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Getting Rid of Bees Near Your Home

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.  Getting rid of bees safely is a good skill to have for any homeowner to have.

How to Remove Bees

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

Most often when insects pose a problem it is because of nests that are near areas used by humans. Though the terms are used interchangeably, the method used depends on the type of insect you are dealing with – bees or wasps.

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Wasps are useful insects consuming spiders, caterpillars and other gnarly pests. They help keep pest numbers under control. However, the nests – even those of Yellow Jackets wasps (often in the ground) can be scary and dangerous. Relocating these nests is just not a good option. Homeowners must usually destroy the nest with chemical sprays.

When evaluating the number of stingers in your living space, learn how to determine the difference between a bee nest vs a wasp nest

Wasps nest built of paper on an outdoor surface image.

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

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.

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.  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.

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

But, 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.

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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. 

Having bees or wasps living very near your home or worse inside the walls is not a good thing. Other types of insects such as carpenter bees, drill holes in wooden siding and damage decks.

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

Removing Honey Bees

It can be rather exciting to find a colony of bee living in a tree.  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.

Is it a Swarm or a Colony?

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

Sometimes a swarm, will get stuck and begin to build honeycomb.  This is time to call a beekeeper who will be delighted to collect the swarm and give them a new home. If you do not know a beekeeper, call your local agricultural office for advise.

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 or brood 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 beehive 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 nesting in a tree.

Honey Bee Extermination

Some pest control services will kill a colony located in your home.  Though sometimes necessary, this is a sad situation.  The colony is only seeking a place to survive – this should be a last ditch effort.

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.

Wasps Nests in Ground

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. They can be very dangerous as their nests are hard to see.

Opening for a yellow jacket colony in the ground.

Cost of Bee Removal from Wall

Cost? I have to pay people to take honey bees?  Yes, sometimes you will have to pay for bee removal.  If you have a 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

Too often, bees are living in the wall or roof of your home.  Getting rid of bees inside walls 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 but this needs to be discussed first.

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.  A swarm usually moves on in a few days.

Problems keeping bees away from a swimming pool, can be dealt with through various strategies. A wasp nest is seasonal.  When Winter comes the wasps will be gone, they do not reuse the same nest next year.  

Think before you grab that can of wasp or bee killer. Even better, remove wasps nest using natural methods – it is cheaper and more environmentally friendly.

Bee or Wasp, if their presence represents a safety hazard or prevents you from enjoying your space, reach out for help. Call your local agricultural extension agency or state department of agriculture. They are your first resource for getting rid of bees.