Skunks are bee eaters. I read somewhere they will scratch at the entrance and when a guard bee comes out to see what's going on, he gets eaten! Apparently putting the hives on stands helps as does an entrance reducer. If you see scratch marks at the front of the hive, you might have a skunk interloper.
Coons will do the same I lost 10+ hives last spring to the varmets.If you will put a strip of carpet tac strip aon the landing board they wont scratch but a couple of times. I knew this last year but as they say if you snooz you loose
Scratches on the front of the hive. Skunks scratch until the bee flys out and catches them in it's mouth.
Little piles of dead bees. The skunks suck the juice out of a bunch of them and then spit them out.
Solutions to skunks eating bees:
Put the hives up higher. (as mentioned)
Put on a screened entrance. Brushy Mt sells them to close up a hive. You would need to then cut a slot exiting the top. Snelgrove describes a similar setup as a "robber screen". I agree reducing the entrance won't help but the screen door means the bees fly up when they fly out and it's higher than the skunk expects too. The skunk needs the bee to fly straight out to catch it.
Put something in front of the hive that the skunks don't like. Chicken wire in a little roll, a carpet tack strip etc. They like to step on something solid and they are suspicious of wiry things with give and of course no one likes to step on tacks.
Shoot the skunk. This is my favorite but sometimes the hardest to do. You can try a live trap with some chicken livers or anything else you think the skunks might like. Skunks like eggs. I haven't tried them for bait, but they eat a lot of mine. They also like taking a bite out of a chicken. I don't care for leg hold traps for this situation because, if a catch one of my chickens or my dog in the live trap, it's not a big loss. But it's difficult to get them out of a leg hold trap.
Probably skunks aren't a problem when the bees aren't flying. If the bees are clustered and won't fly out to defend it, then the skunks methods of getting bees fail.
I trapped a lot of them and the trap itself usually makes them spray. Leg hold traps that is. A Havaheart might not and if you cover it you could possibly move it with out triggering a spray. If you take this advice and put one in your car... let me know how you make out! I was told that a brain shot would keep them from spraying in death but I can't remember ever doing it. Someone said that the higher hives require the animal to open it's vulnerable belly to the stings. I think it was Clinton Bemrose who told me that if you staple a 3-4 inch extension, made of screen, to your bottom board ... the animals don't like to lean on it. I think this is elegant.
Skunks are nocturnal and would be out and about when the bees aren't flying. I wouldn't think the bees would come out at night.
We have shot 2 already this year and both have gone off when shot. definetly some strong smelling stuff.
Yes, skunks are nocturnal. Try scratching on the entrance to a hive at night and see what happens. That's what the skunks do. They scratch until the guard bee flies out. That's the reason for the scratch marks on the front of the hive.
Skunks can decimate even large commercial yards here. Water is the limiting resource for both bees and skunks. They end up being concentrated in the same small irrigated agricultural areas around alfalfa fields. The bees can provide a major food source for the skunks and the mother will teach her kittens how to work the hives.
The skunks will dig and scratch the ground in front of a hive. They squish globs of bees and eat them. They will work a couple of hives in the yard until the hive population is reduced. Then they will move to other hives where the feasting is better.
After a yard has been worked for awhile, the bees become very cross. A stale smell(urine?) will permeate the grass in the yard. And skunk feces composed mostly of bee parts can be found around the hives.
Once a skunk gets used to feeding on bees it's very hard to deter them with tacks,etc.
And if the yard is located in an area where trapping or shooting can't be done, then an aspiregg will work. Chip a small hole in the end of an egg and insert a couple of aspirin. Bury the egg directly in front of a hive that is being worked by the skunk.
No more skunk problem. The bees will keep other animals away from the egg.
Sharing a darker side of beekeeping
[This message has been edited by BWrangler (edited December 07, 2003).]
We have a lot of skunks in this area. I had 15 hives at a large alfalfa seed farm two years ago and the skunks pretty well destroyed about eight. I tried leg traps and live traps, caught about a dozen but these were midsized ones that had been born that spring. I didn't catch any adult skunks. I was speaking to a local beekeeper about the problem and he said to take a pop can, cut off the bottom one third, make a mixture of 50% milk and 50% antifreeze, bury it to ground level and it should take care of the skunks. You should place it where your pets would not get into it. My dogs won't go near the hives and we don't let the bobcat out without being on a leash so no problem here. I did learn one thing the hard way (never never shoot a skunk at 2:AM in the middle of the sunner by your bedroom window).
When I was younger, I would catch skunks in a small Havahart, then pick the trap up with a pitchfork, carry it to the creek across the road and drop it in. I never got sprayed, but everybody knew what I was up to until I changed and showered. This only worked with the 7"x7" trap, I tried it once with the raccoon size trap and got nailed. Now, I think I'll give the Aspiregg a try.
I've always been afraid of poison (including antifreeze) because of the dog and the chickens and the horses. I didn't know that asprin was poisones to skunks. But, if it is, the aspireeg sound like it would work. Eggs seem to work for bait (I have a friend who uses them) in a skunk trap also.
I think part of when they spray etc. seems to do with the space around them. Some of the ones I've shot were in the chicken house in a corner behind the nest box. They don't seem to spray when they are in a confined area. As I understand they hate the smell just as much as the rest of us.
[This message has been edited by Michael Bush (edited December 08, 2003).]
>>Chip a small hole in the end of an egg and insert a couple of aspirin. Bury the egg directly in front of a hive that is being worked by the skunk.
No more skunk problem. The bees will keep other animals away from the egg.
Very interesting. I will keep this in mind. A while back they use to lace eggs with cionide, very deadly, but worked wonders, even on neighbours dogs.
>>I was speaking to a local beekeeper about the problem and he said to take a pop can, cut off the bottom one third, make a mixture of 50% milk and 50% antifreeze, bury it to ground level and it should take care of the skunks.
I would think that bees would also be attracted to antifreeze. Antifreeze is very deadly to cats, dogs, etc., I wonder what it will do to bees. Whatever, I wouldn't want it in the honey.
I was deer huntin' the other day and could have shot a fox that walked right up to me. But I thought, why kill something that you're not going to eat? I say, just put your hives up on pallets (which are free from just about anywhere) and let the poor skunks do their thing...
We've got lots of skunks here but I've never had a problem with one because all my 60 hives are on pallets. (I guess the skunks tummy is unprotected as it reaches up to the entrance... so it won't).
Someone mentioned that raccoons can be destructive to a hive. Be aware that possums can be too! I've had the skunk problem. Ended up shooting it really early in the AM at daybreak. They really do make the hive angry.