Wasp attack! 

I did an inspection yesterday and was pleased to find Hive Rebecca busy and active. Bees were bringing in pollen and there was capped brood and larvae. Interestingly, the brood had moved down to the bottom brood box, leaving the top brood box full of stores. A definite sign they’re consolidating and getting ready for winter. I managed to get stung under the chin when the mesh of my hood pressed against my face. Oh they’re quick!

I was expecting Hive Jessica to be virtually empty but what greeted me was worse! The hive had been attacked and over run by wasps. There were a few queen supersedure cells, but they seemed dead. The few bees remaining were in a sorry state. I closed the hive feeling sad!

Today, Sam and I returned to remove Hive Jessica. I was concerned the wasps would make the hive their home. We dismantled it and removed if from the area. In hindsight, I should have closed the entrance & removed it intact rather than opening it. I was trying to give the last few bees a chance but the wasps were now loose and looking for a new home! Hive Rebecca was under attack in front of my very eyes.

A honey bee will defend it’s hive to the death. Their stingers are barbed and pull out their bodies when they sting, effectively disembowelling them and they die. Wasps stingers aren’t barbed and can sting multiple times. So, wasps have the advantage and it takes several honey bees to take down a wasp.

While the honey bees were going in and out the front entrance with heavily laden pollen baskets, the wasps were going in the back through the open mesh floor. A sneak attack! Were the bees able to defend from that position? Were they being robbed? Would the wasps overrun them? I couldn’t tell and I couldn’t risk opening the hive as this would give the wasps even more of an opportunity.

Some wasps did try to get in the front entrance. This was more easily defended. An alarm was raised and the bees attacked. Quite a sight and not one I enjoyed. Seeing bees fighting a wasp to the death isn’t entertaining!

So, what did I do? I joined my girls and attacked the wasps. For 40 minutes, while Sam watched the front entrance, I stood at the back and killed any wasp that landed on the hive. I must have killed at least 20. By the time we left, we didn’t see any more wasps landing on the hive. I’m just hoping we did enough and the threat has been reduced.

I am not an expert in wasps so I don’t know what type of wasps they were today. But, I do know that the various different types of wasps play an important ecological role. The parasitic wasp controls pests by digesting their host insect. Others are predators, hunting insects.  And some, like the honey bee, are even pollinators.  But, I’m a beekeeper and I’ll defend my hives!

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