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Beekeeping faces threats from many pests, diseases, and predators. Beehives made of wood face threats from termites. Protecting beehives from termites reduces the operating cost of beekeeping, leading to higher earnings. Beekeeping is a popular commercial activity in the United States and many other places worldwide. Termites are one of the major pests identified as affecting beekeeping. Beekeepers need not worry however, as there are various simple methods to prevent termites from attacking wooden beehives.
Why Beehives Need Protection from Termites
Since most beehives are constructed from wood, termites that feed on dry wood threaten the beekeeping industry. Termites do not predate on the bees nor do they eat the honey, they are only after the wood making up the hives. However, termites can cause and do cause severe damage to beehives, making them ineffective as a home for honeybee colonies.
Termite-induced beehive destruction is problematic in many areas where economic losses have resulted from this damage. Beehives are expensive, and any damage will require correction (repairs) or replacing the hive completely, which adds to the costs of operation. In the worst-case scenario, damage to the hives is so extensive that entire bee colonies need relocation.
Types of Termites Considered a Threat to Beekeeping
There are several types of termites, but only two are a severe threat to the bee industry in America. These are the dry wood termites of the family Kalotermitidae and the subterranean termites of the family Rhinotermitidae and family Termitidae). In most of the United States and Canada, the subterranean termites in the family Rhinotermitidae are of more concern as they are present in many regions, posing a widespread threat.
Subterranean termites attack wood from their underground colonies. These termites are very destructive as they attack in numbers ranging from as few as 50,000 to several million mature workers all at once. Such large numbers are capable of destroying a beehive very quickly. If not brought under control, an attack from subterranean termites can eat through a hive. Such an attack results in huge losses and necessitates the colony’s relocation.
Dry-wood termites attack wooden structures as a newly mated pair. They take up to five years to build up their colony size to the point that they will swarm. They enter cracks in wood or between boards, making detecting and controlling infestations quite difficult. Dry wood termites could pose little threat as it takes a long time for the mated pair to develop into a colony capable of severe damage. However, detecting an infestation is more difficult, meaning the colony could become large and cause serious harm before discovery. Damage from dry wood termites is often extensive; destroying the hive. It is, thus, necessary for beekeepers to be always on the lookout for these termites.
Methods of Preventing Termites from Attacking Beehives
Protecting beehives from termites is about protecting or preventing termites from attacking and eating off the wood used to make the hive. Protecting beehives from termites, therefore, begins at the point of choosing the apiary site and at the point of beehive assembly. The main methods beekeepers use to prevent termite attacks on beehives are selecting an appropriate location and chemical and physical preventive measures.
1. Choosing a Suitable Site to Locate the Apiary
Before establishing an apiary, the beekeeper should remember that termite attacks are possible. The presence of subterranean termite mounds nearby compounds the risk of an attack. As such, beekeepers must scout out which locations will likely have such a problem. Choose apiary sites in areas where there are no colonies of the termites nearby. However, it might only be possible to determine where such colonies are located after establishing the apiary.
If an apiary happens to be sitting near a subterranean termite colony, the risk of attack is almost inevitable. The beekeeper could choose to physically destroy the colony or, wherever possible, move the apiary to an area with no termite colonies. At least the apiary should be some distance from any known subterranean termite colonies. If an apiary is sitting near such a colony, the beekeeper could move it to a new site devoid of termite mounds wherever possible. If this is not possible, take other measures, including physically digging out and destroying the mound.
2. Destroying Subterranean Termite Colonies
Where there is no other suitable site available, attempt physical destruction of the termite mound. You can achieve this through various means. For instance, the colony could be dug out and destroyed. Subterranean termite colonies often cover a fairly large area. It may only be possible to dig all the mounds out if beekeepers use mechanical shovels such as a backhoe. It thus may not be practical to do this, though it remains a feasible solution where the mound does not cover a large area.
In any case, it is never certain that you will be able to eliminate the subterranean termites. They can quickly re-establish a colony. For this reason, you need extra measures such as the use of chemicals to kill off termites. You must, however, be careful to ensure that such actions are permissible by law as they may be illegal in various states. It would be best to check with the agricultural regulating authorities in the region where your apiary is located. Choosing an area where there is no reported infestation should be the starting point before establishing the apiary.
3. Chemical Treatments to Protect Beehives From Termites
Using chemicals to prevent termite attacks on beehives has become a popular measure. Many apiaries employ it as a last resort where beekeepers cannot prevent or control an infestation using any other method. Chemical termite control involves using anti-termite substances that you can spray or paint onto the beehives. Spraying the chemicals on termites kills them off, and using chemically treated timber to construct the hives prevents termite attacks.
