Simply Resourceful

Simple ways to be more conscious about how we use our resources.

Birds and the Bees

Beekeeping sure has its surprises and challenges.  For about a month now my girls have been under constant attack from the Western Tanager bird.  No other bird species has posed a threat to my bees until the Western Tanager.  I'm certainly not an ornithologist but I have been watchful of birds in my yard and recognize some bird calls.  In particular, I enjoy hearing the woodpeckers drum on our fireplace vent followed by their chirps to a hopeful mate!

When I first saw the Western Tanager, I thought, "How pretty!  I've never seen these birds before!"  I continued to admire the yellow breasts and red heads until suddenly I saw these birds dive bombing the hives and pecking at the entrances.  They are very confident birds because they hover in front of the hive entrance to lure the guard bees out, and then BAM the bees are gone!!  These birds work in pairs, sitting outside the hive entrances literally picking the bees as they meander out onto the landing board.  In particular, these birds are active in the cold early morning when only a few bees are out doing their cleansing flights.  By midday when the colonies have woken up and are swarming around the hive entrances, the birds are gone.

I am so tempted to get a slingshot or pellet gun and injure a few birds to scare them off, but I see that as a little bit too cruel.  I have even seen the neighborhood cat crouching in the bushes feet from the hive with no success!  These birds are fast and ruthless.  I gave a shout out to a bee listserve I subscribe to, and other beekeepers in the Portland area are having the same problem.  They have never seen this bird at their hives in years past.  Maybe the birds' regular food supply has depleted, or maybe they find it easier to sit outside a hive where they don't have to do any work?  Either way, I'm upset because my colonies are still trying to get themselves established, and dang-it, I want honey!

I'm quite certain that the 4 birds that continue to come back have had a serious impact on my two colonies.  It is rather frustrating, so I've tried a few alternatives to the slingshot.  I've tried hanging CDs in the trees----didn't work.  I've tried putting my son's alligator on top of one of the hives (to mimic a predator)-----didn't work.  I've tried netting over the hives----didn't work because it confuses the bees and the birds still dive bomb the bees after they leave the hive.  I'm thinking of getting one of those owls but I don't want my yard to have all that tacky lawn ornament stuff.  I'm still trying to locate an ornithology group in Portland for recommendations.  The only sure way to keep the birds away, is for a person to be in the yard which is impossible every day.  I tried to get a picture of the birds by the hives, but they are quick flyers, so here's a picture of my hives with a few CDs and my son's alligator on the roof.

picture taken: 6-3-2011


Tiffani Brown June 6, 2011 at 9:30 PM  


Not sure if this will work, but my mom used to hang pie tins in our cherry trees to keep birds from eating the fruit. Of course, that was back in Nebraska, where it never stops blowing, but the tins would bang against the branches, and the noise would scare the birds. It's an idea anyway.

Christopher Beeson June 7, 2011 at 7:56 PM  

Wow- watching the Western Tanagers eat your bees sounds sad, and would probably make me upset if I saw them doing it to my hives.

I hope you're able to come up with a way to discourage them from hanging around and eating your bees.

If you find a technique that works, be sure to let us know!

Show Me The Honey

Phoebe June 23, 2011 at 11:48 AM  

Holly, I am excited that you have Tanagers in the city! They are around the Homestead but they are very shy here and I rarely see them. They must have adapted to the city- perhaps it is because of the huge increase in backyard hives?
My very best bird scaring technique is a big realistic rubber snake in plain sight, like on top of your hive.
It really works with fruit bushes, I would think it would be good for your problem.Let me know if you try it I'm very curious if it will work.

Holly June 23, 2011 at 3:12 PM  

Thankfully we are experiencing a reprieve from the birds right now. Maybe they are gone for the summer? I'll be on the watch. The snake idea may also save my cherries from the birds which is the tree right next to the hive!

About this blog

A weekly update on our adventures of trying to be more self-sufficient by using resources wisely. We explore a variety of topics that most broadly fit in the "Homesteading" category, i.e. beekeeping, organic gardening, edible landscaping/fruit forest, food preservation/canning, woodworking, soap-making, and environmental stewardship.

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