How to Prevent Honey Robbers & Meat Eaters in Beehives

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3. how to prevent honey robbing wasps and yellow jackets beekeeping

Resource robbing and the arrival of yellow jackets and other wasps go hand-in-hand as common problems a beekeeper may face in the autumn months. Both are very serious problems and should be addressed immediately by the beekeeper in order to protect the hive’s survival. Fortunately, these are easy problems to diagnose because the criminals are at the scene of the crime.

Hive robbers can come from other bee colonies in your bee yard or outside forces such as wasps and wild bees. The first thing a beekeeper needs to realize is that if they have a beehive that is being robbed, this is indicative of possible larger problems because it indicates a weak hive. During the Fall months, bee colonies are slowing down on brood rearing for the upcoming Winter, kicking out and/or killing the drone bees because they would consume valuable resources needed by the colony through the Winter and the last honey flow has passed.

Your bees are in the process of taking inventory of their resources and colony size, gathering their last resources for Winter and getting things ready to cluster down in the brood box for several months. They will rarely leave once the temperatures drop except to defecate. As Winter approaches the available blooms available in nature are dying off and colonies will seek the resources they need by robbing another.

At the time of year that honey robbers begin to arrive, so do the local yellow jackets and wasps, but they are looking for something different. And it’s not honey. It’s protein and they will kill your bee colony for it.


Unlike honeybees, yellow jackets and other wasp varieties are carnivorous. In their search for resources during the Autumn, you may see them begin loitering around your external sugar syrup feeder and co-mingling with your bees near the entrance. This is because the sneaky little stinging devils are getting ready to enter your hive. You will often see them attacking and killing bees on the landing board or ground in front of your beehive.

In order to gain access to the inner workings of the beehive, the bee murderers have to get past the guard bees at the hive entrance.   Rubbing against your bees to mask their scent and pass by the guard bees at the entrance to your hive is one way they gain access to the inside of your hive. The other is simply attacking the guard bees and overpowering them. It’s actually quite interesting to watch (in a morbid sort of Discovery Channel way).

guard bees protecting the beehive entrance

Once yellow jackets and wasps have gained access to the inside of the hive, they begin killing and eating the adult bees and larvae to carry protein back to their own colony. They destroy comb, kill the queen, murder the colony and steal honey. They will take every possible thing of value that they can from the hive and leave it destroyed.

Thankfully, honey robbing and wasp invasion are two problems that are easy to pin point and take immediate action. Here are several things a beekeeper can do to minimize the risk of these occurrences.


Immediately minimize the hive entrance with an entrance reducer. Chances are that your colony is already weak if it’s being attacked. Give the guard bees at the entrance less space to protect to make their job easier.


The idea behind robbing screens is that the hive residents get diverted into the hive through an alternate entrance; but because the raiding bees are only driven to follow the scent of the hive, they can’t figure it out and just continue bumping into the robbing screen at the hive entrance.

vicks vapor rub helps protect against honey robbing in beehives


Your weak colony may be sick, but the Vicks is not for them. The strong mentholated odor is said to mask the smell of honey from robbers, but not the scent of the queen. The bees that reside in that hive know that is their hive because their hyper-sensitive scent identifies their queen. This is why you can have multiple hives, side by side, and the bees know which one to return to at night. With a vapor rub smeared on the baseboard in a few places- robber bees cannot smell the honey wafting through the hive entrance and therefore do not try to enter the hive.  All-natural options that can be used include camphor and eucalyptus oils.


Set up wasp traps near the beehive. You can purchase commercially available traps that have a pheromone which lures the wasp into the trap. However, we prefer to make our own because they are less expensive and it’s oddly satisfying to see a wasp that wants to kill your bees get trapped (and die) in a trap that you made yourself! Either option should be hung near the beehives to draw them away from the hive. I have very good success with hanging it on a shepherd’s hook or low branch about hive entrance height and 10-15 feet from the beehives.

how to treat wasps and yellow jackets in beehives

Because wasps are carnivorous (meat eaters) they will be attracted to raw meat whereas your honeybees will not. We have mason jar wasp catchers, but you can also make one with a 2-liter soda bottle, tape and a tablespoon of any raw meat.

  • Cut the 2-liter soda bottle in half.
  • Place 1-2 tablespoons of any raw meat in the bottom half of the 2-liter soda bottle.
  • Invert the top half of the soda bottle upside down and insert it into the bottom half. You will have created a funnel shaped contraption that is closed one end and has one opening (entry point) on the other.
  • Use weatherproof tape and wrap the plastic bottle to seal it on the seam where the two halves join.
  • Attach a coat hanger for hanging and you’ve just created your yellow jacket wasp trap!


The smell of the raw meat is the best attracter and once they enter the funnel of death, there is no escaping because they cannot figure out how to exit.

Bonus: This is totally optional, but we mix a pet flea spot (or generic permethrin) into the meat so that they are killed faster once they are inside the trap and any that may escape will die soon after. It will not increase the number of wasps you attract. It’s simply a faster extinguish process.


As the weather warms begin paying attention and catch/kill any yellow jackets and wasps that first appear. Often these are queens out to begin rebuilding the colony and you can seriously eliminate the scope of your problems in September and October by doing a little wasp hunting in the Spring.

catch queen wasps and yellow jackets in the spring to help beehives survive


In the Fall when the worker bees are kicking out and killing the drones to ready for Winter, you may see a lot of dead drones on the ground below the hive entrance. Wasps and yellow jackets will scavenge the protein rich carcasses. Removing dead drones from the ground will remove one factor that attracts carnivorous insects to your hive.


Before the autumn dearth begins, set up a community feeding station in another area of your property for wild bees and others that may be interested in your bee’s assets, sugar syrup and honey stores. Your bees will also discover this and take advantage of it as well.

set up a community feeding station away from your beehives

After we’ve extracted and set the frames out for our bees to clean up, it’s usually about time for the dearth in northeast Alabama. This is when I set up a community feeding station about 1 acre away from the bee yard. Simply set up a bottom board, empty deep box, any honey supers you still want foragers to clean and a telescoping cover to keep the weather out. Inside of the empty deep box I place a plate of pollen that is drizzled in honey and a sugar syrup feeder.

This community feeding station offers wild bees and other flying insects’ access to pollen for protein as well as honey and sugar syrup for energy stores. The concept is a natural and practical approach. However, I would have to say that we have not found it to be successful in keeping robbers at bay, as the only approach. We still have to use the baited wasp traps near our hives. With that being said, it is a nice gesture to Mother Nature each Fall. Offering back a gift after we’ve just been blessed with a bountiful honey harvest.

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