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DON'T BEE SKUNKED!

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The Striped Skunk is widely distributed">

Welcome To Jones Bee
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DON'T BEE SKUNKED!

skunk

The Striped Skunk is widely distributed, easily recognized, and hard to forget. Opportunistic omnivores, skunks can find a meal anywhere. The apiary offers skunks a bountiful feast. On skunk can decimate the entire population of a hive in as little as three nights. Scratching at the entrance the animal alerts the guard bees to a disturbance at the door. As they respond to protect the hive, the skunk quickly devours the workers. As more bees emerge, they too are consumed. Satiated, the skunk will waddle away to sleep off its delectable meal and return the following evening. This behavior will continue until the hive is vacant. If it finds any way to access the hive, the wax, pollen, and honey would also be eaten.

Skunks generally give two warnings prior to releasing musk, first, repeatedly stomping the ground with their front feet. That behavior is followed by raising the tail. This signals the animal's serious intent. If the threat remains, the skunk will either raise its hind legs or turn looking over its shoulder take aim for the face, particularly the eyes, and spray. The range of this irritating fluid is an incredible 8-15 feet and the mist of the spray can far exceed that distance on a windy day.

Skunk spray is a clear, oily, amber substance called mercaptan. At night it is luminous. Mercaptan is composed of seven volatile components divided into two major groups, thiols and thioacetatte derivatives of thiols. Humans can detect skunk spray thiols at 10 parts per billion. Two of the thiols, tras-2-Butene-1-thiol and 3-methyl-1-butanethiol, are responsible for the strongly repellant odor of the secretion. The other compounds are not as odoriferous, but are easily converted to the more potent thiols by water hydrolysis. To get rid of the odor it is necessary to change the thiols by oxidation to sulfonic acids. Use alkaline hydrogen peroxide, diluted vinegar solution, or neutroleum alpha to remove skunk scent from pets or clothing.* An effective commercial product "Skunk-Off" is available from many veterinarians and pet stores.

The skunk's home range averages 0.5 to 1.5 square miles. This range may increase up to 5 square miles during the breeding season, from February thru May. One square mile can at anytime support a population of 5-15 skunks. Prolific breeders, the skunk's kits, from 2 to 10 determined by the age of the female, are born in May and are able to spray in 45 days. Skunks are highly adaptable often living in close association with human habitat. To the farmer and/or beekeeper, skunks can be particularly pestulant. The skunk can locate its den in a woodpile, brush, under a deck, in a culvert or shed. Any sheltered area can harbor these nocturnal invaders. In a bee yard, water, adequate shelter, and food are readily available. Their presence can be discouraged or eliminated.

Fencing can minimize skunk problems. One-inch poultry netting is effective. Bury the lower 12" extending 6" below the ground with 6" bent outward in an "L" shape. Where fencing is impractical beehives can be elevated three feet above the ground level. A smooth sheet of metal at the base makes the elevated hive inaccessible to the skunk.

An alternative successful deterrant is to take a piece of plywood or a board twelve inches wide and drive 2" long nails through it spaced one-inch apart. Place this "pincushion" on the ground beneath the hive entrance.

Sometimes the only solution to a skunk invasion is elimination. All skunks, striped, spotted, or hognose, are classified by law as non-game animals. They are not threatened or endangered. They are not classified as fur-bearers. There is no season or "bag limit" on skunks. With the exceptions of Weber, Davis, and Salt Lake counties, Utah beekeepers and landowners are free to shoot trespassing predatory skunks. It is necessary to contact Law Enforcement prior to using a fire-arm within Weber, Salt Lake, and Davis counties. Outside the metropolitan area if you want to shoot the pest, the Division of Wildlife Resources says, "Be my guest!" Skunks may be shot anytime by the landowner on his own land. Be aware, however, that shooting skunks often results in the spontaneous release of their odor.

Elimination can also be achieved by trapping. Leg-hold traps and snares are permitted on private land if the property is primarily used for commercial livestock, crop production, and beekeeping. The traps do not require disguise to capture a skunk. Dogs and cats will generally avoid an exposed trap. Place traps along skunk trails at eight foot intervals. Live-trapping is best accomplished with a 10x12x32 cage-type trap baited with peanut butter. The top, bottom, and sides of the trap can be covered with cardboard or 1/4" plywood. This reduces the chance of being sprayed. Check the traps at least once a day. Relocation is prohibited, any captured skunk should be destroyed.

State statutes also prohibit keeping skunks as pets. Skunks are second only to racoons when it comes to reported cases of rabies. In addition to rabies, skunks can carry leptosporosis, listeriosis, canine distemper, canine hepatitis, Q-fever, tularemia, and trypanosoma. They also tend to be heavily infested with fleas, ticks, and mites, which are well-known disease vectors.

There are no magic words nor guarantees for efforts made in elimination of the familiar black and white raider. Precautionary actions are generally the most effective in controlling wildlife damage. Bee aware, bee informed, and bee careful when protecting hives and the honeybees in the Beehive State.

* - Alkaline Hydrogen Peroxide: 1 quart 3% hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), 1 tsp. liquid soap. Pets and people bathed with alkaline hydrogen peroxide should be rinsed thoroughly with tap water.

Diluted Vinegar Solution: 2% vinegar and 98% water

Neutroleum Alpha: is available from many pest control operators or from the manufacturer:

Fritzche Brothers, Inc. Port Authority Building 76 Ninth Avenue New York, NY
skunkfeet

This article first published in the UBA Spring 2001 Newsletter.

Copyright 2006 Jones Bee. All rights reserved.
Revised: 04/21/14
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