A pestilence of ants

Perhaps pestilence is a bit too strong a term, since I’m not literally dealing with plague, but I’m frustrated.

I’m not used to seeing insects strolling about my kitchen, but lately I keep seeing those little tiny brown or black ants that are called “sweet-eating” or “sugar” ants. I’ve had them invade before–you know, the moving black line, marching steadily toward something. . . .

But these aren’t in a column, a cluster, or even a group! If they were in a marching column, I could see where they are coming from, and where they were going. them. I could attack them effectively with traps or spray. If I knew where they were coming from, I’d sprinkle cinnamon or lay cinnamon sticks out.

Well, these aren’t marching purposefully toward anything. They aren’t even marching–they’re meandering. They aren’t obviously coming from anywhere. http://antark.net/They act as if they were on a Sunday afternoon stroll–not exactly wandering–each individual seems to know where it is going but with no particular destination all,  just one or two at a time, and in various directions, nothing consistent. The little b-….er, beasties are just there and they have been for weeks. Only a few at a time–just continually there.

If there were hordes, masses of them streaming across the counter, I wouldn’t really be surprised. Since the bees arrived,  I’ve been mixing sugar syrup to feed them.  I’ve had more sugar in my kitchen in the last three weeks than I’ve probably had in the whole rest of my life.  Until the bees arrived (and needed feeding  until the fall nectar flow really gets going), I bought sugar by the one-pound boxes since I couldn’t get anything smaller.  Now I’m bringing it in four-pound bags–several at a time, and mixing simple syrup by the gallon. So–I’d expect “sugar” ants. I could deal with the massive march that had an origin and a destination.

But that is not what seems to be happening here. They are not even walking purposefully–they’re just promenading ants!

Still sticky

Perhaps this should be titled sequelae to stickiness sequelae. . . .and for all my friends who are grammarians, I used sequelae intentionally, to refer not to this sequela to the previous post, but to the myriad, multiple, bucketful, and gobs of effects stemming from that one event of a leaky syrup container.


bees at hive entranceOn hive check this morning, it looks like normal activity at the entrance. No “invaders” hanging around the entrance for the time that I was watching–just “my girls” coming and going on the landing board.

I have traps out for yellowjackets and for bald-faced hornets.  Looks as if a few yellowjackets have been lured into the trap.

Unfortunately, there are still yellowjackets clustered on the lower right cement block that is supporting the hive.

I suspect that yellowjackets on cement blockwas were most of the sugar syrup flowed down.  That rather porous material is probably saturated with sweetness! They see to be preferring that to the trap with Coco-Cola in it. More concentrated sweetness (I hope). Maybe when that’s all been slurped out they will like the trap better.

I’m contemplating how to be sure that my pail feeders are not leaking, although when I check the inner cover and the empty super covering the feeders this morning there doesn’t seem to be wetness that would suggest feeder leak that would be dripping through the hive. I guess time will tell.


cropped-crop_img_20150801_130019171.jpgI told you in an earlier post that I changed to a different type of feeder when I inspected the colony yesterday.  Well, I’ve now changed feeders again as of this morning. It’s turning into a  “feeder saga”.      I started with a Miller hive top feeder–from reading that seemed like it would be what I wanted. My only objection to it is that as a learning beekeeper with a new colony, I have to do almost-weekly inspections to make sure things are going well in the hive. The issue is that at times I can be a veritable Klutz (the capitalization is intentional–I can take klutziness to a special level without even trying just in the kitchen with a bain-marie)–the good side of that is that at least the sugar syrup (1:1 sugar to water) is not hot. All the good and bad things I’ve read about this style of feeder seem to be true, so obviously I’m not having a novel experience here, and I suspect that I’ll return to this style of feeder once this colony is established and I’m more familiar with beekeeping.

However, I did decide to try to make my life a little easier (so I thought) by changing to a feeder that would be easier to put on and take off for inspections. I went to Bailey Bee Supply, my local bee store, intending to purchase a simple pail feeder.  What I discovered was that the pail was too tall to fit into an empty medium super. Since I didn’t have a deep (and truly didn’t want one since all my equipment was medium 8-frame) I decided to try a different style of in-hive feeder.

Bee smart feederAfter the inspection yesterday, I put the new feeder into the empty medium super.  There was a minor mishap–which I thought was beekeeper, not feeder.   About an hour later I went back to check and there was syrup running down the front of the hive. This is not a good thing, since it attracts other nectar-drinking insects as well as MY Apis mellifera.

I got in there and made some adjustments and finally managed to get the syrup to stop overflowing by leveling the feeder and tray; closed things back up and went about my evening’s activities. (I did get the Miller feeder off yesterday without sloshing syrup everywhere so the wetness on the front of the hive here is not a result of my klutziness. No matter why its there its not a good thing to see.)

This morning I checked on the food–the feeder was empty–meaning that one-half gallon of sugar syrup had been “dumped” during the night.,  This was not a happy thought but all was quiet around the hive.  I took the empty feeder away and made a bee-line (sorry–that pun is unintentional, but I’m leaving it there) for the bee store again.

white pail in medium superI bought an extra medium hive body and a pail feeder (pail is just barely too tall for the medium) so that it would be covered.  Home–install new feeder. Amazingly, everything around the hive was very quiet–I had expected to see all sorts of insects attracted by sugar water spread around on the ground and the front of the hive.

Now, a couple hours later–back to check and there are bees flying everywhere–not aggressive though. I think it’s bees from my hive reclaiming their syrup.  At least I hope it is. There are a few other wasp-like critters, but they are not making any effort to get into the hive. Thankfully, no hornets either.  I think maybe a rain dance this evening with hopes of a good hard rain to wash away the syrup. What I saw under the hive (I have a screened bottom board, and no sticky board in place yet) was not what you want to see around your hive.

group of bees under hiveThe only thing for me to be thankful for is that there were only a few other insects buzzing around–I just hope that lasts. Interestingly enough, I did not see any ants around–but perhaps they were all in my kitchen slurping up the syrup from where I carried the other feeder back in to clean it out. I wonder if that is a commentary on how ants feel about cinnamon–because there’s certainly a lot of it sprinkled around the hive.

Turns out that the ants were not in my kitchen–the cinnamon sticks that I had lying around on the counter must be doing a job. But, now I’m wandering around the house with a damp cloth trying to get sugar syrup wiped off of everything I touched–outside door handle, inside door handle, cell telephone (have no idea how that got there), the faucet in the bathroom sink. . . .probably other places that I didn’t realize.  I’ll find them later when I least expect it.

I never realized that “simple syrup” could be SO sticky!