How to Remove Honey Bees

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Honey bees play an important role in the ecosystem and pollination efforts. But, there will be times when you need to remove honey bees. Do you have to kill them the bees? No, in most cases, it is possible to relocate honey bee colonies to a new location. However, this is not a task for the average homeowner. In this article, I share some of the challenges and risks of moving bees. The goal is to keep the humans safe and protect the honey bees whenever possible.

Worker honey bee entering brick wall and bees and honeycomb removed from inside wall of home.

As a beekeeper, I love and appreciate bees. But, I don’t want honey bees living in the wall of my home (or right beside the back door). While you may not suffer from apiphobia (intense fear of bees), no one wants to share their living room with them.

Identify the Presence of Honey bees

Honey bees are social insects that live together in large families. They are one of the most popular insects on the planet. However, a colony with thousands of potentially stinging bees can pose a threat to humans nearby. How do you decide if you have a real problem?

Single Bee vs Swarm vs Nest

Now it is time to get serious. To determine how much of a problem you have – we need to consider the number of bees wanting to share your living space – indoors or outdoors.

Three example of honey bees, single, swarm and colony nesting in wall.

Single bees: Do you know what a honey bee looks like? First, make sure you are really seeing honey bees. Finding a single bee (or just a couple) is no reason for concern. In fact, you should be happy to have important honey bee pollinators in your area.

If they are foraging on the plants in your yard and you can’t handle it – don’t plant flowers that bees love. Finding honey bees inside your house is another matter (more on that in just a bit).

Swarms: Honey bee swarms happen naturally as colonies grow and split to make new hives. Swarms are usually temporary-perhaps hanging in a bush or tree.

While they are frightening to those unfamiliar with them, they should be left alone and usually pose no danger.

Colonies or Nests: Perhaps you have an established colony living nearby. You may see a constant stream of worker bees coming and going to the nest. Removing these honey bees can be a bit involved. No, they will not likely move away on their own.

You have to decide how big of a problem having them nearby really is. Are the bees are living high up in a tree vs living in the walls (or other enclosed space) of your home?

Two examples of temporary honey bees swarms in trees.

Temporary Swarms – What to Do?

Perhaps, you have noticed a swarm of bees flying through the air on a warm Spring afternoon. Or maybe, you find a large ball of them hanging in one of your trees in the backyard. These transitional swarms are usually temporary and will remove itself in a day or so.

There is no reason to panic, swarms are not aggressive if left alone. Watch from a respectful distant and keep kids and pets away.

If you don’t want to wait for them to leave – or they have been in the same place for several days (sometimes they get stuck and begin to build comb) – find a local beekeeping association.

An area beekeeper will likely be glad to catch the bee swarm. Don’t expect to get paid by the beekeeper. There is some risk of disease in bringing new colonies to your apiary.

Honey bee colony nesting in a backyard tree.

Established Colonies in Your Yard

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

It can be rather exciting to find a colony of living in a tree-it is natural bee habitat. As the hive opening tends to be up high, they may live there for years without you knowing.

If they are not hurting anything, and no one in your family has bee allergies, why not leave them be. 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. If you hire a professional to cut the tree down – it must be someone familiar with the problem.

Trap Out Option of Removing Bees

Another option for someone wanting to remove honey bees from a tree – is a “trap out”. In this process, the beekeeper placed an empty beehive near the outside nest entrance.

A special funnel is placed that allows foragers to leave but not be able to get back inside the tree. Instead, they take up residence inside the new beehive.

When most of the population is living in the new hive instead of the tree – those inside are left to die. The hole in the tree can be plugged. 

This is a time-consuming project and does sacrifice part of the colony and resources. However, it is an alternative to killing the colony in a situation where the tree can not be cut down to remove the honey bees.

Honey bees inside house that need to be removed by expert.

Permanent Nests in Walls or Structures

Are you continuously finding honey bees inside your house, if so it is possible that a colony is living somewhere in your walls, floor or roof.

Go outside and carefully look for bee activity. It may be a small crack in the foundation or around the roof area. If you see a steady stream of bee traffic, you have a problem.

Honestly, it is not the ones you see coming and going that are the biggest problem. Rather, it is those inside the wall with all that honey, comb, and bee brood.

You can not simply close up the entrance, there are still thousands inside – looking for a way out. Getting rid of honey bees inside walls calls for professional assistance.

Beekeeper Cutouts

Some beekeepers specialize in removing honey bees from walls. This is called a “cutout”. It will not be free. Cutouts can be quite expensive as the person must have bee experience and carpentry know-how. 

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 bees and honeycomb, 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 but this needs to be discussed first. The homeowner needs a full understanding of the job to be done and the cost. A written contract is a great idea.

Honey bee with pollen entering nest in house wall .

Bee Extermination

In some situations, it will be necessary to kill the colony. This should be a last ditch effort after all methods to relocate the bees have been exhausted.

This is not a perfect method – even for the homeowner. If you are successful in killing the insects, you still have the beeswax, honey and dead brood in your wall. 

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

Honey bee beeswax comb and paper wasp home in doorway.

Preventing Future Infestations

After removing honey bees from any wall or structure, do your part to prevent a future bee family from moving in. Plug holes in the exterior to reduce tempting entrances to interior cavities.

Educate yourself and learn about the differences between bees and wasps. Often, relocating their home is just not a good option – it may be a temporary problem you can leave for a short time.

Learn how to tell if you have a bee nest or a wasp nest, before calling for help. I can say with first-hand experience that most beekeepers will not remove a yellow jacket family from your home or yard. Yes, I have been asked to do it – no I did not.

Yellow jacket wasp entrance in ground.


Will beekeepers remove honey bees for free?

Many beekeepers will remove honey bee swarms from your property for free. If the swarm is easy to access, they will be glad to play the role of bee rescuer.

How do I permanently get rid of a beehive?

To permanently get rid of an established beehives, the bees must be killed or removed from the structure. However, the comb, honey and brood inside the cavity must be removed too.

How to get bees to leave their hive?

Once a honey bee colony is established, it is very difficult to get them to leave. They have young inside. While some scents (cinnamon, peppermint, etc) may discourage bees considering setting up a nest, the best way to remove the bees is to hire a beekeeper or exterminator.

Final Thoughts

Planting bee friendly gardens has become popular. But, you can not plant nectar and pollen rich flowers and not expect pollinators to visit your yard. In fact, they may come anyway.

If you are planning an outdoor picnic and need to discourage them for a while, there are things you can do to keep bees away for a bit.

If your dog eats bees for a hobby, having a bee safe zone might be a good idea. This can safely be accomplished by choosing plants that repel bees (or at least do not attract them) in those areas.

There are even things you can do to help keep bees away from a swimming pool. But, removing honey bees colonies that are established and have valuable resources inside is not an easy task.

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