How to get rid of ants in a honey bee hive

Damn ants took advantage of my two weak nuc (nucleus) hives and crawled up and infested the place.  They were there to steal the 1:1 sugar:water syrup that I had left to feed weak bees, as it was going to be a rainy week.  The nucs were made with bees from one of my stronger hives (James) and super-fancy queens that were bred by Michael Palmer in Vermont.  Acquired the Queens at a Nuc Workshop run by the Cumberland County Beekeepers Association‘s own Erin Forbes and Larry Peiffer.  A very helpful class that I would highly recommend (I think they are going to do it again next year).

Ants in a honey bee hive (nuc)
Ants in a honey bee hive (nuc)

Anyway, back to getting rid of the ants.    Ground cinnamon sprinkled around the base of the hive and inside the top of the hive are a well know way of keeping the ants at bay – but I learned a super-nifty trick from Erin –  I propped the entire nucs up on cinnamon sticks, too (see the red circles in the photo).  That way any ant that wants to steal from my bees will have to physically traverse the cinnamon (which apparently they abhor).  Take that, ants!

I propped the nucs up on cinnamon stick to fend off the ants
I propped the nucs up on cinnamon sticks to fend off the ants

26 thoughts on “How to get rid of ants in a honey bee hive”

  1. thanks /i have a new hive and the carpenter ants took it over in 2 hrs or less. thanks i will go get some of your idea ,,,,,,thanks

  2. I had a similar problem here in California. As soon as I put sugar syrup in the hive so they could overwinter the small black ants appeared in numbers. Some other google searches suggested vaseline lines, which does work, but you have to keep it fresh as the ants have a habit of sacrificing a few soldiers and walking over their bodies. Eventually I ordered boric acid online, mixed it with sugar water and placed it in a can with some black mosquito mesh over it to stop the bees from getting in. I placed these ant traps near the hives. The commercial traps that you buy didn’t seem to work at all. Anyway the home made traps really worked well, the ants were diverted to boric acid traps and left the hives alone, and then eventually they died off from feeding the boric acid to their young.

  3. I was wondering about mixing boric acid with sugar. A 10% solution like I use in the house. We have a top that has a foil baking dish in it. Metal mesh that the bees can’t get through. Yet the ants can. It looks like a swimming pool with a screened top. The bees can’t get in and drown. Some of the ants do. I was wanting to put the boric acid mix outside the screened area so the ants can get it.

    My girl friend is afraid that some how the bees will get into it.

  4. I’ve had good luck with following the line of ants back to the nest site. Mine have all been in the ground close to the beehive. Then I get two kettles full of boiling water and pour it onto the ants’ nest. Might need to repeat a few times to get them all, but this works really well and doesn’t risk poisoning your bees.

  5. I found ants in the top of my polystyrene hive. They actually made tunnels in the polystyrene. I wonder if borax, sugar and water are the same as boric acid. Is Borax (laundry booster) the same as boric acid?

  6. I also wonder sprinkling boric acid around the perimeter of the hive on the ground would deter ants and if it in any way is harmful to honeybees.

    Another thought: Would planting Thyme around hives (lots of blossoms!) would repel mites?

  7. We are beginners. Last year was our first attempt at bee keeping, and we also had ant problems (as well as terrible drought) We’ve tried putting the boxes on a table which was inside a baby pool filled with water. Helped quite a bit. Anyone else tried this, or have warnings against it? Thanks in advance! Happy keeping.

  8. first time with bees. got hive three mouths ago.for the first time I pulled the lide off the top to look at things. I Found black ants on the lid with holes through out the lid what to do.I killed alot of them but alot left.

  9. i have tried cinnamon, salt, water and still have ants in my beehive, it helps for a few days but then the ants are back, they are driving my hive crazy, any more hints that might help?

  10. @matt Those are all good.

    You can try borax, too. – Mix equal parts Borax(o) and sugar. Hide it from the bees under a board or other object near the hive. The ants will carry it home to their nest and it will kill the rest of the colony.

    Ultimately, get the hive strong and they will kick out the ants.

  11. I’ve just put my ant infested hive up on blocks in a cow tank filled with about 2″ of water. I’m hoping this will work!

