Skunk as a North American pest

We don't treat for pests or diseases, but we do need to identify them. We can then breed for resistance, or destroy as necessary.
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GregV
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Skunk as a North American pest

Postby GregV » Mon Jul 24, 2017 3:54 pm

Well, over the weekend I concluded that I became a target of a pest specific to North American beekeeping.
Talking of skunks... :x
This topic about "Requeening" problem turned into a skunk problem, in the end, and was very informative to me (being an Old World expat, until now I mostly ignored the skunk-talk since they do not exist in Europe): viewtopic.php?f=12&t=1270

Reading that skunk-talk helped me to finally understand my own issue. I am being skunked! :shock:

I am now convinced I have a skunk raiding my bee yard. I need to handle the issue if I am to continue staying on this remote yard.
This is a really nice private preserve with lots of late summer forage that I am targeting for. In addition, I just scored a nice and fat swarm into a trap on this yard, so this is a good swarm trapping location as well. So I would like to stick to my guns and try to stay on this location. Friendly, nature loving owner too - an asset as-is.

Last weekend I went there and brought along a large hive hoping to upgrade a previously booming nuc (I was already nervous they'd swarm on me as I did not visit the yard for about 2-3 weeks). Well, I found the population of the nuc to be about 1/2 of what I anticipated to find. What the hell? What happened to the bees? I confirmed that they did NOT swarm - 100% sure.

(The good news was that I found a fresh swarm in the empty "log" trap and so the empty hive came very handy - re-hived the swarm while at it. Big, commercial bees, but still that makes the project bitter-sweat somewhat, not totally sour).

Well, the flimsy robber screen on the nuc was half-torn off, bent and showed claw marks (I did not think to take a phone pic - so typical of me).
This situation was a surprise to me, not a good one either. Then I got to think - every time I came here to check my free standing trap, someone had pulled out the rags I used to plug extra entrances (there are six in all and I only keep one open). Every time the lower 2-3 rags were pulled and laying in grass. That was annoying but not a major damage yet. So I would re-plug the holes back and forget it.

Well, finally it occurred to me - this is totally consistent with a skunk behavior. The skunk smelled the bee scent (previously occupied trap it was) and did the typical scratching to get to the bees. The rag plugs would get pulled out and tossed. That was it! So now this little rascal got started on eating my nuc. It surely will appreciate second hive on the site. More food for the darn thing.

So the considerations:
1)The preserve is someone else's property and so I will not try to trap/relocate the pest. This is a nature preserve as originally setup, after all.
2)I will stick to my bottom-entrance/horizontal hive philosophy. This is not changing and not being discussed here.
3)I have to outsmart the skunk(s) and deter them away from my hives somehow. Priority is to preserve the bees (especially, the nuc with promising survivor bee line).
4)For now, I have robbing screens (not very effective I am afraid) and have ready nail boards to install. See pics.

5)But here is the hitter for a discussion (I thought up on my way to work) - I want to install 0.5 inch (14 mm) screen over the most front wall of the hives (typical rabbit screening I use to protect the fruit trees). I have lots of this stuff from a dumpster. I want to attach it so to have about 3/4 inch shielded space under the wire screening for the bees to freely move everywhere on the hive wall and be safe from the skunks. At the least, this should significantly cut the damage to a tolerable level, I hope.

This is not going be a small bee robbing screen. This is going to be a big skunk robbing screen in addition to the bee screen. A matter of fact, I think I might just do it as a design feature for all of my hives up front.

One concern and a question is - will this 0.5' (14 mm) rabbit screen interfere with the normal bee activity.
The bees will have to pass through it during normal daily activity.
I will try this anyway but it maybe some has already tried it?
What do you people think of the idea?
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Last edited by GregV on Mon Jul 24, 2017 4:29 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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GregV
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Location: Dane Co., WI, USA

Re: Skunk as a North American pest

Postby GregV » Mon Jul 24, 2017 3:58 pm

Boys did a good job practicing the hammering skills.
I will anchor these in front of the hives.
OR, will it work better to attach these to the hive walls instead (nails will be looking out horizontally)?
What do you, people, think?
Anyone tried this nail deterrent yet in real life?
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GregV
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Re: Skunk as a North American pest

Postby GregV » Mon Jul 24, 2017 4:21 pm

I suppose I also could move my valuable nuc to a less skunk-infested area (I have options), but I am out time now due to a pending vacation trip.
A nuc move needs to wait a couple of weeks if I am to do it.
Meanwhile I need to protect the bees the best I can and take the measures quickly and directly in field (in fact, tonight).

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GregV
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Re: Skunk as a North American pest

Postby GregV » Mon Jul 24, 2017 6:07 pm

OK, found something similar to what I was thinking of (pics).
I was thinking of similar fixture, but rather vertical and covering most of the hive front wall (if not the entire wall).
But clearly, 0.5 inch screen is being used exactly as I was thinking it could.

SkunkScreen01.jpg
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SkunkScreen02.jpg
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Taken from: https://beeinformed.org/2011/12/10/entrance-reducers/

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GregV
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Re: Skunk as a North American pest

Postby GregV » Tue Jul 25, 2017 3:40 am

Done.
Bees were confused with the new obstacle but did manage to get through it.
They will have to live in jail hives (or get eaten).

Along the way I got this idea to combine both wire screens together the next time.
Just attach somehow the both skunk and bee screens into a single unit.
Staple the combo-screen once and done. Pretty much the way to go around here.

As long as skunks to not get much initial reward due to the screens, they should not become repeat customers (I hope) and the nail boards may not be necessary.
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Michael Bush
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Re: Skunk as a North American pest

Postby Michael Bush » Tue Jul 25, 2017 9:34 pm

My solution was top entrances only...

To understand why some things work you need to understand how the skunks do the deed. They get down low because their throat is vulnerable to stings. They scratch to get a bee to come out. They grab the bee between their paws and roll it in the grass to get it to sting the grass. Then they pop it into their mouth and suck the juice out of it. Adding bees as they go until they have a mouthful. After they suck the juice out of them they usually spit them out, though they sometimes swallow them. Anything in front of the hive will interfere with getting them to sting the grass. Boards, tack strips, pavers, anything but grass or carpet will interfere with getting the worker to lose their stinger. The long nails are overkill. A simple board would work. The robber screens help as they can't just catch them coming out the entrance so easily.

http://www.bushfarms.com/beestopentrance.htm
http://www.bushfarms.com/beespests.htm#skunks
"Everything works if you let it"--James "Big Boy" Medlin
http://www.bushfarms.com/bees.htm

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GregV
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Re: Skunk as a North American pest

Postby GregV » Tue Jul 25, 2017 9:52 pm

Michael Bush wrote:My solution was top entrances only...
......... The long nails are overkill. A simple board would work. The robber screens help as they can't just catch them coming out the entrance so easily.


Thanks, Michael.
We'll see, I guess.
Hopefully, the skunk-screens are sufficient and work for me.
It is easy, practical solution and can be applied as a general hive feature everywhere now that I have made a couple. As long as they work.

I just don't see myself running around with nail boards too much (someone will step on them, eventually; a last resort thing just for now I think).

kdolan
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Re: Skunk as a North American pest

Postby kdolan » Sun Aug 13, 2017 12:50 am

Greg,
I have the same skunk problem you have. What I did was to use the same 1/2 inch screen attached to both sides of the hive down at the entrance in a u shape about 6 inches high and on the top piece of wire, instead of flat wire it has spikes where you cut through it. The skunk has to reach over to grab bees and they then sting the underside and keep them away. This seems to work, I will try to get a pic up tomorrow that shows it.


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