Beekeepers should be aware that there is regulation governing the use of chemicals in controlling pests. You are only at liberty to use the chemicals with regard to these regulations. Spraying chemicals to kill termites and other vermin should be the last resort. Chemical controls are often the most effective measure, though there could be other unwanted side effects. It is always essential to ensure that you adhere to the regulations on the use of chemicals.
Using Pre-treated Timber
It is common practice in the United States to use pre-treated timber (wood) for many wooden constructions, including wooden hives. Pre-treated timber not only prevents termite attacks but also prolongs the life of the beehive. It is unlikely that one will find wood that has not gone through some form of chemical pre-treatment in the US. Only some of these pre-treatments will be effective against termite attacks, while other pre-treatments could mean that such wood would not be the best for beehive assembly. In sourcing timber, a beehive manufacturer must ensure that the treatment includes anti-termite properties.
The use of pre-treated timber in beehive assembly, however, must be done with a lot of caution. Beekeepers should not use pre-treated wood cannot for a hive’s inner cover and frames. This is because of the risk that the chemicals used in the pre-treatment may be toxic to the honeybees. There is concern about the possibility of honey becoming contaminated with the chemicals used in the pre-treatment of timber. The use of pre-treated wood, therefore, becomes an unattractive choice and should only come into play if the beehive manufacturers cannot access non-treated lumber.
Use of Termite Repellents Treatments and Paints
Where pre-treated timber is unavailable, beehive manufacturers may cover the wood used for assembly with anti-termite chemicals or termite-repelling paint. These chemicals repel termites very specifically. Be cautious to not paint your beehive frames and inner covers with any chemicals, because the chemicals are toxic to bees and can possibly contaminate beehive products.
All the inside surfaces of a beehive should not be painted. Water-soluble paints provide minimal anti-termite-repelling properties and are, therefore, a poor choice. In many cases, dry wood termites will still attack hives where beekeepers have used water-soluble paints. The choice of substance used as a termite repellent and painted on the hive and other apiary wooden-ware is particularly important. This is because only substances (repellent) with copper naphthalate listed as the active ingredient may be used. Other repellents cannot be used as they are toxic to bees, while others face certain restrictions on usage in America.
It is also important to note that not all parts of the beehive may be painted with the repellent. If it is necessary to use a termite-repellent chemical for the hive, only paint the surface of the wood facing outside the colony. No painted wood or wood treated with any chemical should face on the inside surfaces where bees walk.
Use of Oil-Based Paints to Protect Beehives from Termites
There is still some risk that copper naphthalate and other chemicals used as termite repellents could be toxic to bees. Repellents retain a high risk of becoming toxic to bees. Furthermore, there is still the risk of contaminating the honey. Oil-based paints should be used on the entire exterior of the beehive to reduce these risks. Painting oil-based paint on all exterior surfaces of brood and super boxes, including the top and bottom edges, is still the best control for wood-destroying organisms, including termites.
Applying Oil or Grease on Beehive Stands
Beekeepers often use oil or grease on beehive stands to prevent termites from reaching their beehives. The oily substance on the beehive stand catches termites and prevents them from climbing up to the wooden beehive. This method is more effective when the beehive stand is metallic.
4. Physical Prevention Measures
You have several physical prevention measures that you can deploy to protect beehives from termites. They include the use of extreme heat, extreme cold and the placing of beehives away from the ground.
Using Kiln-Dried or Deep-Frozen Lumber
The risk of building a dry wood termite colony into your wooden-ware at the time of construction can be prevented by using kiln-dried lumber. Temperatures over 120 °F (48.9 °C) will kill termites and most wood-destroying beetle larvae as well. You can also place the wood in a deep freezer for four to seven days to achieve the same effect.
Sitting Hives off the Ground to Protect Beehives from Termites
Termites seek wood to feed upon and live. This means denying the termites access to the wooden beehive is an effective protection measure. One way to deny the termites access to the hive, is to avoid placing the hive in contact with the ground, where subterranean termites would have easy access.
Wooden hives and other wooden equipment used in the apiary should not be in direct contact with the ground. This way, damage from subterranean termites is easily prevented by sitting hives off the ground, as this decreases the likelihood that the termites will find the hives.
Wood should not be used to make the stands as this does not eliminate the risk of termites feeding on the stands and then the beehive. Instead, concrete blocks and metal or plastic materials should be used. Use guard stands coated with a product such as Tanglefoot or petroleum jelly to prevent subterranean termite access, and ant infestations.
Termites threaten beekeeping as they may damage beehives and other wooden-ware in an apiary. Two main types of termites threaten beehives in North America. Subterranean termites pose the most significant threat. Measures to contain these threats include physically destroying termite mounds and using chemical and physical actions, with good results in eliminating and controlling termites that may attack hives, thus threatening bee colonies. Use these measures for success in your beekeeping operation to succeed at protecting beehives from termites.