Over the years I have had several e-mails about a number of non-targeted species taking up residence in swarm traps. I have been really lucky, as I don’t generally have problems with this. That being said, I had something happen this year that has NEVER happened before. I started a new bee yard at a good friend’s an hour North of home. Traps were placed on a hive stand to prospect the area for existing bees. Several yards have been started this way in 2016, as I mentioned in last week’s post, 2016 Trapping Update.
Going forward I need to be more careful about moving traps around. Before being transported traps must be checked for occupation. In this case, I was moving bees after dark as per normal. When Trap01 was picked up I glanced at it, and shut the door, but had no idea thousands of stow-aways were aboard! The following day when I walked passed the truck ants were all over the bed. They were coming out of the hole through the disc closure. I believe they are ants from the genus Formica and I’m very glad I wasn’t using the car that night!
Formica ants or wood ants are typically found in wooded areas and many are known to build mounds of organic material. I didn’t’ see any aphids, but many species of Formica will tend and protect them in exchange for their secretions as a food source. Some species secrete formic acid then squirt it several feet as a form of defense. Hence the name piss-ant sometimes being used as a common name. According to antark.net Formica contains around 200 extant species. I don’t know for sure which one I was dealing with here, but they acted aggressive and were numerous.
The normal extermination technique was use. This time the trap was DOUBLE-BAGGED in contractor-grade trash bags and put in a freezer for (AT LEAST) 48 hours. This one was in the freezer slightly longer, because I was busy.
After the freeze session the bags were opened and the trap-lid removed. I was amazed at the contents. These ants couldn’t have been in there long, because much of the material was still green. The volume carried inside the trap when compared to the size of an individual ant shows they can get some work done and there were a bunch of em. There were thousands of frozen ants and larvae in there. The contents were dumped out in the driveway and the chickens scratched through it and ate what they wanted.
I do not know if this was just a fluke, or something to look forward to in the future. This is a new location, miles away from any other site. The biome is slightly different than most of my current locations. This farm is rougher and there is much more grassland/woodland adjacent to the hives. After some research it seems the open-woodland would probably be ideal for several species of Formica. I was told that there had been obstacles to maintaining and apiary on the farm in the past. Interestingly I started another yard this year where ants were mentioned as a nuisance to beekeepers of the past. It shares a lot of similar features with the site where Trap01 had been. Both appear to be very diverse productive locations with similar floral representation. It will be interesting to see what how it all shakes out.
I make a huge messes around here and for the most part it’s tolerated. In the event I infest the house with ants, mice, or some other life form all bets are off. Be careful when moving your Traps and CatchBoxes. Try to prevent transporting non-targeted especially when moving things inside vehicles. If you want to keep you significant other enthusiastic about beekeeping don’t forget to check traps and other equipment, prior to placing in your home, garage or basement.
Comments / Questions
Do you have problems with ants where you live?
Are you finding non-target species in your traps?