Forest ants (Formica rufa) can be a big problem for your beehives. Their nests are large, conspicuous mounds (several for each colony), plus satellite colonies in surrounding trees. Mounds are covered in conifer needles or twigs and other materials.
“A large colony may have 100,000 to 400,000 workers and 100 queens.”* And by the way, their diet consists of insects and arachnids that are most common in their vicinity, along with honey-dew from aphids and leafhoppers. They will readily raid the nectar and honey stores of beehives, and kill as many adult bees, larvae, and pupae as are available, if they wage a full-scale attack.
After an episode or so in his apiary site adjacent to forested land, long-time EJBees’ member Joe Banks has devised a method to build an ant-proof hive stand (his detailed instructions will be posed on our blog, ejbees.com). But whatever hive stand you build—Joe’s design or an alternative—it should be supported on thin legs (i.e., ¾” galvanized pipes), says Joe, that you can coat with a sticky material—either a “tangle-foot” type of commercial product (expensive), or what Joe uses: high-temperature ball-bearing grease (~$5).
In this assembly, you’ll drill a width-wise hole through each pipe-leg to support a plastic container or can centered upside down on it, below the horizontal hive-holding beams. This grease-lined container will catch and prevent ants from climbing any further up a leg to reach your hive. (See Joe’s “recipe” below.)
It is important that the ground be well cleared around the hive stand, because even a single blade of grass can serve as an ant-highway from earth to “heaven” (i.e., to your hive filled with honey and tasty brood). Check for overhead, overhanging pathways as well, and remove them if possible—if not, maybe move your hive.
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