But if large numbers of them are attracted to your home, they might quickly become unwelcome guests for you and your family. There are more than 4,000 kinds of bees in North America alone, and over 20,000 species around the world.
Bees are among the most social of creatures. Honeybees live in colonies of up to several thousand – practically a small town. Those colonies are built on a caste system that includes the queen bee, female workers, and male drones.
If you’re worried about a colony near your home, it’s important to know the species of bees – no matter for pest control or treating stings. Elimination methods are different, and it’s possible that a license will be required to remove a bee colony due to the chemicals or treatments involved.
Bees & Wasps
Wasps’ bodies feature narrow waists, four wings, and bright colors, often with black or yellow patterns.
- Like wasps, bees have two pairs of wings. But bees are much hairier insects (relating to pollination) with more rounded bodies and more black or brown coloration.
- Though bees might sting if provoked, wasps are more aggressive by nature and more persistent when challenged.
Bees are acrobatic and surprisingly swift flyers, reaching speeds of 12 miles per hour or more. This can make excluding them from your property more difficult. Before you begin the work, you’ll need to know which species you’re dealing with.
This bee may appear plump, with fuzzy or hairy bodies. They would earn the title of "a helpful workhorse" for the way it pollinates crops, flowers, and orchards. Bumblebees will take flight in spring after overwintering in the ground and search for nectar and pollen, finding new spaces to nest.
While bumblebees are social, their colonies are usually much smaller (50-400 insects) than the massive hives built by honeybees. Whether in abandoned rodent holes, gaps in siding, piles of wood, or even compost heaps, bumblebees will build a nest in a dry, protected place.
One of the most common bees all around the world, and this species is not social. Usually could be found near the eaves of a home. Their nests are in trees or buildings as their habit — their way to rear their young in such places. Young carpenter bees branch further into the wood. So they would be able to hibernate in tunnels during winter and mate in spring. Only the female could sting, but seldom does. Males are attracted to movement and will approach humans when they attempt to wave the bees off.
The phrase “busy as a bee” comes from this species. They’re capable of flying for miles but prefer to stay with about 300 feet of their hive. Honeybees pollinate more than 100 agricultural crops. Their hives could be found in the holes of trees and even in crevices of rocks. A big hive may be home to thousands of honeybees. When its hive is threatened, it will sting in defense. Workers, as well as the queen bee, all have stingers.
Even without training in pest control, you can also take some steps to determine the bees near your home and see what kind of response is needed.
Know the Type of Bee
Since bees are not aggressive or predatory by nature, most are a nuisance rather than a threat.
And as discussed, different species have different behaviors and different kinds of nesting or hives. For example, you won’t see a honeybee attempting to drill its way through the wood, a trait associated with carpenter bees.
Repair and De-clutter
Bees look for convenient places for building their homes. You can check their prefer areas like gaps in siding, holes in wood, lush areas of flowers or vegetation, heaps of leaves, and decaying bush. Walk through your home and yard to patch or clean potential problem spots.
Know the Signs of Infestation
Secure open food in containers and make sure your cabinets and floors are clear of crumbs and other food scraps. If you must leave pet food out in a bowl, place vinegar water around the bowl so you’re interfering with the food smell and discouraging ants from crossing the barrier.
How the Seasons Affect Bees
All bee activity slows during winter. Among the 3 species we’ve introduced, only honeybees do not hibernate. In fact, autumn and early winter are like the start of a new year for honeybees. The queen lays eggs to replenish the previous year’s losses and to prepare for spring. When a group of bees flying at the front of their hive as the days begin to warm, this is a sign of an expanding hive.
For hibernating bumblebees and carpenter bees, winter is about survival. We are unlikely to see much activity as they stay in their nests and tunnels. When they start to appear at the beginning of spring, their goal is to expand their homes or find new homes to raise their young.
When dealing with carpenter bees, do it after the sun goes down. Use a flashlight with a piece of red cellophane over the front. Carpenter bees cannot see red light, which gives you the opportunity to locate their holes without arousing their attention. Be sure to wear protective clothing and a dust mask if you use insecticidal dust, as the particles can go airborne.
Bees are far from humans’ worst problem. They don’t carry diseases like mosquitoes, ticks, or cockroaches. They’re typically fairly harmless, only stinging when they feel threatened. And despite common misconceptions, they prefer to build hives in more remote locations far from human dwellings. Yet they can spell trouble, for those allergic to them, or who happen to encounter the more aggressive strains of bees. If you have a significant bee problem, take a closer look to see what measures you can take yourself and what might require a professional.
