We’ve had our new package of bees for over a month now and they’re doing wonderful! We gave them a headstart by leaving the comb from the old hive in tact on the frames, so all they had to do was clean things up a bit and start capping honey.
We checked on them last weekend and realized that they needed the next brooder box.
We like to gradually increase the size of our hive because it puts less stress on the bees trying to heat/cool a hive that is too large for the colony. But this also means that we need to keep up with the hive’s growth so they don’t over grow the current box and decide to swarm.
Everything was looking well. The bees were building new comb and filling it with nectar. They were making honey and there were young bees present. We were very encouraged!
They also have stopped drinking the sugar water we’ve been providing as a supplemental food source until they were able to get their stores up. This is another good sign that our hive is healthy and doing well.
The bees are not the only thing doing well in our hive. This ant colony has been with us since we first started beekeeping several years ago. They don’t seem to disturb the hive, they stay tucked up under the lid where the gap is too small for the bees to reach. But they are relentless, and I’m sure they’re stealing honey.
Each time we open the hive we brush the ants and eggs away, clean the lid completely of them, and the next time we open the hive…they’re back. You’d think with us disturbing the nest so often and so completely that they’d get the hint, but they haven’t.
This year the ant colony was larger than it’s ever been. Which was frustrating because we built a hive stand this year hoping that it would deter crawling insects. But it didn’t.
But thanks to our wonderful readers I have many natural solutions to try to remedy our ant problem.
I posted this photo on the Iron Oak Farm Facebook Page and many of our beekeeping followers were more than willing to share how they keep ants out of their hives.
Here are 4 natural ways to keep ants out of your hive:
Mint is a plant that I’m always looking for ways to use. One can only drink so many Mojitos (or can they?…) and the stuff grows like crazy! I was excited to hear that one of our readers planted mint all around her beehives. Not only does the essential oil drive away crawling insects, but bees seem to love the blossoms if you let it flower.
If you can’t plant a bed of mint, then one reader suggested bruising some mint leaves and placing them in the lid of the hive where the ants congregate.
Ants evidently hate cinnamon. Again, readers suggested sprinkling cinnamon in the lid of the hive box or in a circle around the hive.
One reader suggested spreading Petroleum Jelly on the legs of the hive stand. The goopy consistency makes it impossible for ants to crawl through. This makes perfect sense to me because we use Petroleum Jelly on our chicken’s legs to prevent Scaly Leg Mite. It’s the same idea. The mites can’t crawl through the Jelly and they suffocate.
Petroleum Jelly is also somewhat water resistant so this application would have staying power.
Building a Bee Stand
While it doesn’t keep ants out completely on its own, it does help the administration of deterrents for crawling insects in that it only has two entrance spots (each leg). So instead of sprinkling cinnamon around a whole square of beehives, you can simply encircle the two legs that the stand is sitting on, and the same with the petroleum jelly.
Click here for instructions on how to build your own stand. Building a Beehive Stand
Ant in the hive is an interesting conundrum because you have to target crawling insects specifically. Bees are insects too, so something that drives away insects “in general” may also drive away the bees.
I plan on trying a combination of these methods against the ant colony the next time we open our hive. I’ll let you know in a future post what seemed to be the most effective method.
Have you had a problem with ants in your hive? What did you do to eliminate them? Share by leaving a comment below, or visit the Keeping Backyard Bees Facebook Page.
I’ve used cornmeal on ants. Not perfect, but helpful.
Greetings, I plan to keep a hive someday. My father in Penna does. I have four antique table leg stands, (They resemble an upside-down glass electric line insulater which were used on wooden electric poles.) The idea is to place your table legs on the little glass risers and fill the little groove or moat with water. It is used to keep ants off of a table.
Using that same theory, I think four plastic bowls with a brick inside of each bowl for the hive legs to rest upon, might be a solution. One would still have to keep water in the bowls.
I’ve found the moat approach to work wonderfully. My hubby screwed long bolts on the bottom of the legs of my hive tables, and I set the bolt ends into catfood cans. Water with a bit of oil on top works great.
Ants also dislike sulphur powder. I used to attack a chunk of 4×4 to a pc of flashing on the ground w a large can over it almost to the ground and then put “tanglefoot” around 4×4. lefs for hive stand then on can & –no crawlers in hive.ps.
We used the same sort of solution as ‘Dee Lowry’ for a similar problem.
