Sparrows and wasps

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Mosgiel
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Hi,

I have not had a good year. I have lost two hives to sparrows. These birds were taking bees at around eight a minute, and there was nothing I could do to stop them. They preferred taking them off the landing board and were qeueing up at both ends of it to do so, but they would take them on the wing if efforts were made to keep them away from the board. Bullets and mesh did not deter. Quite the routine. Watch, snatch, fly 10 feet or so, knock out sting, and away.

This left me with two hives which were doing quite well until about 48 hours ago. Then both hives were annihilated by wasps. These wasps, arrived suddenly and in enormous numbers. They were were not interested in the honey, but in the bees themselves. Jump on bee's back, head off, turn, abdomen off, legs off and away with the thorax. In both cases two well-filled hives were reduced to empty boxes with honey and brood in place in not much more than 24 hours, but each with a large pile of fresh heads, abdomens and legs on the baseboard and scattered around. The hives were sound and closed down. The wasps ignored sugar traps etc.

The Web seems to offer no descriptions or prescriptions for incidents like these. All other examples seem to involve politer predators. I now have nothing - but before I start again - does anybody have any suggestions? I am based on the Taieri.

Rob
 

Mummzie

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Welcome to the forum Rob.
Sorry you have had such a season. Vespex could be a solution for your wasp problem. I would guess there is a nest or two somewhere near your hives, and if you could eradicate them, the bees would have one less problem.
How far from their nests wasps forage isn't something I know for a fact. I have 100 meters in my mind, but it may be further.

Sparrows- I know I loose many bees to them. I see them sitting on the fence and flying across the front of the hive to snatch bees as they arrive or depart, but I don't think they take enough to affect the hive population badly. Nearby we have a large Camelia tree we call the Sparrow apartments. Perhaps you have a large population nesting nearby?

I have read of the Bee eater bird in Europe, and that the bees change their flight behaviors after they arrive. Interesting fact only- no help to you tho.
 

Alastair

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Interesting, I have sometimes wondered if birds will take bees but have not seen it happen. If it was to such a serious extent they were exterminating hives I would be tempted to shoot them with the air gun.

Re wasps, simple as to get rid of. As per Mummzie, Vespex. It contains a poison, fipronil, which in quantity requires a qualified person to use it, so before you can buy you have to sit an online test.

Here is their site Vespex| Merchento

I did try the competitor product Hawkeye, but found it to be a waste of time. The various traps etc you can buy don't get rid of a significant amount either.

However if you do want to trap them here is the best. To do it, understand that unlike bees, wasps do not fear water, they can land in it and easily launch themselves back out of it. So you set the stick with some meat or fish over the bowl of water where wasps will fall into the water. But here's the trick. You put some dishwash liquid in the water. This breaks the surface tension the wasps have on their exoskeleton, and they loose their water repellency. They cannot launch back out of the water and drown.

 
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Alastair

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One last thing that I got timed out and could not add to the previous post. Hives with high varroa levels at this time of year are very susceptible to wasp attack. Any time I go to a site and find a particular hive being harassed by wasps, it's a virtual given it will have a varroa mite problem. Would be worth checking your varroa treatment was effective, at least to ensure the same thing does not happen next time around.
 
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Hi,

I have not had a good year. I have lost two hives to sparrows. These birds were taking bees at around eight a minute, and there was nothing I could do to stop them. They preferred taking them off the landing board and were qeueing up at both ends of it to do so, but they would take them on the wing if efforts were made to keep them away from the board. Bullets and mesh did not deter. Quite the routine. Watch, snatch, fly 10 feet or so, knock out sting, and away.

This left me with two hives which were doing quite well until about 48 hours ago. Then both hives were annihilated by wasps. These wasps, arrived suddenly and in enormous numbers. They were were not interested in the honey, but in the bees themselves. Jump on bee's back, head off, turn, abdomen off, legs off and away with the thorax. In both cases two well-filled hives were reduced to empty boxes with honey and brood in place in not much more than 24 hours, but each with a large pile of fresh heads, abdomens and legs on the baseboard and scattered around. The hives were sound and closed down. The wasps ignored sugar traps etc.

