I have been waging a war in one particular apiary where I keep about 50 -100 nucs at different times of the year. ...and I have a HUGE ant problem.
I didn't always have this ant problem. 5 years ago, there were fire ants on the property, but honestly, I never had a problem with fire ants. They were more of a nuisance that I could get rid of if I had to. But over the last 5 years the familiar fire ant mounds have all disappeared. Now, my land is absolutely infested with what I believe are Argentine Ants. I haven't had it identified for sure, but that's what I believe they are. They don't make mounds, or at least not big ones, every so often you'll find a tiny little ant mound that they've made. But the ants are everywhere. I can walk out to any square yard of the 10 acres this particular apiary is on, look down, and find ants crawling everywhere.
I've used very basic hive stands, which are composed of cinder blocks, and 4"x4"x8''s. It's works, is mobile and cheap.
This was the first year that I believe, I've lost nucs to these ants. They relentlessly harass the hives, weak and strong alike. But keep in mind I'm talking 5 frame nucs, so, not a full strength hive. Often I'll be making splits, so I'll have even weaker nucs. The ants will form long columns into the hive, and since these are tiny ants they'll find a way through the tiniest crack.
Here's what I've tried:
Diatomaceous earth, I brought in a few hundred pounds of the stuff and covered the ground with it. If it worked at all, it was short lived. I've watched the ants crawl right over it, and after it rained once, it's no different than clay.
Essential oils: LOL no effect. Someone suggested cinnamon, but I'm talking a large yard, if it loses it's effectiveness after a rain, I can't afford the time and money to keep that kind of attack up.
High temp axle grease. I smeared this muck in an unbroken circle around the cinder blocks. It was a long and laborious process. And it made a nasty mess. But it seemed to work for a few days. While visiting the yard I noticed the ants crossing the stuff. When it was fresh they made a bridge across the grease barrier with their fallen brethren. A dead ant bridge, if you will. The grease became caked with the dead ants. But then after a week or so, I noticed the ants didn't even need the dead ant bridge to cross the grease. They were walking right over it the grease itself It appears to have degraded, or formed a layer (dry membrane?) they could cross. ....what an ineffective mess the grease has made. But I didn't give up on it. I looked at some of the hive stand designs that use an upside down bell to contain the grease, and devised a similar strategy that might work on my cinder block stands.
I found some aluminum foil pans that where about 1" deep, and overhung the cinder blocks about 1" on all sides. I turned the pans upside down on the top cinder block, and caked it full of the high temp grease. Thinking that perhaps this would shelter it from rain and sun, and might make it more of a barrier to the ants. .....again, it seemed to work for a few days but after a week or so, the ants where moving right over these barriers.
So much for mechanical grease barriers.
The next thing I tried was bait traps. I googled around and found different recipes for making ant traps using 20 Mule Borax. I bought a case of these little pint sized sealable tubs from a restaurant supply company. I drilled ant sized holes around the top, so the ants could get in while keeping the bees out. I made up several hundred of these traps, and placed them in the hollows of the cinder blocks.
Eureka! ...I thought.
For the few weeks the ant problem seemed to have gone away. But while checking on some splits, I noticed the ants were back. So I gathered up all the traps, washed them and put in fresh bait. Again, the ant problem seemed to decrease. But today, the ants seem to be building up strength again. Collumes of them going into different nucs.
I'm really pulling my hair out on this one. In all my years I've never seen anything like this. I'm going to continue using the traps because they are the most effective method I've tried so far, but I'm open to more ideas.
I'm at DEFCON 1 on this ant problem. I'd be willing to try anything.
07-15-2018, 10:42 AM
(For future seekers who may encounter this problem, I'm going to document the steps I take, the mistakes I make, and my observations.)
Know thy enemy...
