Being a responsible beekeeper has many elements, one is observing the colonies at times when they may be under threat from pests such as wasps! Summer can be a difficult time for colonies, especially small or nuc colonies, who lack the numbers to fend off attack from wasps.
A little knowledge of the life cycle of the humble wasp is needed to know why these amazing creatures can cause havoc, not only with your carefully planned picnic, but with our bees.
Although wasps get 'bad press' they are vital to the healthy eco-system of our gardens and countryside...eating 'pests' throughout the year, which help us as gardeners & are vital to the bigger picture in the food chain.
Wasps are carnivorous, they feed their larvae meat, (in most cases aphids, spiders etc) making 'protein pellets' to feed to their hungry larvae. Towards the end of the summer, when there are fewer larvae to feed, the wasps start to CRAVE sugar... this is because the wasp larvae convert their protein-rich diet into carbohydrates that they secrete as a sugary droplet to feed the adults. With no larvae, all those adult wasps must find other sources of sugar - hence why they are so attracted to our honey filled hives, (and your sugary drinks & fruit on your trees!)
The Heron Hill hives are all strong vigorous colonies, but we have a few nucleus colonies, new this year, who need careful watching to ensure they can fend off any attacks!
As beekeepers we reduce the size of the entrances, this helps the guard bees in their defending, we can also put a plastic wasp door on the front of the hives, allowing the bees entrance, but 'out witting' the wasps. In severe cases of 'robbing' wasps can decimate a colony in a matter of days... Those colonies would have to moved out of harms way to make sure they survive.
So far so good, our 'guarding girls' are doing a fine job, but we will be watching them carefully to make sure it stays that way!