How to protect honey bees in the boxes from other insects?

How to protect bee's by insects and other predators

Wax Moth (greater and lesser)

This moth looks like the moth that eats grain and destroys woolen clothes. It lays eggs in the hive and the larvae looks like a worm or maggot. Both the larvae and adult feed on the combs. The greater moth’s larvae feed on the brown combs and destroy the wax. It burrows through the combs and leaves a white web or mesh in a long line in the comb. The lesser moth tends to attack processed wax so always use clean wax on starter strips! Scrape away any eggs, wax moth faces or pupa. Kill any larvae or adult wax moths. Seal any holes and cracks in the top bars and the hive body. Remove old combs during times of food scarcity when the colony size shrinks. Keep the hive clean and free from bits of comb and debris.

Control of wax moth

Wax moth can be controlled by a strong colony. Unite weak colonies with stronger ones. Smoking the hives will expel adult wax moths from hives. Avoid littering of apiaries with beeswax.

Safari and other ants

Ants go for bees, brood and honey during any season or when the hives smell of honey. It is advisable that you hang hives and grease hanging wires regularly. If hives are on stands, place the legs of the stands in tins of old engine oil. Alternatively tie rags soaked in diesel around the supports or smear the posts with a ring of grease or creosote. Clear the ground under the hive stand and spread dry ashes around the posts– the ants will not walk on the ashes. Keep the grass short and stop the branches from touching the hives. Make hive parts fit together without gaps. Also keep the hive bottom clean and be careful not to spill honey or sugar syrup when feeding.


Termites will not attack the bees themselves but will destroy your hives, hive stands and equipment. Suspend hives between trees instead of poles. Alternatively treat the posts with used engine oil and place the supports in tins of old oil. Also avoid using unburnt bricks as hive supports.

Hive beetles (large and small)

Beetles may enter through gaps and cracks but also through large entrance holes. The large black beetle feeds on brood and is most numerous during the rains. Others with distinct markings feed on small amounts of honey and pollen. The smaller hive beetles lay eggs in pollen cells, which can be turned into a stinking mess by the maggots within a few days. To prevent the beetle, use holes instead of slits for the entrance and reduce the size of the entrance holes (8-10mm). Hand pick or destroy them if found in the hive. Disinfecting the ground in apiaries will help kill the pupae. Smoking is equally very effective in the control of hive beetles.

Honey Badger

The honey badger can break into hives to eat honey and brood. Hang the hives securely 1.5 metres from the ground to prevent the badger knocking them down, tie lids on securely with wire and put heavy stones on the covers, to prevent the badger breaking them open. Alternatively use a pulley system and suspend hives over 2 meters from the ground by means of a rope.

Pirate Wasp (lion of the honeybee)

These are slender wasps, yellow-brown with black cross stripes. They will molest colonies, attack and eat worker bees. Fill any gaps and holes in the hive and make the entrance small enough for the bees to defend. Cut a bottle with a narrow mouth in half and invert the top, put some water and jam in, the wasps will enter and drown (do not bait with honey). They can also be controlled by setting a water trap by the hive entrance. 


These are fungi that grow on the inside of the hive and are caused by excess moisture. Moulds may indicate that the hive is sited in a damp place. This is a problem mainly during and shortly after the rains but is generally not a major problem. To prevent this, avoid siting hives in damp places and remove any unattended empty combs from the edges of the nest if bees fail to fan any surplus moisture out of the hive. Increase the number of entrance holes to improve hive ventilation and air passage. 

Birds, such as honey guides and bee eaters

Some birds sit on the hive and eat worker bees coming out. Others e.g wood peckers make holes in the hive while the honey guides eat bees and bee brood. Honey guides on the other hand lead other predators to the hive. Don’t leave any brood combs exposed and scare the birds away or use traps. Alternatively place your hives in a bee house. Do not use soft wood to make bee hives. Do proper hanging of the hives.

Bee Louse

This is a small light brown insect with 6 legs (3 pairs). It is seen on the backs of the bee but causes negligible damage to the colony. Smoke the hive regularly to control them.

Varroa mite

Mite Disease

This is a flat, reddish brown mite and is a relative of the spider with 8 legs (4 pairs). It is similar to the bee louse but smaller. This mite feeds on the bee’s blood, making the bee weaker and weaker. It is mainly found on the developing drone bee pupae and emerges with the adult bee. Varroa causes deformity on bees and slowly kills the colony. It is a major devastating parasite for Apis mellifera bees throughout Europe, North America and elsewhere. It should not be confused with the bee louse. This is a parasitic mite causing wide spread damage worldwide. Uganda beekeepers should be on the look out for varroa as it is an extremely serious pest. Know the difference between bee louse and varroa! Do not import bees to avoid the spread of Varroa and other pests!

Acarine mites

These live in the breathing tubes of young bees and prevent breathing.


These are smaller than varroa but also feed on the bee’s blood.


They sit by the hive entrances and eat worker bees as they move in and out. Unoccupied hives often attract squirrels, mice, dormice and lizards. The smell of their droppings will discourage swarms from occupying the hive and may even damage it. Protect unoccupied hives against pests and keep them clean and baited. Avoid having landing boards on hive entrances. Put rat guards on hive stands.

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