Some people considering starting beekeeping may wonder whether keeping bees on their property would act as an attractant for rats, mice, and other rodents and pests. We will examine this valid concern and find out what you can do to protect your bees against this potential issue.
A beehive will not attract rats to your property, but they can be problematic for the bees if you already have a rat problem. Rats will not actively seek out bees to eat but will eat them if it is the only readily available food. They may seek shelter in hives in winter and eat the comb and honey.
Beekeeping is a rewarding activity and can help you in other aspects of your garden, particularly if you grow your own food and need pollinators. If your beehive attracting rats is a concern of yours, we have some details that will put your mind at ease!
Are Rats Attracted To Beehives?
Pests can be a problem for bees and beekeepers alike, but are rats a cause for concern when setting up a beekeeping operation on your property?
If you do not currently have rats on your property, a beehive will not attract rats to your property. There are generally other food sources and shelter sources that would be more attractive to rats than your beehives.
The circumstance changes if you already have a rat population on your property. In this case, everything, including your bees and beehives, is fair game for the rats.
When Are Rats Attracted To Beehives?
Rats will be attracted to your beehives if they are already on your property and they discover the beehive as a source of food and shelter.
Rats are intelligent creatures that will figure out a way to find food and survive in ways that frequently surprise humans.
A beehive will be attractive to rats in the following conditions.
- The rat population spikes. If the rat population in an area spikes, the rat population can become overwhelming for the food supply, and they will turn to sources of food that would ordinarily not be a priority.
- Food is scarce. In times of limited food supply, such as the winter months, rats may forage in unusual places to find food. They may discover the beehive as a place to find a meal when other sources are unavailable.
- The rats have easy access to the beehive. If the hive is easily accessible to rats entering, it may be a temptation as an easier meal than obtaining food from alternative sources. Easy access could prompt rats to frequently raid the beehive as a food source.
- The beehive could be a source of shelter from the cold. Cold winter temperatures may drive the rats to seek out warm accommodation, and the heat of a warm beehive may be irresistible for a rat seeking a warm winter shelter.
- The bee colony is small. A bee colony is vulnerable when it is not at full strength. Predators and pests can invade the beehive, and the bees may not have sufficient numbers to adequately defend the colony. This is particularly the case if the colony has recently swarmed and left the base colony weakened.
Do Rats Eat Bees?
Bees are not normally on the menu for a rat’s meal, but rats are opportunistic omnivores that will take a meal wherever they can find it.
Insects are part of a rat’s normal diet, but a couple of aspects put bees low on the list of preferred insects to eat for a rat.
The first reason is that bees are not active at night, which is when rats are mostly out and about foraging for food. If the beehive does not allow easy access to a rat, the rat will likely seek out an easier meal than the bees.
The second aspect that puts bees low on the menu for rats is the bees stinging defense! If the bee is not eaten with care, it could sting the rat. When a bee is caught and eaten or crushed, it releases a pheromone which alerts other bees to the danger and immediately puts them in attack mode, ready to defend the hive.
This can lead to a mass response from the bees leading to an attack on the rat, which could be stung to death. Attempting to snack on a bee can be a risky business for a rat.
How To Keep Rats Away From Your Beehive
As we have already mentioned, beehives will not attract rats if there is currently no rat population on your property.
However, if there are rats in the area, your bees could fall victim to an invasion by these rodents, but there are measures you can take to protect your bees.
- Clean debris away from the beehive. Make sure that there is no cover for rats near the beehive, from which they can launch stealth attacks on the colony. Rats do not like to be exposed out in the open, where they feel exposed to predators. Keeping the area around your beehives mowed and clear. Places that could provide cover to rats will help to dissuade them from venturing near the beehive.
- Use a beehive with limited openings. A beehive that limits the hive entrance to animals the size of a bee is a crucial step to keeping rats out. Rats are too large to fit through these openings and would need to gnaw their way into the hive. This gives the bees ample time to launch a defense attack against the intruder before it gains access to the hive.
- Maintain your beehives regularly. Keeping up with maintenance on your beehives will make sure they are secure, preventing access by pests. Harvesting honey at the right time will prevent an oversupply of honey in the hive, which could attract an array of pests.
Rats Are Not The Only Threat To Your Beehives
While rats are a potential problem for a beehive, other creatures can be more problematic to your beehive and the safety of your bees.
Squirrels have shown an interest in beehives as a food source and have been known to decimate beehives. Their thicker fur gives them greater protection against bee stings than that of a rat.
Smaller rodents, such as mice, are more of a problem than rats since they can access the hive through smaller gaps and openings. The warmth of the hive is a particular attraction to mice in the wintertime
Ants and hive beetles can become the bane of a beekeeper’s life! These critters are difficult to control and can trouble the bees to the point that the bees will abscond and desert the hive. These creatures are likely to be more of a problem for a beehive than a raid by rats.
A beehive will not attract rats but can become an attraction to rats already living in the area. However, this is not a common problem experienced by beekeepers, especially if the beehive is properly constructed.
A properly constructed, well-maintained hive will be difficult for rats to gain access before being attacked by the bees.
If you keep bees, you need to be committed to performing the required maintenance to keep your beehives in good condition and your bees happy, healthy, and pest free