Sunday, August 16, 2009

Today the Ants Won

Over the weekend I fought what turned out to be a losing battle with sugar ants (I don't know that actual species, I only know these teeny little black ants LOVE sweets).

My observation hive sits inside a kind of inside/outside room--- it's an enclosed room, screened in, and the flooring is simply part of the deck. So, it's certainly not ant-proof, and that was driven home in a big way starting Thursday night.

The observation hive was besieged by ants going after the frame of capped honey and bee bread, and the bees were freaking out. I pulled the hive outside on Saturday, completely removed everything, brushed away all ants, cleaned up the home site as best as I could... and when I returned the hive, the ants were back within hours.

I kept fighting for awhile, soaking the surrounding area in Windex, setting ant stakes up outside, etc... but it was no use. They were simply overwhelming the small number of bees in this hive.

So, I took the observation hive outside and opened it up. I removed the honey frame, the brood frame, and an unused drawn frame, along with the undrawn honey frame (it's a four frame ob hive).

I gave the honey and brood to the garage cut-out hive, since they're struggling. And I let nature take its course.

Interestingly, the queen must've flown back into the observation hive when I had it outside. Eventually, after a great deal of tumult, they settled into swarm formation. I moved them to my backyard so they're out of the way, and I'm just gonna let 'em go. It's such a small group and it's so late in the season, I don't think they'll make it through the winter, and it's not a big enough group to warrant catching and adding to an established hive.

Here's the hive with the swarm, and then a close-up of the swarm.

Oh, well. Ants 1, Kerry 0.


  1. Thanks for the informational post! Even with a loss we can hopefully learn something new - perhaps some better defensive techniques, knowing a bit more which techniques work well and which don't.

    I have a question about this sentence:
    I removed the honey frame, the brood frame, and an unused drawn frame, along with the undrawn honey frame (it's a four frame ob hive).

    What are the different frames? Honey frame, Brood frame, Unused Drawn frame, Undrawn Honey frame?

  2. A good question, Sean. I'll put together a post in a few days with pix to demo each, but in a nutshell:

    The honey frame, in this case, was a "deep" frame full of honey. A deep frame fits into the "deep" hive bodies; it's the largest frame size and is used as a food source for the brood.

    The brood frame, also a "deep" frame in this case, typically has brood of all "ages," ranging from eggs to capped brood (bee pupae). It also contains "bee bread," which is a nectar/pollen mix, for feeding the brood, and typically some uncapped and capped honey as well.

    A "Drawn" frame means a frame that has wax cells (comb) built by the bees. It may be completely empty, as this one was. Typically you hang a frame of "foundation)--- basically a thin sheet of beeswax--- in a hive, and the bees "draw" it into comb.

    The "undrawn frame" is pure foundation. In this case, I called it a "honey frame" because it was a "shallow" frame, meaning it would be used in what are called "honey supers"--- the box that goes on the very top of a hive, which the beekeeper harvests once it's full of surplus honey.

    Again, I'll clarify this better with some pix once I get a chance to shoot some.