We are surprisingly dependent on honey bees. No other species plays a more significant role in producing fruits and vegetables we take for granted—and their population is in decline. Albert Einstein once remarked, “Mankind will not survive the honey bees’ disappearance for more than five years.”
Spring is home shopping season for bees. Scouts leave a nest in search of a home. Upon finding a suitable location, they return to their nest to move the colony as a swarm and begin the task of building their new home—perhaps under your roof or within the walls of your home.
Honey bee removal choices
If swarming bees are unnerving, a nest in your home is downright scary. Getting rid of honey bees is complicated. You can either call a bee removal expert to move the bees. Or, call a pest control company to exterminate them. While extermination is speedier, it can wind up costing you more in repairs.
Honey bees nest in cavities having a volume of at least 4 gallons but prefer cavities around 9 gallons. Honey bees also prefer dark cavities with an easily defended entrance that is at least 9 feet from the ground. Cavities such as the walls in your home are ideal nesting locations.
Extracting honey bees is difficult. When the colony is first established, only a few pounds of adult bees are present, but these bees rapidly build combs, collect honey, and begin to rear more bees. A well-established colony may have up to 100 pounds of honey, many pounds of adult and developing bees, and many beeswax combs.
Downsides of pesticides and honey bees
Although honey bees can be killed in place inside buildings by using pesticides available to licensed pest control operators, this option can cause you more problems.
If the adult bees fall into a large pile, they hold their body moisture and rot in place, producing a bad odor. Liquid from the decomposing mass then penetrates your home’s structure leading to costly repairs. And, if the colony is well established, the unattended brood can rot and become very odorous. Finally, unattended honey stores absorb moisture, ferment, creating gas that causes honey cells to burst.
Gravity will start moving the honey down through interior walls until it reaches a window, door, ceiling, or floor. Honey then seeps through the wall leading to expensive cleanup and replacement.
As if all that weren’t bad enough, consider this: if pesticides are used to kill honey bees in your home, their honey, wax and, dead bees are contaminated and must be handled as hazardous waste.
Be smart about honey bee removal
A better choice is finding a beekeeper to eliminate the honey bees without killing them. First the beekeeper will need to locate the nest by tapping the wall and listening for the hum of the colony. Removing honey bees and their combs requires opening a large hole in some part of the building.
If the bees are to be saved, the beekeeper gently removes them and their combs. Many beekeepers have baffles and collection containers in their vacuum lines to try to protect and save the bees.
Prevention follows removal
The odor of beeswax remains after extraction of honey bee combs. Since honey bees have an extremely acute sense of smell, that odor lures other honey bee scouts seeking nesting sites, long yours are gone.
Take care to fill all holes large enough to insert a pencil, or larger, leading to cavities in your home. Larger potential entrances can be covered with screen having six or more meshes per inch. Cavities should also be filled with tightly packed insulation to make large spaces unsuitable for nesting.
Choosing a bee removal expert
Beekeepers might be willing to collect swarms for free, but generally it isn’t worthwhile for them to remove established colonies without charge. This is particularly true in areas colonized by Africanized honey bees. You can Google “honey bee removal” for a list of companies. We worked with The Bee Wrangler in the production of our video and were impressed by her professionalism and thoroughness.
When you consider the beneficial role honey bees play in our ecosystem, choosing removal and relocation vs extermination is the more responsible way to go.