These ants are really amazing creatures. There's a brilliance to them. Much like bees they are a hive mind. Instead of a concentrated single intellegence they operate like a phase array intellegence. Each little biological robot gathering a bit of data from the enviornment. Who knows, in a few million years if we're no longer around perhaps the hive mind will evolve to take our place. Honestly, the way they've moved in and dominated their enviornment (my land) is incredible. I believe they've driven out the fire ants, an invader that's been in the southeast for decades.
I don't know if they directly attacked the fire ants, or just overran their resources, but the fire ants are gone. At least from this property. I guess that should have been my "canary in the coal mine".
The speed at which they move and attack a hive is amazing. While, as I said earlier, they'll attack both weak and strong hives, they really zero in on the weak ones. And they will destroy them. While they seem to be after mostly the carbohydrates in the hive, I've seen them kill bees. Once their column builds to full strength, and I'm talking hours here, they'll swarm the hive, absolutely covering it. The guard bees are trying to defend the hive, but the ants are so small their defense seems futile. They're just burning energy. The whole hive is under a tremendous amount of stress at this point.
While I've not seen them take out brood, I have seen them carrying bits of matter away from the hive, and if larva are available they will swarm the larva. They'll also seem to swarm bees they've managed to wear down and kill. So, they will go after protien. But as a said I think the carbohydrates are their primary objective, or at least their initial draw.
Thoughts on mechanical barriers:
This is probably the best defense, but I don't think the grease will keep them out for long. They'll sacrifice themselves making a breachable barrier over the grease. I've seen it. Also the high-temp grease I'm using, as I said in my first entry, seems to form a film over the surface after a few days the ants don't even need the "dead ant bridge" to breach it They'll just walk all over it. Maybe there is another type of grease that could be used (?) But everything I've seen says to use high temp grease.
I don't know, all I know is grease did nothing for me.
Traps and bait:
I gathered up all the traps that I put out, and I'm redoing the bait. As I said the traps really seemed to work for a few weeks. But now even if with fresh bait, the ants seem to mostly ignore them. When I put in fresh bait I may have use too much borax. The ratio is very important to these particular ants, slightly too high and they'll ignore the bait. ....or at least now they'll ignore the bait. I may be reading too much into it, but on some of the traps I know I put too much borax, because it killed the ants in the tap. Which isn't what you want, you want the ants to feed on it, and take it back to their hives. But after a few weeks the ants seemed to learn (?) They ignored the traps that had previously attracted so many of their dead comrades.
When I bait these traps I'm keeping the ratio of borax to bait, 1:20. 1 part borax, 20 parts bait. I'll see if the lower dose has any effect.
....the battle continues.
07-15-2018, 11:43 AM
Qvox, don't stop writing just because no one is replying with suggestions.
Your theory about having Argentine ants that are displacing fire ants is supported here: https://news.utexas.edu/2013/05/16/i...searchers-find
I liked this quote from the article: "The whole system has changed around fire ants. Things that can't tolerate fire ants are gone. Many that can have flourished. New things have come in. Now we are going to go through and whack the fire ants and put something in its place that has a very different biology. There are going to be a lot of changes that come from that."
You remind me how things could be worse where I am.
07-15-2018, 01:11 PM
I will be watching this also, I am in Nc so not far away!
07-15-2018, 01:29 PM
Man, that sucks. I just read up on them and dread the day they arrive this far north, but it appears they will eventually. There have been some successful efforts at eradication by poisoning on an island, but you cant possibly do that unless you have just one small (millions) colony nearby. It is interesting that they are similar to bees, but with several queens per colony. If you can get them to take the bait to the colony and kill ALL of the queens, success has been had. I am sure you must have read all of this. From what I have read, various types of mechanical barriers are somewhat successful and I am sure you have researched all of that. So, just thinking out loud here, but perhaps you can devise a robber screen for ants? Put your thinking cap on and maybe you can come up with something that will help a lot of people. Maybe a "moat" built into a robber screen with a top entrance for the bees? What about just running a top entrance only with a baffle underneath with grease on the underside (sort of like an anti-squirrel device for bird feeders) Do chickens eat them? What do beekeepers in Argentina and other countries where they have been around a while do? Like I said, just thinking out loud so my ideas may be totally stupid. Keep us posted. Best of luck, J
07-20-2018, 03:26 PM
The problem seems to have abated.
