By Pollinator Farms Kenya (On Facebook)
In December 2022, we cleaned some of our hives that had been abandoned by bees.
This involves a forensic investigation to discover why the bees absconded. Absconding causes big losses and it is every bee keeper’s wish to prevent it. In our case, we lost nearly 20 kilos of honey.
When we opened the hives, we found spiders inside. Initially, we thought the spiders had moved in after the bees had left because of some other reason.
We were wrong. It was the spiders that forced the bees to abscond. How did we know?
We kept the clean hives in the store in the background. Before we stopped growing commercial maize, this was our maize store but we turned it into a hive store.
On returning to the farm in February, we found that three of the hives in the store had been colonised. But we observed something else that disturbed us.
Scores of bees were trapped in spider webs in between the wood used to construct the store. These are also the spaces used by the bees.
The spiders, the apex insect predators in Soy, would feast on the bees and wait for more to be trapped.
If this happens over a long period of time, the bees in the hives would be so weakened that they cannot defend themselves.
They therefore opt to abscond rather than wait to be completely annihilated by the spiders.
When we checked the hives in the forest, the spiders had webs around some of them. As the bees become weaker, they even form the webs at the entrance of the hives.
How do you tackle this problem? Two ways. First by regular inspection of the apiary to physically remove any spider webs. If you can kill the bad insects during the inspection the better. Also, ensure that the space around the apiary does not have vegetative matter in which the spiders may hide.
Research also shows that white vinegar can kill spiders but it will also kill bees so avoid it.
Secondly, if your hive is the Langstroth type, ensure that the bees have formed combs on all bars in the brooder box before installing the super box.
This means the bees are ready to move upstairs into the super box. If you install before they are ready, spiders will move in and spin webs on the queen excluder wire and start picking off the bees as they try to move upstairs.
We have noticed that the spider problem is unique to Soy in Uasin Gishu. It is not in Webuye and Kapchai (Bungoma) and Olooserian (Kajiado) where we also have apiaries.