Follow our progress running the nursery, watching wild bees, keeping honey bees and creating our own bee-haven in south Oxfordshire

Dealing with wasp attacks

During late summer wasps can attack beehives in large numbers causing distress and sometime killing the hive.  We found that this year was particularly bad and found 3  whole nests within a half mile of hives. The problem is apparently caused by the drone wasps which, after mating earlier in the season, really dont have much to do for the rest of summer.  So they roam, like teanage boys do, around looking for trouble and food.  Thier numbers peak around August time before they begin to die off as winter approaches.

Unlike bees that mainly focus on nectar from plants (and honey if they can find it) they will be attracted by anything sweet. This is why you see them in large numbers on rotting windfall fruit. Unfortunately they can smell honey inside the hive so its very common for them to try and get in the front door or any other crack in the hive.

To protect your hive you need to:

  • put the hive doors in place to restrict the area that the bees need to defend
  • make sure that the supers are stacked neatly to ensure there no other ways in
  • avoid feeding with sugar syrup until the worst of the wasps has passed
  • set up traps - see picture - and check them several times per week when the wasps are bad

We find that the simplest trap is a wide neck bottle with a dilute solution of cheap stawberry jam and washing up water; smell of the jam attracts them in and small amount of detergent breaks the surface tension to speed up drowning and make it harder to climb out. This jar probably has 200 wasps in it which were collected in about 3 days this August.  We put one trap out behind each hive and hope that they will distract attention from the front of the hives. Judging by the numbers trapped, they are doing something.