HiveGate, a wasp-protection entrance with far-reaching benefits
A simple, low-cost adjustment to any honey bee hive entrance helps bees protect against wasps (yellow jackets), robber bees and other would-be intruders. By creating a tunnel from the entrance of the hive to beneath the cluster, HiveGate not only confuses intruders, it also seems to help bees to regulate the temperature and humidity of their nest much more precisely, thereby potentially boosting their health and productivity.
HiveGate, a 27cm long and 7cm wide insert, is placed in an existing hive entrance. Bees entering through HiveGate emerge directly under the broodnest cluster and can therefore deliver their foraging load directly where it is needed. In contrast, pest intruders that succeed in getting past the guard bees at the front entrance quickly become confused by HiveGate, are unable to make a quick exit and are easily dealt with by the colony.
Paulo Mielgo, technical director at Vita Bee Health, says: “In-hive video footage shows just how disorientated and vulnerable hive intruders become when they enter via HiveGate. The honey bee colony quickly becomes habituated to the tunnel entrance. However, intruders emerging from HiveGate are quickly surrounded and dispatched by the bees as they struggle to find the exit to the hive. Any that do escape do so empty-handed and are unlikely to return.”
HiveGate has been developed in New Zealand by Kyle Atkinson, of BeeIQ Solutions. With a lifetime’s experience working with and closely observing a variety of animals, Kyle became fascinated by honey bees. When his colonies were severely attacked by wasps, he needed a solution and developed the highly successful HiveGate.
HiveGate immediately worked against the wasps, but there were more revelations to come. Kyle’s close and continued observation of the colony over 14 months via continuous in-hive videos and hive data monitoring revealed that HiveGate may have much more than a portcullis effect.
Kyle explains: “By comparing video activity of two colonies with and without a HiveGate, I noticed differences in the bees’ behaviour. I believe that they are using the HiveGate entrance to help regulate their internal hive environment. We are currently analysing the video and other data to establish the extent and nature of this surprising and potentially highly beneficial effect. Results are now being analysed with a view to publication.”
Having studied the videos, Paulo Mielgo says: “While simplicity has been key to this hive entrance innovation, there are signs of sophisticated behaviour of bees. HiveGate may be helping rather than hindering bees in delivering nectar, pollen and water to the colony and even enabling them to regulate their nest as they have in the wild for millennia. A variety of recent studies has shown the importance of thermoregulation of the hive, and we look forward to Kyle’s results to see the impact of HiveGate. Meantime, it’s a great way to keep wasps out of the hive, especially as the season comes to a close.”