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Our bees are all gone. We left Ohio with 3 hives; 1 overstuffed 10 frame and 2 - 8 frame hives. By the time we got to Maine the 10 frame had suffocated; it was a terrible mess. The smaller hives seemed to have made it just fine and were set on concrete blocks. We were worried about bears but our fears were misdirected. We were busy house hunting during the day and skunks were returning every night to dine on our bees as though we were providing them as a courtesy. We figured it out too late. It is never fun to lose bees but at least we'll be starting fresh with local bees in the spring.
 

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Total bummer. The question is, have you learned from it?

By the way, skunks are territorial. It was probably only one. Probably now a fat one.
 

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I really haven’t learned anything new except that I need to remember what I know. This was all completely my fault. And yes it was one big skunk. My son said he saw the biggest skunk he had ever seen and my Dad told me the bees were not very active. When the light came on it was too late.
 

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How does a skunk get the bees out of the hive to eat them at night? Just hoping to avoid Dave's troubles as I go into my first year of beeing kept, just a little ways down the road from him
 

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They scratch on the front of the hive and snag the guard bees that come out.

Best defense is to raise the hive on a stand of some sort at least a foot -- this forces the skunk to rear up and expose it's defenseless belly to the bees, who will rapidly sting the you-know-what out of it. Skunk, being fairly smart for a small brained critter, will find easier snacks.

The clues that you are having skunk problems are scratch marks on the front of the hive by the entrance, chewed bees on the ground in front of the hive (the skunks wipe the stinger off the bee and suck out the honey, then spit the bee out), and scratched up turf in front of the hive. Skunks eat grubs, and tend to dig anywhere they hang around.

I have skunks, for sure (three dead ones on the road within a quarter mile of the house last week), but my hive is on a metal stand about 16" tall. No evidence of skunkification yet. No mice, no ants, they don't like that slick painted tubing.

Peter
 

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Thank you Peter, I was planning on setting up the hives off the ground anyway so that is good to know it will help. I didn't realize the bees would come out of the hive at night like that.

I know I have skunks, in the summer we can smell them when the windows are open at night, and just a few weeks back I got stuck in the driveway waiting to get into the house for a skunk that was taking it's time walking away from between my car and the house door.
 

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How does a skunk get the bees out of the hive to eat them at night? Just hoping to avoid Dave's troubles as I go into my first year of beeing kept, just a little ways down the road from him
Though I have never actually observed one in action my understanding is that they swipe their tail in the entrance and then eat the bees off of it. If that is the case even a foot off of the ground might be enough to greatly reduce their efficiency.
 

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This is exactly what I love about forums. You put out the problem and all sorts of questions arise. Peter is exactly right. However remember that the first sign is the smell and the second is the digging on the lawn. You may also get lucky and spot mud on the landing board but the scratches on my hive were in fact quite faint. I could see them just fine with my glasses on and on one knee but standing the hives and immediate area looked normal. The hives were 2 cinder blocks high or 16 inches and the skunk still have a feast. I was under the impression that the 16 inches was enough in most cases, and it is; but a particularly crafty skunk that is large enough will do its thing. There are several remedies for the problem and of the ones I know of only 2 work for me. Raise the hive or add chicken wire in front of the hive to deter the skunk. Some folks like to put down the tack strips the hold the edges of carpet right in front of the hive. This is still a little mean to me to punish the skunk for being a skunk. Now I’m not suggesting anything new here but a trigger or a very strong spring will work for folks that think we are the only important organisms on earth. Lastly you could live trap the skunk and take for a ride to an all new location (doable) but may be against the law. In some states you can kill the skunk but you can’t relocate a live one… My biggest problem was inattention, as I could have deployed the chicken wire to keep the skunk off the hive.
 

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Just for fun, here is a PBS video about skunks showing a skunk at a bee hive. It might be somewhat "staged" [pet skunk ?] because the segment at the beehive is during the daytime.

The pertinent segment is between 15:05 and 15:50 minutes. You can start the video and fast forward to the correct time, which has worked well for me. > http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/is-that-skunk/video-full-episode/4581/

Bee a little patient and the video should start. The start arrow/button shows up.
 

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I heard somewhere if you break an egg in half and put an aspirin in the egg it will end your problem with that skunk. Never tried, but its probably on the web somewhere...
 

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... I have skunks... (three dead ones on the road within a quarter mile of the house last week), but my hive is on a metal stand about 16" tall...
Same here.

It's a good time of year to judge your skunk population because between now and mid February skunks will be rutting. Skunks are distracted and travel a lot while looking for a mate. Thus like small children skunks often forget to look both directions when crossing the street. If you don't know what a road kill skunk looks like just roll your car window down and drive slowely while breathing through your nose.

Since skunks are territorial you are only cascading more skunks into your apiary by relocating skunks. You may even be starting a skunk chain reaction as one skunk displaces another and that skunk in turn displaces two or three more. It's like breaking a rack of billiard balls, you're sending newly homeless skunks fleeing in all directions. If you thin the skunk population however the remaining skunks have more resources available to them and that means they MAY leave your bees in peace. At the very least you wife will not force you to eat and sleep in the garage because of interactions with live skunks.
 

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I heard somewhere if you break an egg in half and put an aspirin in the egg it will end your problem with that skunk. Never tried, but its probably on the web somewhere...
But I'm the one with the headache; the skunk is happy as a clam! Perhaps I should have the egg/asprin treatment.
 

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You will never be rid of the problem forever. There are always more skunks.

I moved to closing bottom entrances during critical skunk times and using upper entrances.
 

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Note that the stand must be open, not a pile of cinderblocks or otherwise solid, to deter skunks. That soft underbelly has to be exposed, if the skunk can stand close to the cinderblocks it won't get stung!

Skunks are quite inquisitive, and will quickly learn to open cabinets, overturn things, etc to get goodies, as anyone who has had one as a pet can tell you. They can be very destructive, their claws are strong and sharp. As in removing the linoleum in a kitchen, for instance. Not a problem at all for them to standup on their hind legs to get at something.

Peter
 
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