We had trouble with ants getting into our cats’ food bowls, so we made a low platform on legs. The legs rest inside inverted PVC caps, which we can then fill with water as a moat. So far, so good.
Here in Washington State I have two hives in a large field absolutely crawling with ants. All sizes from large carpenter ants down to little tiny sugar ants. Early in the season, I noticed the ants had discovered my hives and were beginning to have their way with them. My hive stand is mounted on 4×4 posts which made it easy for them to climb.
What I did which has TOTALLY fixed the problem (I have not seen one single ant in 2 months crawling on the hives) was to take 4 plastic food containers (one for each leg) which each 4×4 leg would fit into, added about a cup of clean mineral oil as a moat, placed a 5 inch piece of 4×4 in the center of each one, and covered them with overhanging metal pie pans as rain shields. Then I put the hive stand on back top of these with one on each corner. It doesn’t take much oil. SImple and clean and works like a charm. I have pictures of the arrangement that I can send you if you care to respond to my email address. I never had luck with powders and herbs and I’m not using that used motor oil thing. The mineral oil is cheap and clean.
I would greatly appreciate pictures of your solution to the ants in your beehives.
Please send pictures to me.
Love a pic of your set up I live in Washington also in Sumner
I use coffee cans with olive oil at the base of the legs of my topbar hive.
I tried vegetable oil, I would not recommend it, it attracted raccoons.
Cutting you grass. If ants do not have a way in they are not successful in getting in, put the legs of your stand in coffee cans and put a little oil in them. unless you have flying ants this puts a halt to it.
placing the legs of the stand in a can (or pan) with a small quantity of old crankcase oil is free and works very well.
Mint will not work. I have lost pots of mint due to the ants setting up home in the pots and killing my mint. Often times when I am pulling up mint in our yard I get covered in ants from disturbing their homes in the ground within the mint.
The bee’s do love it though.
True about the mint. They build in it , crawl on it and basically ignore the fact that i have placed sprigs in the cover.
Thank you so much for the wonderful ways to keep ants away. I love the mint idea, this I will try.
Mound-builder ants have given me fits for a long time, being responsible for several established hives, several nucs, and several captured swarms to abscond from my bee-yard. I figured out the reason only 2 years ago. Ants will disturb hives (especially when I am feeding them) and even if they are not successful in driving the ants out they will drive them to distraction, and that makes for an angry and non-productive colony. I have taken to putting out feeding stations under my hives with sugar water bait laced with boric acid. The ants take the bait back to their colony and feed the young, the queen, etc. with it and it doesn’t take long for the colony to disappear. I make these feeding stations out of two large-mouth bottle tops (like a mayonnaise jar and a peanut butter jar) – one small enough to fit inside the other. I drill 6-8 1/8″ holes in the side of the larger top, at the edge where the side and top meet. I put the bait solution in the smaller top, and place the larger top over it. This prevents animals and other insects that would be attracted to the sugar water from getting in, as well as weather-proofing it. I place one of these in each of the bottom holes of the cement blocks I use as supports for the boards that my hives are on. The ants go for the free meal and after a couple days there are no more ants coming to the hive. I change out the bait about once every 2-3 weeks over the warm season. Since I have done this I haven’t had a problem.
I have an ant problem in my house and I use the sugar water laced with Borax, which contains boron. It works pretty well.
Hello, I know the caps only hold a little bit. So how much Boric acid do you add. Do you make it a cup at a time and
just pour it into caps ??? Please give me a little more info,if you could .
I have a similar problem, however I use bee max hives which are basically Styrofoam. The ants actual dig channels in the material and setup residence in the walls. I have never seen an ants on any frames but they do destroy these expensive hive body’s.
I have a top bar beehive and each time I open the hive I see tics crawling across the hive. Does anyone have a mild solution to deterring them without harming or overpowering the bees? The bees do not have access to the top when the lid is closed but I don’t want a breeding ground for the tics either.
Yes! I’ve had any issues. Someone told me about boric acid, which is inexpensive, comes in a neat squirt powder form. I began encircling the hive, where the ants may crawl/sneak in through outside crevices & reapplying as it rained or the varmets returned about every two days initially. Eventually, this is year three & I haven’t had to treat once this season. The key is consistency, try to keep sugar drips to a minimum & clearing/cleaning them off the structure w each treatment. They follow their hormone scents (like the bees) so anything to disrupt that & change their foraging path will work. Bay leaves, ground cinnamon or peppermint tea rinse. Also make sure your stand is painted w water proof paint so cleaning is easy. Raw wood tends to not only retain the hormone scent but moisture is s calling card for SHB.
