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Removing Bees: Relocating a Colony

Everyone loves bees.  Well, maybe not everyone but I think we can agree that bees are important members of our ecosystem.  Still, there may come a time when you are not thrilled to be sharing your space with a lot of bees.  Knowing how to get rid of bees safely is a good skill to have for any homeowner.

How to Get Rid of Bees

Large honey bee nest to be removed from a home image.

Foraging insects are rarely a problem for the homeowner.  Honey bees collect resources needed by the hive and are rarely aggressive in the field. 

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In fact, it can be a great educational experience to teach children how to observe from a safe distance. Undisturbed, these busy insects usually continue to do important pollination work.

When evaluating the number of stingers in your living space, learn how to determine the difference between a bee nest vs a wasp nest.  Honey bee colonies can be relocated.  Yellow Jacket Wasp nests or other types of wasps are another issue entirely.

Wasps nest built of paper on an outdoor surface image.

Too Many Bees in the Backyard?

Planting bee friendly gardens has become a very popular hobby.  These gardens provide food and habitat for all types of pollinators.

But, even bee lovers may have some areas, such as busy walkways, where they would rather not have so many stinging visitors.  This can safely be accomplished by choosing plants that repel bees (or at least do not attract them) in those areas.

You can not plant nectar and pollen rich flowers and not expect pollinators to visit your yard.  The answer is not to kill every bee in sight. 

Instead, learn how to work with the life forms in your ecosystem. Don’t invite them over if you don’t want them to party.

Worker honey bee foraging in garden image.

In many cases of homeowners wanting to get rid of bees, we are not talking about daily foragers.  Rather a nest of stinging insects have set up housekeeping in or near your house. 

Sometimes, the insects must be killed for safety reasons.  However, especially in the case of honey bees-there are several other options available.

Removing Bees in a Tree

It can be rather exciting to find a mass of honey bees in a tree.  Perhaps, this is just a swarm of bees that are temporarily hanging in the tree.  If so, they will likely move on the next day. 

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Sometimes a swarm, will get stuck and begin to build comb.  This is time to call a beekeeper who will be delighted to collect the swarm and give them a new home.

If you see workers coming and going from a hole in the tree, there is probably a nest inside.  It is very difficult if not impossible to chase them away from their nest.  They have food and baby bees inside!

If the nest is up high and away from human walkways etc, maybe you can just leave it there.  Unless you live in an area with Africanized Honeybees, an undisturbed hive is rarely a danger.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to get a hive out of the tree without cutting the tree down.  Sometimes an area beekeeper will be willing to set up a “trap out”. 

In this situation, they sit an empty hive outside the opening and create a special funnel that allow foragers to leave the tree but not be able to get back in. 

When most of the population is living in the new hive instead of the tree – those inside are left to die.  and the hole in the tree can be plugged.  This is a time-consuming project.

Honey bee colony difficult to remove from small opening in a tree image.

Getting Rid of Honey Bees by Extermination

Some pest control services will kill a colony located in your home.  Though sometimes necessary, this is a sad situation.  The honey bee colony is only seeking a place to survive.

Check around and you may find a company that contracts with a beekeeper’s association.  This allows the bee family to live somewhere else – it is a win win situation.

Just killing the hive is not the answer.  A honey bee hive inside a wall can be very large.  It is filled with comb, honey and baby bees.

Even if you are successful at killing the individual insects, you still have the beeswax, honey and dead babies in your wall. 

With no worker bees to maintain the hive, these items will spoil and smell really bad. Whenever possible, the components of the nest must be removed too.

If you have a nest of yellow jacket wasps or hornets living in your wall, I’m afraid extermination is the only way.  I don’t know of any beekeeper who will relocate them.  But, it doesn’t hurt to ask around.

Yellow Jackets are well known for living in hole in the ground. These nests can grow very large in late Summer.

Opening for a yellow jacket nest in the ground image.

Cost of Bee Removal from Wall

Cost? I have to pay people to take bees?  Yes, sometimes you will have to pay for bee removal.  If you have a honeybee hive living in an easy to access location, call a local beekeeper. 

If they can be safely removed, the beekeeper may be glad to give them a home.  However, do realize that anytime a beekeeper brings home a wild swarm they are taking the risk of bringing home bee pests and disease.  Don’t expect the beekeeper to pay you for them.

Beekeeper Cutouts of Bees in Walls

Too often, bees are living in the wall or roof of your home.  This type of bee removal usually calls for professional assistance.  You may find an area beekeeper that specializes in this service – called a “cutout”.

Cutouts can be quite expensive.  Shop around for the best prices in your area.  Also be sure to have a clear understanding of exactly what the removal specialist is going to do for you. 

If they remove the nest, will they also replace any damage done to your home to access them?  Most are able to repair the wall and have some carpentry skills.

Honey bee with pollen entering nest in house wall image.

When you are experiencing a problem with bees, first consider if it is a temporary problem that you can live with or one that needs immediate attention.  If you want to keep bees away from a swimming pool, that is a temporary issue.

Always try to remove the bees without killing them if possible.  Call your local agricultural extension agency or state department of agriculture to find local beekeepers.  They are you first resource for getting rid of honey bee colonies.

In the case of wasps’ nests, they are seasonal.  When Winter comes the wasps will be gone.  Many people just killed wasps’ nests with spray. 

Sometimes this is the best solution.  However, they serve important purposes in the ecosystem too.  Think before you grab that can of wasp or bee killer.

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