In the bee yard, there is one thing that frustrates me to no end and that is ants. I hate going to the hives to feed and finding ants in the feeder. Where I live in NE Georgia we have black carpenter ants and we have red fire ants. They are attracted to the sugar-water feed and the honey in the hives. If left uncontrolled, they will destroy a hive.
Here are several methods I use to try keeping ants under control.
VISIT THE BEE YARD OFTEN
I visit my hives frequently so I will be able to quickly respond to an ant invasion. If I fail to visit on a daily basis, I won’t know how long my bees have been dealing with the ants. It is important to keep check during the winter too. A rain shower and a warm day will bring the ants out.
I keep the vegetation mowed around the beehive. Ants will take any advantage available to enter the hive and a tall blade of grass is just the bridge they like.
Cinnamon is environmentally friendly and ants detest the stuff, but they love sugar-water more. This is not a 100% effective control, and I usually apply it everyday when the hives need feed. When I see the ants, I shake liberal amounts of cinnamon with the goal of coating them and covering their trail coming and going from the hive. While I want the cinnamon to adhere to the ants and block their entrance I am careful to not get any in the feeder pan. I don’t know if the bees would object to it or not but I don’t want to take a chance.
DIATOMACEOUS EARTH AND WOOD ASH
Another thing I use is food-grade Diatomaceous Earth. I apply the DE to the ground around the hive stand legs then use my hands or a rake to get it mixed in with the grass and dirt. This way the bees have minimal exposure, but the ants should have to walk right through it. My brother very lightly dusts his stands with DE. Use caution with DE. Even though it is a natural substance, it can kill your honeybees, as it is lethal to insects with an exoskeleton. Study up on it and decide if this is a good method for you. You can also spread wood ash underneath your hives. The DE and wood ash will need to be re-applied after a rain.
BURNT MOTOR OIL AND GREASE
My dad applies burnt (used) motor oil to his hive stand legs. He has very minimal ant intrusion, Another method would be to place the stand legs in cans containing burnt motor oil. If you do this, check the cans regularly to ensure the oil has not been washed out by any rain.
You can also put bands of grease around the legs. The legs can get covered with dust and you would need to reapply the grease.
I do not think there is a way to completely eradicate ants from the bee yard, but consistently using some of these methods does help to control them. Whatever methods you choose, please take time to label any containers you use. It is easy to grab the wrong thing and cause unnecessary problems in the bee yard or for pets and children.