cleverness
Your plans should include both physical barriers to keep aggressive intruders from proceeding and intelligent design that anticipates creative approaches, especially from raccoons.
Strong fencing can be effective, but don’t forget that these creatures dig and climb. Your barrier, whether fence, chain links or wire, should go underground far enough to block access, and you should remove tree overhangs.
While it won’t stop reckless bear destruction, using carpeting tackboards on the base of the hives, even above mouse guards, can be an effective deterrent for other pests. It may keep raccoons, and especially skunks, from doing much more than scratching a bit before they wander off, and hopefully before the bees get agitated and vulnerable.
Planning for Apiary Growth
Remember that fencing and other major projects should take into account your growth plan for the years to come. You don’t want to wind up crowding the hives or giving predators access to new colonies placed near fences. Also, plan your hive locations so that bees tend to stay local to their home rather than dropping by others along their incoming flight path.
Shock Deterrents for Hairy Visitors
Bears, skunks and raccoons are difficult to deter with shock because their thick fur keeps the power from reaching them. A slightly higher voltage can be effective, but there’s another method in common use — get their noses and tongues into the action. A bit of bacon grease or peanut butter on foil attached to the energized wire can get them sniffing, licking and ruling out any further attention to your hives. Furry visitors feel like they got stung even before they cross the line, and definitely before they develop a taste for the honey.
Vegetation growth can touch the wire and reduce its effectiveness, but don’t just cover the ground below the fence, or you’ll make a great home for wasps right by your hives.
Lights: Daylight Simulation
You can discourage unwelcome visitors with motion detector lights, but white light may have unacceptable effects on bee cycles and behavior.
Lights: Threat Simulation
The NiteGuard solar-powered lighting system is a self-sufficient deterrent that flashes red light beyond the bees’ visual spectrum. If you’ve ever stepped from your yard into the nearby woods at night and seen glowing red lights, you probably know what they mean to bear, skunk and raccoon visitors as well — another creature is watching. “The raccoon approaches and sees eyes glowing in the dark. He decides not to take a chance, and departs.” It’s simple and successful, as proven by many beekeepers.
Cost and Construction
Each of these deterrents can make a big difference in protecting your precious hives. If you haven’t stepped out to find your frames, supers and covers torn apart or invaded and your precious honey producers scattered or devoured, now’s the time to get to work. You can find Nite Guard Solar lights online or at a retailer near you. Give us a call at 1-800-328-6647, or send us an email for specific assistance.