Honey bees are attacked by a number of enemies and take a heavy toll of bee life and their destructive activities result in desertion of hives by bees. Bee enemies are described under two categories namely insects and vertebrates. The control measures for each of these pests is different as the nature of their damage is different.


Insects like ants, wasps, wax moths etc, pose a serious threat to bees. Ants take virtually everything in the hive, wasps and hornets generally cause the bees to abscond. The wax moth causes damage both to bee-colonies and to the bee products. A brief account of these enemies, with possible suggestions to reduce the loss and to acquaint the bee-keepers with knowledge which may be needed any time,is given here.

  1. Ants

Various species of ants i.e.. Conponotus compressus (carpenter ant), Dorglus labiatus (red ant), Monomorium and Solenopsis spp (fire ant), have been reported causing problem to both traditional beekeeping with Apis cerana and to modem beekeeping with Apis mellifera.


Ants are among the most common predators of honey bees in India. Ants being highly social insects, they attack the hive en- masse, taking virtually everything in them. They take away honey, brood, pollen, dead bees and other debris. In addition to this destruction, they also cause nuisance and sometimes pain to the beekeeper as well.

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Some of the precautions to reduce the damage caused by the ants are given here.

(i) Maintain the bee colony sufficiently strong enough. Usually populous strong colony succeeds in keeping the ants at bay.

(ii) As the ants live in underground colonies, their nests should be destroyed by fumigating them with two to four table-spoons of carbon disulphide or by pouring into them 9 -10 litres of BHC suspension or 0.1 % Aldrin emulsion or 0.33 kg of 40% Chlorodane (wettable powder) in 15 litres of water and scaling them with mud. It should preferably be applied at a time when the bees are not active.

(iii) Bee colonies can be kept free from ants by placing the hives on stands with their legs in earthen cups containing water. Since bees mostly drink from it, the water should be pure.

(iv) The legs of the hive stand may be painted with used engine oil or wounded round with tape soaked in corrosive sublimate to serve as a good repellent for ants. This needs renewing once or twice a month.

(v) A newly installed bee-hive should be visited frequently to check the invasion of ants.


  1. Wasps

Several species of wasps, like Vespa orientals (yellow wasp), Vespa auraia (golden wasp), Vespa magnifica (black wasp), etc. are found in Indian plains and hills. The life cycle of the wasps mostly starts with fecundate female wasps, which starts making new nests in spring. The worker wasps, on emergence help their mothers and take over the field work, since wasps too are social insects like bees. The nest becomes populous during the monsoon and autumn. The population of a nest is at its peak during autumn. At tile end of autumn, all types of wasps, except fecundate females die out. The fecundate females pass their winter under the cover of nooks and crevices and start building nests in coming spring.


Wasps are predaceous by nature and catch bees from blossoms or at the entrance of a hive. Weak colonies become their special targets. The attacking behaviour of the wasps is described in three phases (i) hunting phase, (ii) slaughtering phase and (iii) occupation phase.

Hunting phase

Initially a hunting phase is observed, when the wasps capture the slow -flying bees or one bee at a time. It happens usually near the entrance of a weak colony's hive or bee flying near the flowers to collect pollen or nectar.

Slaughtering phase

If the colony is found to be weak one, a slaughtering phase sets in. A few wasps 30 -50 in number attack a weak colony en-masse, using their strong jaws to maul the bees and dropping the dead on the ground. If this phase continues long enough the colony under attack would have lost most of its defender workers. The colony becomes very weak to resist any attack by the wasps.

Occupational phase

In a very weak colony, the wasps invade and occupy the inside of the hive. They consume, all honey, brood and carry them to their own nest.

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The following precautionary measures are suggest to reduce tile risk of wasps.

(i) The best method to get rid of wasps is to kill the fecundate females early in the spring, when they start making new nests. A part time workers team can be arranged by co-operatives or big apiaries or government, for killing queen wasp in an area before the breeding season.

(ii) Destroying all the nests of the wasps in the vicinity of the apiaries. This can be done in two ways, one by burning with kerosene torch and second by fumigation or spraying or dusting insecticides like 5% benzene hexachloride emulsion or 10% D.D. T. Sometimes it is difficult to find the nest of the wasps, since wasps can fly to a longer distance and come from a considerable distance in search of bees. This creates problem in finding the nest of the wasps. A simple technique to find the nest is to capture the wasp, tie a 15 cm long thread around its thorax and then it is released and followed till it reaches the nest. Then the nest is destroyed as mentioned above.

(iii) An effort to kill the wasps at the entrance of the hive with the help of fly flappers or wooden strips is sometimes useful in the early spring. But generally it is time consuming and laborious.

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