Beware of woodpeckers!

woodpecker damage on poly hive
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Woodpeckers (for some reason its only the Green Woodpeckers) can sometimes attack beehives to eat the bees and honeycomb.  They somehow find the thinnest part of the hive to go for and break through either a wooden or polystyrene hive in seconds to eat the bees and honeycomb.  This usually leaves a big hole in the side of the hive that  leads to the death of the colony either directly by the woodpecker eating large number of  bees or indirectly through cold as the hole left behind is simply too big for the bees to block up.

Where we are in Hampshire, it seems that only certain families of Green Woodpeckers in some areas learn to attack hives whilst most just leave them alone. They usually seem to attack late in the winter when all other food supplies have been used up, but this year we have already received reports of a members hives being attacked locally in Mattingley and so now is the time to protect your hives.

Protecting hives from Woodpeckers.

Woodpecker proof!
Woodpecker proof!

The process we use in the Fleet Beekeeping training apiary is to use either chicken wire or plastic fencing mesh around the sides of the hive to prevent the Green Woodpeckers getting access to the hives with their sharp beaks.

It’s important that the mesh is loose and kept away from the sides of the hive so that the woodpecker can’t reach it and its also vital to keep the mesh off the ground otherwise it acts as a climbing frame for mice and others wanting to get into the hive. The two ends of the mesh are secured with short lengths of gardening wire or twine and the two bamboo poles are inserted through the mesh and rest on the roof so that they hold the mesh at the correct height.  Inspecting the hive or treating for Varroa with Oxalic acid is easily done by slipping out the poles and letting the mesh drop so you can get to the roof of the hive to remove it.

These will stay in place until next spring when the risk of woodpecker attack is over and the plastic mesh can be rolled up and stored away for another year.

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