As I read the many threads about how colonies are dwindling, and what many assume to be the major causes, I wonder how many are still running their hives with entrances that are virtually, "on the ground", or almost at ground level. And, who, perhaps have never gone out, around midnight in mid-Summer, with a red light, to check and see if any nocturnal insectivores were voraciously devouring their bees.
The old saying, "out of sight, out of mind", comes into my mind. But I think to myself, not out of my sight, any more. About a decade ago, I was still running most of my colonies with traditional bottom board entrances, and using concrete blocks to elevate my hives from the sandy desert ground. That places the entrances about eight inches from the ground. Then, one night I began using a red LED headlight to avoid the oppressive daytime hot sun, to do quick inspections, at night.
That's when I noticed that each of my colonies had at least one, very large, Colorado River Toad, sitting in front of their entrances, eating bees as quick as they would appear at their entrances, some had several. I was shocked, and thought, what if I had never inspected my hives, at night, with a red light? Because when I used a normal white light, the toads would quickly scatter and few were actually seen.
Since then I have reconfigured all of my hives for top/upper entrances, and regularly make nightly patrols for toads, especially through mid-Summer, their favorite time of year.
I now collect many hundreds of toads, each year, from around my hives, during night patrols. Their were literally, thousands the first few years.
I find it difficult to imagine that here in the desert, there would be more amphibian insectivores, than in moister climates. Yet, I don't remember ever reading of this problem occurring in anyone else's bee yard. Not even in the popular literature. Can it really be that if we can't see it, we don't believe it exists? I often read statements by new keepers, which seem to imply that they think they don't have Varroa destructor, since they can't easily see them.
Wouldn't it be curious if nocturnal insectivores were partially or mostly responsible for CCD? Rather than something mysterious and difficult to identify.
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I want to take this opportunity to issue a challenge:
Next season, 2014. For beekeepers to get a red light, and add some late night patrols to their schedule (starting in late Spring). See if they can identify any nocturnal insectivores, eating bees from their colonies. Then report it on the Beesource forum.