Here in the United States, honey bees do not seem to be prey organisms. Have you ever heard of a honey bee falling victim to a ferocious type of insect predator? Not likely, and as it happens, there is a perfectly good reason to explain the lack of predators that hunt honey bee species in America. Believe it or not, but honey bee species are not native to North America; instead, honey bees hail from Asia. Since honey bees are not American natives, there does not exist any natural predators to honey bees in the region. However, honey bees in Asia also remain largely free from predatory attacks from other insects. The most threatening honey bee predators are not necessarily insects, as bears actually do go searching for honey in the wild, and they will not hesitate to kill any bees that get in their way. As far as insects are concerned, certain ant and moth species actively prey on honey bees, but there is another insect that some experts believe poses an even greater threat to honey bees–termites.
Most beehives are constructed from wood materials, and since termites are wood-infesting insects, beehives can easily become riddled with the destructive creatures. This is why termites must be officially listed as pests of beehives, along with mites, earwigs and several spider species. Of course, termites, unlike most hive pests, are not after honey, but rather it is the cellulose in the wood that attracts them to beehives. It is not uncommon for beehives that make contact with the ground to become infested with termites. When subterranean termites infest beehives from the ground, they eat the hives bottom boards until there is nothing left. This destruction causes the hive’s bottom entrance to become blocked, which makes the hives much more difficult to move.
Beekeepers are well aware of the termite threat to their hives, which is why most of them avoid placing the hives directly onto the ground. There are several termite barriers that are commercially available that prevent subterranean termites from infesting wooden beehives. In Central and South America, where termites are abundant, beekeepers use movable-frame hives in order to decrease the chances of infestation, and most hives in termite-saturated regions are coated with a steal barrier. Beekeepers on a budget have taken to building hives out of materials that termites do not like to eat, such as tires. Materials like bamboo palm leaves and trunks, as well as tires have proven effective at repelling termite attacks. Some beekeepers prefer to suspend their hives from trees by using high strength wires. However, this method is only recommended in regions where arboreal termite species are not endemic.
Do you think that termites pose a threat to beekeepers in every region where bees are raised?