Ive been fighting ants for a few years ,the only I find that helps is to put the legs of the hive stand in buckets of water .the bees drink it also.
Over time, wooden legs will rot in water. Not so in the case of an oil (like olive oil or mineral oil).
I put 3×3 paver stones under the legs to keep them out of the water that I use.
We had the same problem. We put the hives on 4 legs and the legs into large coffee can containers. Filled them with water and voila ants can’t swim. Just put the 2 in front far enough behind the entrance so bees dont drown. Has worked very well.
Use Borax to completely get rid of ants!
Waiting for my flow hive ( x2) this dec/15
So I’m reading all I can now!
Thx for your time!
Hi I’m Mr.EH Lim from Penang Malaysia, recently started my new hobby on honey bee keeping and plants grafting/air layering. The bee keeping activities started two months ago making the beekeeping box and transferring the wild bees & beewax from the nearby tree into the box. Lately I found small tiny red ants going in and out of the bee box I thought is okay but is not okay as this morning I found the whole swamp of bee relocated to the nearby branches. That make me curious, and I open the bee box and found lots of ants attacking the beewax stealing honey beewax pieces by pieces to their nest.Too bad found lots of dead bees inside the box need some advice how to prevent these tiny thieves from going in to the bee box. I brought down the whole bee box to wash and clean it.
I also was having ant issues and was told about the cinnamon. I have by hives on stands, so I sprinkled cinnamon around all the legs of the stands and some on the stands by the front entrances. Ants are gone! I did hear about using petroleum and thought if needed, I would use the petroleum on the legs and then sprinkle the cinnamon on the petroleum also, but so far, I haven’t needed to. I also used the cinnamon sprinkled in front of my front door where the ants path was and they are now gone. You can also sprinkle in window sills or anywhere you have ants it they will find another path. You just have to remember to reapply after rain.
If you get a sheet of thin metal and make it stick out if the edge of the platform the hive is sitting on the reason is the ants can’t get around the edge as it is too thin. They use this method in the southern hemisphere to keep termites off the raised floors in houses so it does work.
Thanks for the tips on keeping ants out of beehives
I haven’t used it in my hives (yet) but I have had great luck with using Peppermint essential oil against ants. I simply wipe a dab or two (the essential oils are much stronger than the real thing), crossing their path inside the house and they run the other way and stay away. Please know that the quality of essential oils really varies. I wouldn’t use bad quality oils in my hive for it may not be real oils, but chemicals concocted in a lab. I use Plant Therapy and Young Living brands. Good luck!
Get rid of your ant problem easily by spreading apple leaves on top of the inner cover. Ants will be gone in minutes. Reapply every month with fresh leaves.
In our 104 degree days, Vaseline and axle grease will soften and drip on hive stand legs. Now we use Tanglefoot. It is an axle grease like tub you can get at plant nurseries. It stays put and is very effective………
I too had an ant problem, cinnamon and diatinatious earth sprinkled helped a bit but then they were back in droves. I put “vicks” in about an inch ring around the 4 X 4 legs, I have not had a problem since, it’s been about 6 weeks.
I have tried all of the natural things listed and none of them worked. The only thing that worked for me was sticking the legs of the stand in pots of oil. I have not seen an ant in the hive since. I would appreciate any advice on deterring flies though.
We had an ant problem last year. We sprinkled cinnamon around the hive and inside the lid. It worked.
Fireplace ashes placed around the base are a good deterrent. Of course, one must redo the application after every rain and here in S. Louisiana, that is pretty often.
I’m going to try cinnamon sticks around the outside. My thoughts are that any rain won’t wash away the sticks as it does the powder. Effectiveness way wain a bit but surely not as quickly as ground cinnamon.
To keep the ants out of my hive I have placed 4 stainless steel dog bowls under each leg of my hive stand, large enough to creat a moat when kept full of water. It not only keeps the ants out, it also provides a water source for the girls.
Reader suggestions are purely anecdotal. Don’t say “tried and true” if you haven’t tried it to prove it’s true. I can show you photos of ants marching right over and through a thick band of ground cinnamon. Please show us what you actually did to get rid of the ant colony in your hive.