One of the easiest solutions to a bee or wasp problem is to take precautionary measures so you aren't dealing with a full-blown problem later on.
1. Make Yourself Unappealing to Bees
If you’re finding that you get stung when you’re outside, you can reduce this incidence with a few easy steps.
- Wear darker clothing. White and yellow are bright, noticeable colors that look like flowers and attract bees and other stinging insects.
- Fragrances will attract bees as well because they can mimic floral scents that bees are attracted toward in order to feed on nectar. You should avoid wearing perfume or strong-smelling shampoos before heading out to the yard.
2. Store Food Properly
Food isn’t as much of an attractor for honey bees and native bees as it is for wasps and yellow jackets, but it can still help mitigate bees if you’re properly sealing and storing food that’s outside. If you eat on your patio or have parties and picnics:
- Keep foil or plastic covers on your food until it’s being served.
- Take it inside as soon as possible once everyone has finished eating.
3. Secure Your Entrances
Secure any entrances to your home, especially smaller openings and holes that may be under overhangs or inside crawl spaces. If you leave openings, bee colonies can move in and set up shop. Use caulk or expandable foam for cracks and crevices, or simply put away any objects that are lying around in your yard. Bee colonies are all attracted to the following places to start building a nest:
- Empty plant containers or buckets.
- Places that aren’t visited often, such as garden sheds and basements.
- Empty pipes, such as the type used to build swing sets or play sets. If you bring these onto your property, your first step should be to block up the bottoms.
Also, consider leaving your lights off at night if possible. Light attracts bees and a range of other insects.
When Bees Become Pests
Again, bees are not automatically pests. Rather, it is their behavior that dictates whether or not you need to deal with them.
A few of the most common issues that arise with bees include:
- Tunneling into your home.
Carpenter bees setting up shop can weaken your home’s foundations and support structures and should be removed immediately.
- Building hives in your home.
If bees are able to make their way inside your home to build hives, this can ruin your home’s structural integrity. When filled with honey, hives can weigh anywhere from 20 to 100 pounds, or even more. Imagine that pulling on the inside of a wall, ripping out insulation, and destroying other structures. The honey itself damages many home-building materials as well.
If you or family members are stung frequently or suffer allergies, consider removing or relocating a hive. Pets are also susceptible to bee stings, and some are allergic.
While we associate the word “swarming” with any cloud of insects, it actually has a specific definition when it comes to bees. Swarming is when part of the colony breaks off with its own queen and leaves, en masse, to form another colony elsewhere. Because their queen is on the move and they are temporarily homeless, bees tend to be more aggressive at this time. As swarming is a temporary activity, you are unlikely to experience an ongoing problem with it. The exception is if there’s a large colony nearby that frequently outgrows its home and sends part of the colony packing.
Even if it’s frightening to see a lot of bees in your yard or notice a nest, their mere presence isn’t necessarily an issue. There are several different treatment options you can use, and bees shouldn’t be killed unless they’re truly causing a problem. Your first step should be prevention, and then you can move on to treatment if your prevention methods haven’t been able to stave off an infestation.
The temptation when you see a bee is often to kill it to avoid being stung. While this is a natural instinct, it’s not at all helpful.
One bee has no impact on the colony as a whole. In any case, most bees won’t sting anyway unless they are disturbed. Swatting at them or being menacing in other ways is one of the best ways to guarantee a sting because it puts the bees on the defensive.
Swatting and killing one bee could also make your problem worse because they’ll release pheromones when they die and alert other bees in the area. The other bees that arrive will be aggressive even more likely to sting than the lone bee you swatted at.
If a bee lands on you, remain still and wait for it to go away. Instruct children that the proper response when encountering bees is to walk away slowly or wait for them to leave. If you encounter a bee in your car, calmly pull over, open the windows or doors, and wait for it to leave. While you may guide it out, avoid swatting.
To deal with a large infestation, you can use the following methods:
1. Relocating the Beehive
Don’t move a beehive unless it is close to an entrance of your home or in a spot in your yard where your kids and pets tend to play. The hive will have to stay in your yard even when you’re relocating it. If you move it too far, the bees can get confused and have trouble finding it. For this reason, this method is only appropriate if you have a medium to large yard and a place to put it where your family and pets usually don’t go.
The process can be difficult as well, so you shouldn’t take the task upon yourself unless you feel confident that you can do it successfully. You can always call professional beekeepers to move a hive if you’ve decided it’s the best option for your home.