The Web seems to offer no descriptions or prescriptions for incidents like these. All other examples seem to involve politer predators. I now have nothing - but before I start again - does anybody have any suggestions? I am based on the Taieri.

Rob
have you got any pics of the brood and the pile of bee bits?
 
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have not had a good year. I have lost two hives to sparrows. These birds were taking bees at around eight a minute, and there was nothing I could do to stop them. They preferred taking them off the landing board and were qeueing up at both ends of it to do so, but they would take them on the wing if efforts were made to keep them away from the board. Bullets and mesh did not deter. Quite the routine. Watch, snatch, fly 10 feet or so, knock out sting, and away.
Hi Piedpiper

I am really interested in your post, and subsequent posts by others. Would you or someone else please post a photo or video of sparrows eating bees. Were the bees workers or drones, and if the latter were they being evicted from the hive?

With beekeeping you are always learning new stuff. However, I have never seen sparrows eat live bees, am intrigued. To my mind sparrows have a small beek, and it does surprise me that they can eat a reasonable sized live insect with stinging ability. If each sparrow as you note was eating 8 live bees per minute that equates to 480 bees per hour per sparrow.

I have often seen birds of numerous species eating dead bees - they love dead bees!

Re the wasps. Wasps are aggressive predators with powerful flying ability, taking back to their nest protein at this time of the year to feed their larvae.

You don't mention whether you only had two hives. I suggest you put your remaining hive honey stores from the two mentioned hives in a bee proof shed before every bee in Mosgiel robs them. I also suggest you contact the Dunedin Beekeepers Club who have great support from hobbyists, commercial operators, scientists and beekeeping suppliers. Empowering and Bee-Ing Part of a Strong, AFB Free, Dunedin Community
 
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Hi,

Thank you all for your responses. I kept no photos sadly. I do wonder about the varroa, the ttreatment was in at the time and had been in since early February, they were also treated with a differnt miticide in the spring, but Varroa resistance I am informed is a real issue in my immediate area - so this could indeed have been a factor. Maybe the monthly sugar shake for all hives is now an essential routine. I suspect that there may be a mega-nest out there somwhere that if given the opportunity will over winter as they do up North, as I am told they do. I will go hunting for it, as they are clearly still breeding.

The sparrows attacked everything and worked to a system. However, they seemed to target incoming bees and seemed to be very partial to queens - I had a 100% failure rate with queen cells this year and eventually had to resort to mated queens. I suspect that the sparrow issue is related to the fact that when we bought this property Mosgiiel township was barely in sight, but now the housing estates are just accross the road. Many of these houses have bird feeders out all year - feeding seeds. This keeps the sparrows starlings and blackirds alive all year, whatever new numbers are produced each season - but in the breeding season the biblical plague of adult sparrows blackbirds and starlings that this largesse creates don't want seed - they want protein for their fledglings (sparrows can do three broods a year). Guess where this comes from? When they are not eating bees they are destroying everything else - apples, pears, blacklberries, plums, pumpkins, tomatoes - everything now gets pecked to peices long before it is ripe. They even defoliate the trees. We had no issues like this before.

It has been noted in the media that the bird feeding 'industry' produces products that are only of interest to a small number of exotic birds, and this boost to their numbers has major negative impacts upon insect populations, but usually these concerns are related to native insects. However, if bird feeder powered sparrows get the bee hunting habit everywhere, in the manner that they have here - then, believe me, we do have a major issue.

Rob
 
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I do wonder about the varroa, the ttreatment was in at the time and had been in since early February, they were also treated with a differnt miticide in the spring, but Varroa resistance I am informed is a real issue in my immediate area - so this could indeed have been a factor.
what treatments where you using?
 

Dansar

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Interesting read. I have stopped using my queen mating mini nucs at home (in town) as the starlings got a taste of the queens.
It’s very disappointing to see a starling picking an outgoing or incoming queen from the air.
First time I saw it happen I was speechless.
I’m sure it happens a lot but when they get a thought and understanding that they are there for the taking I’m sure there will be some generational training and knowledge passed on from adult birds to their offspring.
 
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