This was probably inevitable, but I had hoped I wouldn’t need to address ants for a little while. However, I discovered on Monday morning that ants were trying to invade my hive, likely because we had added that frame with brood, which also had some uncapped honey, there is the top feeder holding about a gallon of sugary sweet syrup, and we had shifted the bricks around when changing the bottom board. That evening, I reinforced the diatomaceous earth moat surrounding the hive, hoping it would be sufficient (link to YouTube Video clip, or the full video from this inspection).

Now, there is some debate as to the efficacy of diatomaceous earth in the battle against ants. Some biologists say the science isn’t there. Regardless, I’ve used it since we first moved here, mainly in the moats for my hummingbird feeders. They are intended to be filled with water, but here in southern California, water evaporates too quickly and diatomaceous earth is a simple alternative. Wherever I’ve used it when the ants have attacked my hummingbird feeders, they quickly cease and desist. So that was what I first turned to when I needed something to protect the hive, and I now have a fairly solid white area around and under it. Yet the ants are still finding gaps to get through, as evidenced by a few of them around the entrance and a number of them on the slide-out bottom board. Bonus from my checks of the bottom board this week has been evidence of baby bees from the caps that are removed and land on the board as the new bees emerge (link to YouTube).

Along with the diatomaceous earth, I also use a bait gel called Optigard, which I place along any trails and the ants take it back to the colony. I like it because it is ant-specific and doesn’t affect the other insects. I’ve been using that for the past two years, mainly in the front yard, and have seen the ant numbers drop. Unfortunately, it’s so effective that I haven’t needed to use it much this year until now and need to restock.

I decided to just do a fairly simple check on the status of the bee food at the end of the week, since my beesuit and, more importantly, hat and veil have yet to arrive. This involved removing the inner cover and feeder so I could see the frames. I took out a couple empty frames on the east side, then decided that I might be pushing things when I had neither a smoker to calm the bees, nor protective clothing to properly shield me should I anger them. I was happy to see that the bees are still in the middle of the hive, and there now is much more activity on two frames instead of just one.

I had checked the feeder a couple times this week already, and in the process crushed a few of my already limited number of bees. So I was particularly careful this time in my technique of removing and replacing the inner cover. I left it open for a bit while I prepared more syrup, and came back to the bees having cleaned the remnants of their compatriots from the frames and moved back down inside. For the few that were still loitering along the top, I lit a sage branch and turned it into an improv smoker. I don’t have many bees, so it was adequate for my needs.

My husband, who has been kind enough to photograph and video this whole adventure, captured a great image of the bees as they gathered near the opening on the inner cover. I sent the picture to my beekeeper friend who agreed that there appears to be at least one fuzzy-headed youngster in the picture. Can you find her?

Can you spot the new-bee?