  12. I’ve been keeping bees in France for some years now, taking my advice from the local paysants who advise, for ants, 1) rest the hives on metal cross bars–tubular or triangular–instead of the usual 4x4s, and grease them with Vaseline till the hives are strong.
    2) If the ants are already inside the hive and raiding the honey supplies, one fellow says to sprinkle sulfur powder down between the top bars in the area. The bees don’t much like this but apparently they will shake off the powder and carry on, while the ants will move out. Also protects against moths. But I haven’t tried it because, though the sulfur powder is used in organic gardening as a deterrent and remedy for various pests and fungii, it doesn’t seem like a bee-friendly practice. Obviously, don’t do this while your honey supers are on the hives!

    Can anybody say how bees feel about cinnamon? Can it be sprinkled in the hive?

  13. Use of diatomaceous earth. I buy the food grade type at my local feed store.
    How It Works:
    Diatomaceous earth (DE) is an abrasive, extremely absorbent powder that dissolves the waxy covering protecting ants’ exoskeletons. When that covering dissolves, the insect loses water and eventually dies from dehydration. DE works on any insect that depends on this waxy covering, including cockroaches, sowbugs and bedbugs.
    Diatomaceous earth should be applied with a bulb-duster while wearing a NIOSH-approved respiratory dust mask, gloves, and goggles, according to the University of Arizona’s Cooperative Extension. Nontoxic ant repellents and killers can be applied in ant trails, in ant hills and at entry points to the house.

  14. With regards to diatomaceous earth: It also kills BEES!!
    Be very careful if you choose to use it for ants.

  15. can I try ant stakes, and the liquid in the little houses? Will the ants crawl through, and take them to the hives? Will this hurt the bees?

  16. I would not do that.

    Poison around the hive seems like you would be asking for trouble.

  17. My hive is placed on a frame built of 1 1/2 metal tubing. I placed the feet of the frame in 3″pvc caps and put a little used motor oil inside (just enough to cover the bottom). The number of ants has decreased dramatically, and the bees show no interest in the caps (I have found no bees in the oil). …so new ants are no longer a problem, but there may be a colony surviving inside the hive, as I still find the occasional ant crawling around.

  18. my hives are on a 4×4 wood frame placed inside 5 gal buckets which are buried about half in the ground. I then poured about an inch of used motor oil in the bottom of the buckets..NO ANTS. Every so often I have to remove an occasional leaf…… if not ants can use it for a boat.

  19. Hi I’m Mr.EH Lim from Penang Malaysia, recently started my new hobby on honey bee keeping and plants grafting/air layering. The bee keeping activities started two months ago making the beekeeping box and transferring the wild bees & beewax from the nearby tree into the box. Lately I found small tiny red ants going in and out of the bee box I thought is okay but is not okay as this morning I found the whole swamp of bee relocated to the nearby branches. That make me curious, and I open the bee box and found lots of ants attacking the beewax stealing honey beewax pieces by pieces to their nest.Too bad found lots of dead bees inside the box need some advice how to prevent these tiny thieves from going in to the bee box. I brought down the whole bee box to wash and clean it.

  20. When trying to build a cinnamon border to keep out ants, some cinnamon got in the sugar water. Will this hurt the bees?

  21. What about clove oil mixed with glycerin and vaseline or something thick and gooey that won’t hurt bees?

  22. I have heard of a formula that had four items in the recipe. the ones I remember are boric acid mixed with powdered sugar, diatimacious earth and a fourth ingredient that I hope someone out there can fill in.

  23. Had mixed results with cinnamon and ants…lost four hives but eventually the ants died (they had almost filled one of the dead hive boxes) not sure if the ants died from the cinnamon or the winter cold. will try the bucket and oil trick…sounds like a winner.

  24. I had a carpenter ant colony move into the copper top unit of my garden hive. They chewed a pencil sized hole from the outside then chewed 2 more pencil sized holes in to the inside. There were a LOT of ants living in there raiding the bees with impunity. I tried to bang the unit on the ground to get them all to come out. I more I banged it, the more came out. After an hour I couldn’t do it anymore. I put the entire roof unit in a black garbage bag, sealed it up, put it in the sun, and came back 4 hours late. There were hundreds of dead ants and eggs in the garbage bag. They were all dead. Slow cooked them. Some were still inside of the cavity inside the top but I am sure they are dead. I then plugged the holes with cinnamon stick to keep them from returning.

  25. Old hub caps work well to place under legs with any type of oil covering the bottom to deter ants. Cinnamon is the only thing I have tried but does not seem to bother the ants. I take a brush with me everyday and brush off any ants I see.

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