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There’s a whole pile of other brood disorders and diseases that may hold a colony back, stop it from thriving, or end up killing it during either the coldest or hottest months of the year. With many of them there is a genetic or environmental link and providing a new queen or moving the bees to a more bee-friendly (drier) location will often sort things out. Beekeepers can reduce the risk of transmission between their own colonies by keeping their equipment and clothing clean and generally maintaining a high level of apiary hygiene.

There are mites that live on brood combs and on, and in, bees. There are viruses that can damage a larva’s developing wings and so prevent adult bees from being able to fly. Some fungi will give honey bees diarrhoea-type symptoms, others invade and destroy developing larvae.

The two species of wax moth can invade a weak colony and chew through the comb, but their real role in nature is to clear old comb from a vacated nesting site. These moths can, given the chance, eat organic material in a human’s house or shed.

Wasps love the honey the bees have made and will make every effort to get into the hive to get hold of some.

It isn’t just little things that hurt and annoy our bees because deer can scratch an itch on a hive and knock it over, and some badgers will upend hives whilst hunting for larvae to eat. Mice, voles, rats, and shrews will go into hives during the colder months, or enter boxes of empty stored frames and destroy them.

Green Woodpeckers will drill holes in the side of any hive to reach larvae during the coldest winter days, and wasps will attack a weak colony in late summer or early autumn and eat both larvae and honey. Robins, blue tits, great tits, and other insect-eating birds will thrive if they next near a colony of bees because they catch them on the wing; swallows, martins, and swifts will do the same given the opportunity.

Downloadable leaflets about everything mentioned in this can be found on the NBU’s Advisory Leaflets, Training Manuals & Fact Sheets page. Check out the link on our ‘Links’ page.