Inspect the hive, determine how big it is, and decide where you’d like to move it. Good spots could be on sturdy tree branches or piles of cinder blocks or wood. Moving a beehive is at least a two-person job, so you’ll also want to make sure you have help. Schedule a time to move the hive – preferably at night, because that’s when all the bees are inside the hive but less likely to fly out.
Before you approach the hive, make sure you and your helper are properly dressed in long pants, long sleeves, gloves, goggles, and a face mask.
3. Block the Entrance of the Hive
You’ll want to make sure no bees can fly out while you’re moving the hive. To block the entrance, use a breathable material that the bees will still be able to get oxygen through. This could be tulle fabric or mesh. Simply wrap the material around the hive slowly and carefully, paying extra attention to covering the entrance.
4. Move the Hive
Grab the hive gently and slowly move it to its new destination, trying to keep it as level as possible. Once you’ve placed it there, you can remove the material you used to block the entrance. Once the hive is successfully in its new spot, be sure to monitor it for about a week, but don’t disturb it. This will give the bees time to clean up any honeycombs or other materials that may have shifted. After that point, you can determine if the bees have successfully reoriented to their new home.
5. Bee Catchers
Bee catchers are a good option if you’ve seen a lot of bees around your home but haven’t identified a hive, or if they’re simply attracted to the flowers in your yard yet don’t live there. There are many different types of bee catchers on the market that you can buy, and there are both kill and no-kill options. It’s also easy to make your own DIY bee catcher, and only takes slightly more time to be able to monitor the catcher and periodically let bees loose.
6. Bee Sprays
Bee sprays come as both repellents and insecticides. While it’s best to only use insecticide sprays on bees as a last resort, it may be called for if you’re dealing with a hive inside your home or in a hard-to-reach spot like inside your walls. We’ve already done the research for you and found some of the best bee sprays on the market that you can use to kill off a hive.
Another downside of bee sprays is that you must spray them directly onto the bees or hive, which can be dangerous to do on your own. Unless you feel comfortable, it’s probably best to contact a pest control professional who can come spray the hive with the proper equipment and protective clothing.
7. Natural repellents
Perhaps you’ve noticed a beehive in your yard, but it’s far enough away that it isn’t a problem. Bee repellent spray is a great option to spray a perimeter around your house that will keep bees from bothering you or coming indoors. It will also keep other colonies from trying to set up shop nearby.
There are chemical bee repellents on the market. You can also use some natural methods to keep bees away while using items you may already have inside your house.
Some natural repellents include:
- Garlic powder
- Citronella candles
- Cucumber peels
These are all items that bees are averse to because they don’t like the smell, so leaving them outside near your home can help keep bees away.
If you already know that your best option is killing off an intruding colony, dust insecticide is another method you can use and possibly perform on your own. To apply this dust to a beehive, you’ll want to prepare similarly to the method of using spray insecticide. Make sure you’re wearing proper clothing such as long pants, long sleeves, and face protection. For this particular method, you’ll also want to have a foam sealant ready so that you can block the hive after applying the dust.
Apply the dust to the hive quickly through the opening of the hive, and use as much as you can.
Take your spray sealant and close off the entrance hole. This will ensure that everything inside the beehive dies, including larvae and any immature bees.
Spray more dust around the seal and on top of the hive to prevent any bees from coming out of other locations.
9. Electric insect zapper
These devices kill insects without toxins or chemicals; instead, they use ultraviolet light to attract them and eventually electrocute them to death.
Electric bug zappers are very popular as a tool for pest control of insects, including bees. Insects, including bees, are attracted to light, especially at night, so an electric bug trap is useful for capturing and killing them. Its high voltage of electricity electrocutes bees quickly.
You can hang the electric bug trap on a hook in your yard or on your porch powered through a switch.
The blue light it emits will attract the bees, and they will enter the grid of the bugger in their tens.
Once captured, they will get electrocuted and drop dead immediately. It is highly efficient as it can catch up to a hundred bees at once.
Also, the electricity tariff is minimal despite its high voltage for electrocution. It is toxin and chemical-free and an excellent solution for how to get rid of bees. Check regularly to clear the dead bees off the ground.
10. Pest repeller
Bees do not have a sense of hearing; instead, they feel sounds through their antenna and legs.
They pick up vibrations, which can sense danger or be used to communicate amongst themselves.
With an ultrasonic pest repellent, to emit high-frequency sound waves force out bees from your home. And do not cause noise pollution as humans cannot hear them.
This type of bee repeller is convenient, needs no maintenance, is efficient, and is nontoxic. Powered by plugging into a power source and easy to use.