A single pest can destroy or weaken a bee colony if it is not helped to overcome the attack of that pest. Hence a bee keeper should have knowledge about the various pests that prey upon honey bees. 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.
Birds, which have been listed as attacking honey bees in India includes, Merops apiaster (bee-eater), Merops orientals, Dicrurus macrocercus (king crow), Cypselus spp (swifts), Lanius spp (shrikes) Picus spp(peckers), lndicatoridae sp. (honey guide), etc. They visit apiaries occasionally on cloudy days, and prey upon bees. The heavy traffic of bees flying in and out of the hives of commercial apiaries provide an exceptional opportunity for insectivorous birds. Therefore, a large number of birds are attracted by this situation.
The level of damage caused by the apivorous birds varies considerably. An attack by a single bird or by a few together rarely constitutes a serious problem. When a relatively large flock descends upon a few colonies or an apiary, a substantial decline in the worker population may be observed. The degree of damage to the commercial apiaries by predatory birds depend upon the number of predators and intensity of the attack. The mere presence of a few predators in apiaries engaged in queen-rearing can inflict serious losses. The bee eaters sit on tree or telegraph wires near an apiary and pick the bees on the wings and do much harm. Sometimes as many as 40 bees have been found in the stomach of a bird.
Some of the precautionary measures are described here.
(i) While beekeepers regard insectivorous birds as pests, sometimes serious, other branches of agriculture generally do not consider them as their enemies. In fact, birds that prey on insects are mostly considered to be beneficial for farming. They help in the control of insect pests. For this reason, therefore, no attempt is made to solve the apiary's bird problems by mass killing of the bird predators.
(ii) Where heavy predating birds on apiary bees tends to occur at fixed period, may be period of migration of birds, the most practical means of solving the problem is to avoid the birds, by relocating the apiary temporarily, until the birds migration period is over.
(iii) Sometimes scaring the predating birds away from apiaries by shooting at them with sound producing riffle is suggested.