There are still ants on the property, but the mass attacks on the hive seem to have stopped. The lower concentration of Borax seems to have been the trick. Doing some research that's all Terro ant bait is, a 1-2% concentration of borax and bait. Don't make the mistake I made. Don't follow some of the recipies online that call for 1:3 or 1:6 borax to bait. It's too high. If you have a lot of dead ants in the traps, your concentration is too high. You want them to take the bait back to their queens.
If you're in the southeast and don't have antproof hive stands get busy. Don't wait until what happened to me, happens to you. The simple cinder block 4x4 x8 hive stand is a highway for ants, and these new south american invaders play for keeps. They put additional stress on your hives, and our hives already have enough stressors to deal with, without adding ants to the mix.
07-20-2018, 04:54 PM
I may have won this particular battle, but I didn't win the war. I think I dented a large colony on or near my land. But these ants aren't mound ants. There is no single colony and queen to kill. There are several queens, perhaps dozens, and the mega colony is spread out. There is no central location for them.
I still have the ants on the property. But this particular branch, or sub-colony (?) that was attacking my nucs seems to be dealt with. That doesn't mean that scout workers from another branch or sub-colony couldn't find my nucs tomorrow and start the infestation all over again.
Perhaps that's what happened during my short respite when I first made the borax traps. Those weeks the traps did work, they killed the attacking sub-colony. But then another moved in and started it all over again. In any case, I think this will be an ongoing problem.
07-20-2018, 05:09 PM
I've used diatomaceous earth and boric acid in sugar syrup (same stuff that I feed my bees). I've supplemented it with "Hot shot" (is very finely ground like DE). The thing to remember, if it rains, reapply and also that it can take up to two months to kill an ant colony. Persistence pays off with DE and boric acid laced bait. Otherwise I would try to find something commercially available if you want faster results. Borax + a sugar bait work great but it takes time. I had 20 ant piles near my outyard, the bait killed 80% after 3 weeks and it took another 5 weeks to get the rest of them. I treat mostly with DE and Hot Shot when they start moving back in.
07-20-2018, 05:42 PM
I have been battling ants here with boric.I found this and using jars with holes in the lids so bees cant get to it is interesting and I am going to set up some here.Here's a link. http://nelsonants.nz/bait-recipe/
07-21-2018, 11:46 PM
I don't know if you want to go chemical, but spraying the cinder blocks with permethrin should deter the ants. It will kill any bee that touches the treated blocks, but the bees should have little reason to go there.
Beware! Yes, this really helps. And I was there to a degree...
I didn't make the 'legs'. I got some plastic leg stands off ebay (search for 'ant bee barrier') and sprayed them with neverwet.
Great I thought... fire ants weren't crossing it. Then I saw the crazy ants. I don't know what their official name is, but they're smaller than fire ants and run around like headless chickens. They ran right across the barrier. So now I do a combination: I spray the plastic stands with Neverwet, and I also put oil in them. This combination seems to be working for now for me. But I won't doubt that the ants continue to search for ways to get past it.
BTW, you can see the little plastic legs on the left of 3rd picture by RV in the other thread. I like the combination effort. Attack with borax and have multiple layers of protection from Neverwet to white grease to oil layer. Let's call it an obstacle course for ants. The only 3 colonies I've lost in the last 3 years have been because of ants.
07-30-2018, 08:21 PM
I started with little ebay things. https://www.beesource.com/forums/sho...-Made-in-U-S-A
water will splash into the mote and displace the oil, then the the water will dry up and there ya go... so I sprayed the underside with neverwet. that resolved it.
this past winter I made the ones in the tread you mentioned. there's no mote just a dry neverwet or grease barrier that work perfectly for very little money.