Fire Ants and Bees
by Laura C.
How do you keep fire ants out of your hives? I have fire ants (I hate them!) sneaking in through tiny spaces between the hive body and the bottom board. I've tried a few deterrents, but they are persistent. For now they appear to just be collecting scraps of stuff from the bottom board, but I don't want them to get into the hive.
Ants can be a real problem for beekeepers - and not just fire ants.
But although there are certainly lots of fire ants in my area, I really haven't had much trouble with them.
Like you, I've frequently noticed ants in my hives, but not in strong enough numbers to do any real harm.
I have, on occassion, had ant colonies set up residence between the inner and outer cover of hives. And though they were annoying to me when I was inspecting the hive, even that number of ants didn't seem to be doing any real harm to the colony.
I haven't found them to be enough of a pest to take any actions to try to keep them out of hives.
If you can find a fire ant bait that you're SURE won't hurt bees you could sprinkle that in the vicinity of your hives. But I don't know of a product that I'd be comfortable using in close proximity to my bees. (Perhaps someone reading this will be able to offer a suggestion by leaving a comment.)
You could also try mounting your hive on a 4-legged hive stand, with each leg of the stand in a can of oil. I've heard of beekeepers using this method to protect their hives in areas where ants invade colonies in great numbers.
I've also heard of beekeepers sprinkling ground cinnamon around the hive to deter ants, but I have no idea whether that works. Can't see that it would hurt to try, though, except you'd have to reapply after every heavy rain. (If you try it, please report back and let us know if it works.)
Honestly though, if just a relatively small number of ants are getting into your hive, and they aren't doing any obvious harm, I just wouldn't worry about them.
There's plenty of other things to worry about in beekeeping!