Nasty and yellow

With shorter days, cooling fall weather, winter imminent and food sources dwindling, honey bee colonies are being harassed by even more pests. Yellow Jackets, one common hive nuisance, feed on bees, larva, brood, and bee bread – pretty much everything that is in a hive. They are scavengers. During late fall when robbing of weaker hives becomes a serious problem, yellow jacket invasions can follow. During the chaos of robbing there is an opportunity for yellow jackets to take advantage of the situation.

I have had several beekeepers contact me with yellow jacket horror stories. It basically goes something like “my hives were doing well several weeks ago but now the yellow jackets have taken over.” Some of these hives are reported to no longer have any honey bees, capped honey, brood and many are also infested with wax moth.

I’m usually asked what the beekeeper should do now the hive is at this point. I don’t have any good suggestions except to salvage any frames that are worth the effort, clean up the carnage and start planning for next spring. Not what most beekeepers want to hear!

Several of these calls reported that they had harvested a lot of honey in August and had not started any fall feeding program. Also reported was that mite treatment was not done or had just been finished.  I have to wonder if mite infestations, over harvesting, sporadic hive inspections, lack of fall feeding and other management errors are not bigger issues than we beekeepers care to admit. Could it be that yellow jacket issues are a sign that we need to become better managers of our hives by taking less and visiting more?