May 28, 2016

Skunks Again

The other night about 2 a.m. Dan and I were awakened by the strong smell of a skunk. Dan went out to check but didn't see it. My concern is for my lone, remaining beehive.

Daylily Hive with skunk guard

Apparently skunks think honeybees are quite a delicacy. Skunks are nocturnal and so work at night, but are still able to bother a hive by scratching at the entrance. Guard bees come out to investigate and the skunk finishes them off. It's a problem that can decimate a colony and even drive them off to find new quarters.

A popular skunk deterrent is a "bed of nails" placed in front of the hive. Nails can be driven through a thin piece of plywood or carpet scrap and placed with nail points upward so that a skunk would have to walk on them to get to the hive entrance. I didn't want to do that because of our cats, but I liked the fence idea given to me by fellow beek RonC. Apparently striped skunks (the kind we have here) aren't climbers and won't attempt to get over the fence.

It took a ten-foot length of welded wire to completely circle the concrete base on which the hive sits (repurposed brick pillar tops saved from our front porch demolition). I cut the four-foot wide fencing down a bit so I can still remove the top of the hive. It's held together in a circle by carabiners.

So far so good. Let's just hope it stays that way.

Skunks Again © May 2016 by Leigh


27 comments:

  1. Good idea Leigh. We don't have any creatures that threaten our hives here in Derbyshire, but I have had to fence hives at our last site because of them being knocked by livestock.
    Good luck with this hive
    Gill

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    1. Livestock would be a problem; I could see my goats trying to jump up on top! Some people have a hard time with bears, which I hope we never have..

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  2. Your beehive is so cute! Sorry those stinkers are causing problems. We have skunks around our area, but so far we've not been bothered by them. But then again, I don't have a food source for them either. Good luck!

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    1. Besides the bees, the biggest bother is the smell. We used to have one pass through almost every night, which always woke us up because it was gaggingly strong. I put up the guards when I set up the hives. So far this one hasn't been around as much; hopefully because it can't get to the bees!

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  3. Drat and blast! All of our efforts, all over the country, at keeping bees (and sustaining their very survival) seems to be a difficult challenge in one way or another. Ours is the short season and bears. You have the skunks which no one really wants around the bees or the honey! If it ain't one thing, it's another!

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    1. That's really the way of it, isn't it Mama Pea?

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  4. OH boy- never good when skunks start sniffing around! Or porcupines - they both scare me with my dogs, yikes!

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    1. One thing we don't have is porcupines! I'm thankful for that. The cats steer clear of the skunks, but I don't know that a dog would.

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  5. Leigh - i didn't know that skunks went after bees! a funny thing - here are on our island there are no skunks! but back in the city my cat was outside playing with another "cat" (i am blind as a bat without my glasses!). my cat was not the least perturbed by this other cat...so there i was kneeling down saying "here kitty-kitty!". yep - i got sprayed. it was awful and we'll just leave it at that.

    sending love! your friend,
    kymber

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    1. Oh Kymber! How horrible. I'm blind as a bat without my glasses as well, which is why I always wear them! I hope the effects didn't last too long.

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  6. Wow, I never thought about that, I wonder if that's what tipped over our empty hive last year (which knocked over our remaining hive, but thankfully they made it). Hmm, I will have to do some checking. Wishing your bees well, you are doing good!

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    1. Good question. I don't know if they could knock over a hive or not. So far so good with Daylily. Very busy bees there!

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  7. Although we have skunks, I don't recall any of them disturbing hives. Perhaps it was just luck or we didn't have the population density that you have. I like the fence idea over the bed of nails idea too. I could just see myself forgetting about the bed of nails now covered in weeds as I worked the hive.

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    1. No complaints about them not disturbing the hives,eh! I was really happy for the fence idea because I didn't relish the nail bed either. Still, folks say it works, and protecting our bees is the main thing.

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  8. I've already dispatched two skunks that I caught in my Havaheart that I keep in front of my beehives. I don't even bother baiting the hive. They just bumble into it when they are trying to get at the bees. One skunk is going to push up green beans this year and the other is buried under tomato plants that I planted today. I've been catching 6 a year for the past two years and this year is looking like I will match that pace yet again.

    When the honey flow is underway, I can smell the evaporating nectar within 10 feet of the hive in the evenings. I imagine a skunk's nose works much better. A beehive making honey is going to pull in skunks from a long ways off.

    RonC

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    1. I was thinking the same thing about the skunks' sense of smell the other day. I could smell the hive when I walked from the garden to the house. The path passes near the hive which is about 25-30 feet away. Even with the guard, I still worry about them!

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  9. I didn't know skunks went after bees. We had a skunk last year, he sprayed around my chicken coop. We then fenced the back yard. I haven't sen or smelled him in a couple months...

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    1. The other day Dan and I were wondering about the range of skunks. The only place in our yard that isn't fenced is the driveway. I suppose the reason we always smell them is because they pass right by the house when the come up the driveway. They never seem to spray anything, fortunately because the smell never lingers. My stepmom told me some skunks are "dribblers" which is why the smell is only temporary sometimes.

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  10. when we lived in Texas, our home had a shared fence with the maintenance area and behind that was open field. Every summer when it would get really hot the smell of skunk was terrible...it seemed the skunks were letting off their scent in protest or something. I guess the good thing is that it was also too hot to have the windows open...we ran the AC. Glad to hear that the fence is keeping the skunks out.

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  11. Sure glad the skunks haven't gotten your bee hive yet and hope they don't! Nancy

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  12. I'm glad you didn't kill them. I always feel like wild animals have to live too. In the immortal words of that great savant and learned man, Rodney King, "can't we all just get along?" ;-)

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    1. We hate to kill wildlife. But what do you do when they are killing your pets or livestock? I know a lot of people prefer relocation, but I don't think that's a very kind solution either, not to mention they become someone else's problem. I guess what I'm saying is, there is not good solution to such a problem. :(

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  13. The bed of nails doesn't have to be on the ground in front of the hive. Mine is just a 3/4" x 3/4" strip of wood screwed to the front of the landing strip with nails pointing upward. It wouldn't be a hazard to cats unless they're scratching at the front of the hive, too. But then again, my hives are not nearly as aesthetically pleasing as yours, so I understand if you're trying to keep the property values up. ;-)

    Looks like the wire fence would do the trick, too, as far as keeping skunks out.

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    1. Property value, LOL. I don't think the wire is very aesthetic either, but it was easy to do with some scraps of fencing. But I can see how attaching it to the bee's landing strip would be effective too, not to mention safer! Anything to deter the varmints.

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