When you first get into beekeeping, your initial concerns will certainly include safety and security. ‘Will the bees sting my pets or neighbors,’ or if you’re exceptionally fortunate and living on a smallholding; ‘will the bees sting my rabbits, chickens or other livestock?’ Conversely, what are the dangers to my honeybees? Will the bats we encourage to nest nearby eat them?
Will bats eat bees?
Bats will not eat your honeybees. They are active at different times and will not cross paths. Bees are diurnal (awake during the day), and bats are nocturnal. Bees pollinate your plants, and bats remove many plant predators whilst the bees sleep. No action is required by you in this regard.
With bats in your area, it’s a good thing to introduce bees simply because the bats will be decimating many of the beneficial insects that might otherwise pollinate your flowers or vegetables. Bees will pollinate far better than most other insects. Bats will often pollinate flowers themselves by brushing against them as they hunt, but the addition of honeybees to the equation balances the insect/plant relationship rather well.
Is It Good To Have Bats Around If You Keep Honeybees?
Bats can significantly reduce the population of bothersome insects like mosquitoes and others that plague you after dark. These include moths, mayflies, beetles, gnats, wasps and midges. A single bat can consume more than 700 mosquito-sized insects per night, though if you believe everything you read on the ‘net, they can consume ten times that amount. (I suggest 600 – 1500 insects is more accurate.)
Can bats and bees coexist?
There is no danger to your honeybees. The bats will be feeding at night and on insects other than bees. In fact, they are mutually beneficial, with the bees pollinating your garden and creating more flowers and vegetables and the bats eating the bugs that can decimate crops. It’s a win/win!
Here’s What To Do If You Want Honeybees And Bats
Since we’ve learned that bats are no threat to bees, and you are considering having both on your property, create good homes for both creatures. You set up your hive boxes wherever you wish and then make one or two bat boxes which you can affix to a pole, tree or the side of your house.
This provides secure homes for both, and you can sit back in the knowledge that you have contributed to nature.
You can find some fantastic looking bat boxes like this one that make a bat-friendly home! (Amazon)
Many sites on YouTube give you directions on how to build a bat box, and it is a straightforward process, achieved at low cost whilst providing a vast reward. Here’s a site I found that looks good.
Will Diurnal Bats Be A Problem For My Honeybees?
Not at all, as these are fruit-eating bats. Many people are unaware that over 500 plant species rely almost solely on bats to pollinate their flowers. These include species of mango, banana, guava, durian, and agave (commercially used to make tequila). So, next time you eat a mango, thank the bats! (This pollination of plants by bats is called chiropterophily.)
Do My Honeybees Have Other Natural Predators?
They sure do, just like everything in the food chain, and although your colony can take care of itself, for the most part, there are several critters that you need to protect against or just be aware of:
- Bears – Surely the first thing that comes to mind when considering honey thieves is a bear? They can obliterate hives when they rip into them or tip them onto their sides to access the honey. Bats are the least of your problems if you have bears coming through your property!
- Beewolves – (genus Philanthus) are also known as bee-hunters or bee-killer wasps and are solitary predators, preying primarily on bees; hence their common name. As with other sphecoid wasps, the larvae of Philanthus are carnivorous, resulting in the inseminated females hunting for invertebrates (in this case bees), on which she can lay her eggs. This supplies the larvae with nourishment when they emerge.
Wasps will often enter the hive and attack the bees inside. In this way, they also expose the hive to other robbers and predators by damaging the cell walls, allowing the sweet scent of honey to drift into the air.
- Birds – loss to birds will be minimal and only occurs in Europe, with Bee Eaters (a really challenging name!) and in Africa and Asia with Bee Eaters and Honeyguides. The latter finds nearby humans and other honey-loving mammals and leads them to the hive, scooping up the remaining nectar when the hunters have left.
- Skunks – Closer to home if you’re in the US and a lot more problematic, a skunk will feast on the bees, dropping exoskeletons on the ground in the vicinity of the hive. It’s said that you can avoid skunk attacks on your hive by lifting the hive a yard or so off the ground.
- Hive Beetles – A healthy hive does not have much to fear from hive beetles, but If a hive is weak, ill, or otherwise compromised, the beetles can quickly overtake the entire colony or even cause the hive to swarm.
Can My Honeybees Defend Themselves Sufficiently?
For the most part – yes. Amazingly, only the female honeybee can deliver a sting to its enemy, and despite what most of us have learnt, the bee does not die after it stings an attacker. This only occurs when it stings a mammal with fleshy skin. (Humans, for example).
There are barbs on the bee’s stinger, which cannot be removed when plunged into mammal skin. In this way, the bee loses its stinger, and the other internal elements go with it. Honeybees can – and do – use their stingers as a primary defence mechanism against fellow insects and non-mammalian animals and survive.
Bats are not going to eat your honey bees. Bats are generally nocturnal and honey bees diurnal, and there is typically an hour or more of ‘neutral time’ between the bees going to bed and the bats hopping out of their hammocks. In the case of diurnal bats, your honey bees are still safe, as these bats are, for the most part, fruit-eaters.