Ants in French beehives

Most people that keep bees in France in hives will in summer have removed the outer lid of a hive and found themselves confronted by a number of ants and a heap of ant larvae. Once exposed the ants will run around frantically, start to collect the larvae and transport them down to the primary nest under the hive somewhere. Needless to say this is a long process and may take several hours if there is a very large number to be moved but they will given time clear them all.

So what are they doing there and is it an actual problem or just an irritation? Just one more thing to test our patience as bee keepers?

From what I can ascertain they are a type of Carpenter ant, (Camponotus species) and as mentioned above the primary nest with the Queen is elsewhere nearby and what we find under the hive roof is a satellite colony with pupae and mature larvae that have been moved there to hatch BUT there are no eggs. Being a Satellite colony with no queen there is no point in trying to kill them although if they really cause concern it maybe possible to use something they don't like such as ground cinnamon as repellent although in practice I haven't found this to be effective. Whatever the case it's important to be very careful not to use anything that may harm the bees.

In my experience a satellite colony that is made in a hive lid will cease to be used before October arrives and use may recommence the following year in late spring which is more or less in line with the active foraging season, and again in my experience these satellite colonies don't appear to do any harm, don't chew the wood and show no interest in entering the actual hive where the bees are.

Normally the ants simply walk up and down the outside of the hive but in the photos I have used here they have actually constructed a protective tunnel.