SoCal Beekeeping

Ants and Bees
P. Michael Henderson

8/23/2017 Today, I want to talk about ants and bees.  Ants can do some real damage to bees, especially the Argentine ants that we have in SoCal.  People tell me that if the hive is strong, it can deal with ants.  Maybe that's true, but for most of us, we have to take the bees through a growth stage before they're a really strong hive - and the ants can really cause problems.

Over the years I've tried many things to keep ants out of the hives.:

 Put a container under each leg and fill the container with water.  This works but there's some drawbacks.  A lot of stuff falls into the containers - dust and leaves mostly - and eventually the water gets green with algae.  Bees, also, drown in the containers because bees need water and the bees try to get water from the containers.  The water can completely evaporate unless you monitor it regularly.  If enough leaves fall into one of the containers, it can create a "bridge" that the ants can use to get across the water.  They find those bridges pretty quickly, it seems.  I don't have any pictures because I gave up on this approach long ago.

Put a container under each leg and fill the container with oil. Oil, either motor oil or vegetable oil, works similar to water but doesn't evaporate.  It has the same problem with leaf bridges as water.  Bees seem to think the oil is water and they drown in the oil. And if you have a hard rain, the container can fill with water, displacing the oil which flows over the top of the container.

Another beekeeper suggested putting a pie plate under each leg with a piece of carpet in the pie plate.  Soak the carpet with motor oil.  I haven't tried this approach so I can't give any advice about it.

Vaseline on each leg of the stand.  Just rubbing Vaseline on the legs would probably not last a long time so I made some "containers" for the Vaseline for each leg of the hive stand.  The wooden blocks are in two parts, and drilled with a hole the size of the leg.  When installed, I put silicone caulk between the two pieces of wood to keep them from leaking.  These actually worked pretty well.  They're susceptible to leaf bridges but that's about it.  I haven't noticed any bees dying in the Vaseline.

The Vaseline melts in the sun and becomes liquid so in the heat it works very well.   In cool weather I'm concerned that ants might be able to walk across the firm Vaseline.  Rain doesn't seem to affect it because the Vaseline gets hard in the cool rain so water can't get under it.

This is what a hive looks like sitting on this stand.

A special hive stand designed to keep out ants.  This is what I use now and it works best.  I didn't invent this but got the stands from Guerilla Beekeepers.  It's a fabricated stand by a metalworker.  The single center post has a cup which is filled with oil.  The cup is sheltered by the hive so leaves do not fall into the cup and create bridges for the ants.  And because the cup is sheltered, rain does not get into the cup and displace the oil.  I have one hive that has been on a stand like this for at least five years and I've never refilled the cup with oil.  And no ants.

Here's what it looks like with a hive body on the stand.

If you have one of these stands fabricated by a local metalworker, make sure it's strong.  The center rod is solid and the top and bottom cross bars are rectangular tubes.  The outside pieces are angle iron.  Make sure the parts are hefty enough, especially the bottom, because the hive will sit there for years and metal rusts, especially if the bottom gets wet every time your sprinklers run.  And make sure the welds are well done to hold everything together.

It probably won't be cheap but it's a lifetime product if made well and you'll never have ant problems.

Guerilla Beekeepers shut down so you can't get a stand from them.