Honeybees are major players when it comes to the production of various crops we consume daily. The Apis mellifera, commonly known as the Western honeybee, is responsible for the pollination of various crops, including cucumbers, blueberries, and apples.
According to journalist Hannah Nordhaus, honeybees are the “glue that holds our agricultural system together,” and she couldn’t have said it better. However, a sad reality is that, our pollinators are disappearing or dying out, and it’s all because of colony collapse disorder (CCD).
CCD happens because of the vast chemical use in bees and farms, climate change, monoculture, and the natural biological threat to bees. While there have been efforts pushed by the government and NGO groups to save honeybees, it’s important to be knowledgeable about the threats that bees face.
Today, let’s focus bee predators.
Small Hive Beetles
Recognized as a predator and pest, the small hive beetle has the ability to destroy a hive beyond repair. This beetle’s larvae steal pollen and honeycomb, and they also defecate in honey stores. Young small hive beetles are also known to prey on honeybee larvae, so it’s important that beekeepers prevent them from breeding.
To manage this problem, chemical treatment may be applied to the soil around and below the hive, where young beetles typically hide before pupating. Another options is to relocate a hive that has not been severely damaged.
Skunks normally attack at nighttime, and they have the ability to eat out an entire colony in a single attack. A skunk scratches the hive at the entrance to draw bees out, and as they do, the predator catches and eats them.
To prevent this from happening, make sure your hives are elevated to keep them out of skunks’ reach.
Wasps have many ways to harm and attack honeybees. European hornets are voracious predators and can attack one bee or an entire colony. Digger wasps and velvet ants also eat bees by waiting form them at the hive’s entrance. Yellow jackets, on the other hand, usually attack weak bees and can even enter a hive to steal honey.
Apiarists and beekeepers can prevent this from happening by relocating beehives or applying pesticides on the nests of wasps.
Varroa mites are considered the most deathly predators to honeybees. These pests were first discovered in the US in the 1980s, and they have since continued to attack bee hives and manage to destroy colonies.
A female varroa mite targets young honeybees by laying eggs on them. Once emerged, they start to feed on developing honeybees until they reach maturity. They can live on a beehive until they find a mate and lay eggs again, eventually killing off an entire colony.
Over the years, pesticides have been used to combat varroa mites, but apiarists and beekeepers may also use supplements designed for bees, such as BeesVita Plus from Healthy Bees LLC. These supplements are used in order for honeybees to be less susceptible to varroa mite attack.
While the natural order of nature should be respected, it’s important to note that honeybees and other pollinators are essential for the survival of humankind. This is why we should be aware what the natural enemies of honeybees are so we can manage them.
What’s great about honeybees is that they can be easily domesticated, unlike other bee species. If we can domesticate them, then it’s just fitting we protect them as well, so we can enjoy the fruits of their pollinating skills.