I use Borax sprinkled around the beehives to deter ants. Also, I sprinkle baking soda on the inner cover and that deters ants, too.
Tide deterrent powder sprinkled around the legs or bottom of the hive will work. The my brother swears by a 2 liter of gingerale. Jus5 a few more options hope theybhelp
Hi I had the same problem and placed whole cuttings of fresh mint under the hive cover and this definitely solved the problem, the mint has now dried out but still seems to be working!
I have also planted mint around the hive as a deterrent.
Formic acid, found naturally in ants, is effective in combating Mite populations. Could this be symbiotic?
Hello! I started beekeeping this spring in Savannah, Ga., and I too am having problems with tiny sugar ants. All beekeepers have different opinions … so for what it is worth … my big pot of mint doesn’t seen to be hindering the ants. My bee mentor cautions against using petroleum jelly because then if you want to move the hive – what a mess, especially if jelly is full of dead bugs and the heat has melted the jelly all over. He’s tried cinnamon and had no luck. I will be treating my hives for ants today. I have my two hives on top of two 4x4s set on top of three stacks of two cinder blocks. He recommends manually killing all the ants I can see/find and then placing a thick line of boric acid powder around the base (all sides) of the cinderblocks so that the ants have to crawl through it to get to the hive. I also noticed that I had some bricks set around my hive as a walkway but they just made a nice place for ants to start a nest so I took them away. I hope this helps! 🙂
Thanks for the tip to get rid of ants. I have some peppermint essential oil. Would that hurt the bees?
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I’ve been very successful with both catnip and cinnamon. I put a thin ring of cinnamon ( big jar at Costco less than 5$) around the inner rim edge and…no more ants. Works very well.
[…] Ants may not actually kill any bees, but who wants ants in their honey? This site has some great natural tips that may help keep ants out of your […]
Try using beneficial nematodes on the ground around the hive. It wipes out any ants, grubs, etc. Doesn’t harm earthworms. Harsh on the ants but effective.
Im having a carpenter ant issue in my DIY feeder box. I assume they are living off any sugar water stuck to my 1 gallon jug I use on the topboard.
Anyway I would swipe them off and they would come back. Last week there were so many I got mad and just torched them all.
I came back a few days later and some returned. Not half as many. I happened to have some terro liquid ant bait Ive used on carpenter ants in the past. I put a few drops on the top of the top board where the bees cant get to but the ants can. Ill see how that works. When I get into the hive Ill use some soapy water to wipe the board down before opening just in case a few bees get into the bait while Its open.
I would say just keep burning them honestly. I literally torched them all and the bees didnt even know i was there.
I live in Queensland Australia i have only been keeping bees for a couple of years and i have just watched my second colony swarm leaving a full frame of caped broad behind chased out by a tiny black ant ,i am making new frames for the boxs im just hoping i get them done before they move on to the next hive….really starting to hate ants
[…] regions of the country have more aggressive ant species than others. And most bee friendly locations will have some type of ant that will be aggravating to […]
While I don’t keep bees at the moment, we have an abundance of ants around our house because of our nice sandy soil. We keep them under control by using predatory nematodes (https://www.arbico-organics.com/category/beneficial-nematodes). It works well as a ground drench in the areas where we have the biggest problems.
Go to the Dollar Tree and get four 3Gal black plastic pails, place them under each leg and fill each up 3/4 of the way full with water.They are deep enough that they don’t have to be checked but maybe once a week. You can add motor oil as a second line of defense. The Bees don’t seem to go in the pails as much as shallow pie pans, Good luck!
Ihave. my hives on a stand like the one photographed and I find that placing a ring of think greese around each leg stops the ants and any other crawlies. Put the greese high up the legs away from glass being able to bridge the greese.
I have a hive that sits on bricks, with a 2″ insulation board between them and the bottom of the hive. I put Tanglefoot on the edge of the insulation board to keep out ants. Unfortunately, it does catch a few bees until they get used to it.
I tried hive stand legs in water with oil on top never again too many bees drowned
I’ve lost several colonies due to ants. Sugar ands and more importantly those larger red ants.after cinnamon and diatomaceous earth I resorted to granulated ant bait. I does the trick as long as I’m diligent after rains…….
Am using containers cut from plastic bottles which i then fit under the legs of the stand.With the legs of the stand inside the containers,i then fill the four containers with used oil