Questions and Answers on Honey Bee Control

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Courtesy of Master Bee Removal

Honey bees are valuable pollinators playing an important role in both native and agricultural crop production. Beekeepers keep bees in wooden manufactured hives, but the most common natural nest site for bees is a hollow tree or other cavity. Occasionally, honey bees may use a wall void or attic space in a house as a nesting site. In these situations, the decision to take action depends upon the circumstances. Here are some common questions asked by people who discover bees nesting within their home.

Will the bees cause any damage to my house?
Yes. Unlike other pests, such as termites or carpenter bees, honey bees do not chew or eat wood. Although the honey bees do not eat the wood, they do it tar paper in the area of the hive. This can cause water to leak into the structure and can cause dryrot. It is amazing that some universities have done studies to say that they do not cause problems to the home. 100% of the time, the honey bees will eat the tar paper in the area of the hive and that is a large area. Occasionally, the bees can die from disease and the honey left in the wall can cause damage. If you do decide to exterminate them, any large quantities of honey left behind should be removed to avoid staining and destruction of inside walls or ceilings. The honey and nest debris may also attract other insects pests and rodents. The ideal situation is to have a bee specialist remove the bees, wax comb, and honey.

When did they move in?
Honey bees reproduce by swarming where part of the old colony leaves to seek a new homesite. Swarming occurs mostly during the months of April and May. If you notice bees in your house at another time of year, especially summer, chances are great that they have been there since spring and you have just now noticed them.

Can I just plug up the hole and suffocate them?
If the entrance hole is plugged, the bees will look for another exit. They may find another crack or opening or they could follow light and enter your living quarters instead through gaps in baseboard, electrical outlets or vents. However, if you do succeed in trapping the bees in the wall, expect to have a stench from the hive in the wall, and it is very probable that honey will seep out of the structure.

Can a beekeeper come and take out the bees?
Yes. However, removing the bees usually takes a lot of time and effort once they've moved within a wall. The value of the bees, alone, is not sufficient to justify the effort and liability of involved in removing them. There are very few bee specialists that know the proper procedure for removal. Often, I have finished the job of an amateur.

Can the bees be trapped out or made to leave?
Trapping is sometimes done, but is only practical when the structure cannot be opened up due to brick, stone, or stucco and when removal from the inside structure is not desireable. Trapping usually takes about 6-8 weeks. Most people do not know how to trap and think just from a diagram they can do it. This is why most companies do not offer this service. However, we have perfected the art of trapping and have a very high rate of success. Because of the time and supplies and the multiple visits, trapping costs sometimes more than just opening up the structure. We can give free estimates with just a picture of the problem.

Is it illegal to kill honey bees?
Many pesticide labels include warnings to avoid spraying flowering plants or crops outdoors where honey bees are likely to be foraging for nectar and pollen (e.g., in a garden or planted field). In those situations, it is important to obey the labeling to help protect the bees. However, when bees invade a home, or a colony is a threat , you have the right to remove them (preferably) or to kill them if necessary. We try to save the bees as much as possible due to the high winter deathrate of the honey bees in the last 5 years. We often use our beevac to save the bees. We have decided that if we are going to remove the hive, we might as well save the bees. Many others just kill them, because it is easier to avoid being stung.

Why isn't simply spraying the bees sufficient to solve the problem?
A honey bee colony within a wall can be killed with insecticide by the homeowner or a licensed pest control operator. However, if the bees have been in the wall for more than a few days, wax combs and honey may already be stored within the wall. The longer the colony has been there, the greater is the likelihood that large amounts comb and honey have accumulated. There may be as much as 50 pounds of honey within a wall by the end of spring. The remaining honey and wax could eventually ferment and run down the wall or ceiling, so it should be removed in the best way possible. The greatest amount of honey will likely be found at the end of spring and the least amount found at the end of winter. Large quantities of decaying bees may also attract carpet beetles which could, in turn, attack natural fibers materials (e.g., wool, fur, or silk) within the house. It is often that I see wax moths near a bee colony. The only time that killing the honey bees is preferred, is when the bees just arrived and have entered the wall void. Most people never see the swarm arrive. They just assume that when they first saw the bees that they must have showed up then. Most of the time, when a homeowner has first sighted the bees, they have been there long enough to increase in colony size and that is why they have then noticed them.

Are there other house-nesting insects that might be mistaken for honey bees?
Yes. Yellow jackets sometimes build a nest in a wall cavity, as do honey bees, and many people are not able to distinguish the two insects. The difference is important because yellow jackets do no build wax combs, do not store honey. The way to distinguish the two apart is yellow jackets are smaller and fly in jerky angles. However, be careful when observing the yellow jackets, because they can be very aggressive if you are near their nest. If you see a dead one, look at the color. Yellow jackets are bright yellow with black stripes. Honey bees fly slow and kind of lob into their nest. Honey bees are never bright yellow, but can range in colors. Yellowjackets often eat through drywall when trying to expand their hive and can be heard scratching the wall with a clicking sound. Pesticides is the only way to rid your house of a yellow jacket nest. Many times the yellow jackets will eat all of the drywall in the nest area and leave only the paint. I have often just slightly pushed my fingers through the drywall to notice that it was only paint.

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