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Do Racoons Eat Bees? How To Keep Them Out

A raccoon reaching towards a hive in winter

Raccoons are North American natives that enjoy moist woodland areas. However, they’re are known to make their homes almost anywhere. These nocturnal mammals are part of the bear family and are highly intelligent.

If you’re a beekeeper, you may be wondering if raccoons are a threat to hives. This guide looks at whether raccoons eat bees, honey, or any other resources produced by bees.

Will a raccoon eat bees?

Raccoons will eat most food if hungry, but they are unlikely to eat bees. If they get into a hive, they will happily consume honey and bee brood, much like bears.

Many beekeepers don’t find raccoons a problem for their apiary. Both can co-exist in the same area. But once a raccoon sets its sights on a hive, it can be a big problem. They can remove the cover and frames with skillful precision. Even bungee cords and other ties won’t stop this predator.

In addition to losing hive resources, raccoon invasions can cause a big mess. They can dismantle hive equipment, tip over boxes, and tear out feeders. 

A raccoon climbing a tree and looking at the camera
Raccoons are intelligent as well as being excellent climbers.

Can honey bees defend themselves from raccoons?

Honey bees have been known to defend their hive from raccoon attacks successfully. However, this small mammal has a thick pelt, making it hard for stingers to penetrate. A hungry raccoon with a taste for honey won’t usually let a swarm of bees get in the way of a sweet feast.

What do raccoons eat?

Raccoons are opportunistic omnivores that eat a wide range of foods depending on their environment. They enjoy food like fish, crayfish, clams, frogs, snails, and anything else living in or near water. Other favorite foods include fruits, vegetables, small animals, eggs, insects, and trash leftovers.

How to keep raccoons out of hives

Raccoons are cunning predators that will use creative approaches to get food. Beekeepers faced with persistent attacks should use a combination of deterrents for best results.

  1. Secure the hive: Place a heavy weight like a rock or log of wood on the hive’s lid. Tie-down ratchet straps secured tightly around all the boxes will also help.
  2. Remove temptations: Keep a tidy area around hives and never leave honey or comb out. Raccoons are hard to deter once getting a taste for honey.
  3. Set up live traps: A live trap does a great job of capturing small mammals alive, like skunks and raccoons. You’ll need to find a suitable area for relocation once they’re caught. 
  4. Fencing: A well-built fence may keep out raccoons, but keep in mind they’re excellent climbers and diggers. Remove any overhanging tree branches and build the fence below ground. An electric fence with bait attached along the wires improves the hive’s chances. When building fences, consider the future growth of your apiary so that the area doesn’t get overcrowded.
  5. Spikes: Carpet tacking placed all around the hive with the nails pointing up is a simple prevention method. A jab to the paw or nose may be enough to scare off the unwanted visitor.
  6. Elevate the hive: Raising hives off the ground isn’t always easy, but it will keep them out of reach of small mammals.
  7. Lighting: Special lighting systems simulate glowing eyes, causing raccoons to stay clear for fear of getting attacked. Using red lights doesn’t bother bees as they rest or sleep at night.

Do skunks eat bees?

Unlike raccoons, skunks enjoy eating live honey bees. They chew on the bee and suck out the nutritious fluids, then spit out the rest.

Skunks wait until evening before scratching on the entrance to the hive. Bees that come to investigate receive a hard swat that stuns them. This attack gives the skunk time to consume the unfortunate bee.

A skunk running through a meadow.
Skunks happily eat bees and other insects.

How can I keep skunks out of a hive?

Elevating the hive is a helpful way to help honey bees protect their home from skunks. As the predator reaches up to access the hive, its belly gets exposed, allowing bees to sting. Unlike raccoons and bears, the skunk doesn’t have the same thick fur coating for protection. The stings are often enough to drive back the skunk away from the hive. 

Further reading

Check out our guide on how to protect a hive from bears if they’re in your area. You may also like to to read about some other bee threats that beekeepers have to contend with.

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