One of our guiding principles at Peace Bee Farm has always been simply stated as, “we work with nature.” We try to provide our bees a hive that is similar to their natural nest in a hollow tree cavity. We seek to find natural solutions to problems and encourage healthy relationships. Natural predators of honey bee pests are encouraged. Rats and mice serve no good purpose in bee hives, and they are particularly worrisome in agricultural regions after the crops are harvested. Hawks and owls are effective predators of rodents. Screech owls are welcomed occupants of wood duck nesting boxes located around the lakes on the farm. These small owls are on duty every night throughout the year catching mice. In today’s picture, Rita is touching the sleeping owl she photographed in yesterday’s posting. We place fresh nesting material in wood duck nesting boxes for the birds to use in March and April. The reclusive wood ducks will be seen briefly with the adult female after they leave the nesting boxes.
During the day, marsh hawks sail low across the ground and red-tailed hawks perch from a high vantage point. Both are ready to swoop onto a rat or mouse. Migrating hawk numbers peak in the winter, but some hawks remain around the year. Snakes take over much of the rodent control duties in warm weather. We provide cover for black rat snakes and speckled king snakes near our bee hives. Impressively large common water snakes abound the lake banks. Bats, living in cavities of trees, fly at night when wax moths are active. Even inside the bee hives there are naturally occurring relationships between predators and prey that can be encouraged. Ants eat parasitic Varroa mites when they fall through screened bottom boards onto the ground. Each of these predators: hawks, owls, snakes, bats, and ants play a role in helping control pests of the honey bee hive; and they work tirelessly. All they need is a little protection.--Richard