Insects, Skunks, and Bear, Oh My! How Do I Protect My Bees?

Insects and Mice

Insect pests range from spiders, earwigs, cockroaches to ants. None of these do any serious damage to your hive and don’t seem to bother the bees.

Mice, however, are a different story. Mice tend to invade hives as the weather cools down, they look for a warm place for the winter and hives are air tight and the bees help a bit with heating. Mice will damage comb and frames to accommodate their nest. They urinate in the hive causing irreversible damage to the drawn comb as the bees will no longer use it once contaminated by the mice.

Mouse nest in bee hive.


Wildlife can cause serious damage. Skunks come around at night, scratch on the hive entrance and then eat the guard bees to come to entrance to see what is going on. The nighttime attacks on the hive will also tend to make the bees more defensive and aggressive when you open the hive during the day. The best way to prevent skunks is to put your hives and a stand 18 inches off the ground.
Bears like to break into bee yards at night too, going after the brood and honey. They are known to cause destruction to equipment and drag away boxes. Once they strike gold at your hives they will return. Electric fencing can deter them. If you even suspect there are bears in your area you should consider putting up an electric fence before the bears learn your hives have honey. One of our club members had a bear attack which can be seen here.

Wax Moths

Wax Moths are not harmful to bees and a strong, healthy hive can defend itself from wax moths. However, once they infest a hive they do a number on comb whether the comb is in storage or in a weak hive. The moths burrow through the comb and enjoy consuming the old dark comb. If you do not spot the larvae, you can easily identify the invasion by the silky web they spin for protection as they eat their way through the drawn comb. The best way to prevent them altogether is to maintain a healthy hive and monitoring unused equipment frequently. You can treat the equipment but only when not in use with the chemical Paradichlorobenzene or use cold treatment placing equipment or frames in subzero temperatures x 24 hours to kill larvae and adults.

Wax moth damage

Small Hive Beetles (SHB)

Small Hive Beetles (SHB) are more predominate in the SE United States where the weather is warm and humid but have been found in NE Wisconsin spreading through infested packages and migratory operations. They are not likely to cause the colony to die, rather they slow the growth and size of a hive by weakening it. They are vectors for viruses: Sacbrood virus (SBV), American Foulbrood (AFB) spores and European Foulbrood (EFB). The larvae are similar to that of the wax moth, only smaller. SHB prefer to reproduce in loose sandy soil, but are not picky if the conditions are right. They are attracted to pollen sub patties where they breed. There are traps you can use to catch and kill the SHB and chemical treatments that are applied to the soil interfering with reproduction.

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