Quite literally, everything starts with a tasty meal.
In 1943 Abraham Maslow wrote a psychology article proposing a human heirarchy of needs. The short and sweet of the article is: humans start with meeting their basic needs such as food and shelter and, only as those needs are secure can we move to more advanced levels of operations.
So, what does this have to do with bees or insects? Well, we probably need to understand other life forms also have a hierarchy of needs even if limited or primitive. Instead of behaviorally based it’s totally instinctual and for most it starts with food and ends with reproduction. Small Hive Beetles, Wax Moths, Yellow Jackets, and other pests are simply trying to have a tasty meal and move on to reproduction.
Our job, as beekeepers, is to interrupt their ability to progress from food acquisition to reproduction. They want food; deny them access to food and they never progress to reproduction. Let this thought occupy our minds as we contemplate how to combat these pests (after all, we’re already fed so we can operate on higher Maslovian levels).
Denying food to pests: Does our bee feeding program build up the opposing armies as well as feed our bees? Do you see SHB or yellow jackets at your feeding station? Have we provided our hives with adequate defensive tools like entrance reducers, SHB traps, and “hive right-sizing” to guard and protect food stores? Are we inadvertently announcing food availability with fragrant oils to attract pests who are actively seeking out food sources?
Using their needs against them: Bait traps can turn the tables on the pests by tricking them into thinking a food source is available. Simple, cheap traps can be made to attract these pests while NOT attracting honey bees. Poor, poor pests; can’t we all just get a snack? If they are hungry they are more likely to try that bait trap. Be careful not to create an increase in pest pressure through careless feeding of the foes.
My point is simply, if they don’t eat they don’t reproduce.
I remember some time back being encouraged to think like a honey bee. During these times of food dearth, perhaps it also pays to start thinking like a pest.