Keeping Bees Away

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Several strategies are used by homeowners wanting to know how to keep bees away from a house or backyard. Bees and other buzzing insects are important members of the ecosystem-but they can pose a danger. Rather than trying to destroy the whole bee population (which is mean and not very smart), I want to share some ideas to reduce the number of bees in as natural a way as possible.

Honey bees in window inside house.

If you spend any time outside, you will come into contact with bees. But, you can have too many stinging insects in an area. First step, learn all the bee facts possible so you understand why they like your home space.

How to Keep Bees Away from Your House

In most cases, there is no reason for alarm over a few Bumble bees or honey bees, gathering nectar and pollen from flowers. They are actually very docile unless their nest is nearby.

If you leave them alone, they mostly ignore you and move on. While bees do sting humans – they often have better things to do unless threatened.

Do keep in mind, there are some similarities and differences between bees and wasps. What works to keep away one insect may not work for another.

Tips to Reduce Bees in Your Backyard

There are several reasons to reduce a bee-load in an immediate vicinity. This could be an ongoing project near a patio or child’s play area. Or, you may need some temporary help for a backyard party or barbeque.

Before breaking out the chemical bug killers, try some natural methods of keeping bees away.

  • use scent to deter bees (ground cinnamon, vinegar, vanilla extract, essential oils)
  • avoid floral perfumes, hairy spray or scented sunscreens
  • do not wear bright colors outside in garden settings
  • limit exposed food (soda cans etc.) – keep trash cans well away from sitting areas
  • remove any known nests while small
  • plant flowers known to repel bees
  • offer temporary food source (if all else fails)
Citronella oil, cinnamon and vanilla extract examples of using odor to keep bees away.

Use Scent to Keep Bees Away

Many insects (including bees) are very sensitive to odors. Their ability to use scent to find food is far superior to ours. But, there are odors that they do not care for and will avoid.

When planning an outside party- or if you are having a problem with insects near a doorway, consider sprinkling a little ground cinnamon around. Beekeepers often use this technique to aid in keeping ants out of their beehives too.

Place cucumber peels on some plates during your next outdoor activity. They are said to be discouraging to insect visits.

Crushed garlic is another natural way to keep insects away – if you can stand the smell yourself. I have not tried this one – I think it might keep everyone away.

Natural Sprays

Another idea is to make a spray with water and a little vinegar. This can be misted on patios and masonry areas to discourage bees from visiting.

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Of course, always test on a small area first to make sure there is no damage to surfaces. Also, do not spray this on plants – vinegar is a natural weed killer and may damage vegetation.

Mixing a tablespoon of Vanilla Extract with water in a spray bottle, creates a natural pest repellant spray. If you do not have sensitive skin, you can lightly dab a bit on your arms to discourage insects.

Essential Oils such as peppermint oil are known to repel bees. Placing a few cotton balls with a drop or two of peppermint oil around the deck can help.

It makes the area smell nice too! Keep some oils handy. Some essential oils provide bee sting relief.

Don’t Attract Bees to Yourself

If you dislike bees buzzing around you, don’t go outside looking and smelling like a flower. Bright colored clothing and strong floral perfumes or fragrances may bring the bees over to investigate.

A funny thing – is that sweet smelling baby powder tends to discourage bees. I often use it between my beekeeping gloves and the end of my sleeves when inspecting my beehives. It helps reduce stings on exposed skin.

Reduce Exposed Food Sources

During picnics or outside barbecues, avoid leaving food scraps or open cans of soda sitting around. Sugary drinks are very enticing to wasps and bees.

Especially during a nectar dearth (when natural nectar is in short supply). Once one finds the treat, they bring back friends. Move trashcans away from areas being used by people.

Wasp nests on house.

Remove Known Nests

Learn how to tell the difference between a bee nest and a wasp nest and remove unwanted nests while small.

The grey paper wasp nests are easily destroyed by spraying them with soapy water early in the season. This helps reduce the bees (wasps) in near your home or doorway.

Nests in the ground are typically Yellow Jacket Wasps. These aggressive predators can be very dangerous because the colonies grow large in late Summer.

Buying traps specifically for yellow jackets – or making your own yellow jacket trap is one way to have fewer wasps around.

While these methods help reduce the population of bees and wasps around your home, they likely will not work for carpenter bees.

Other than special traps, I have not found a great way to keep carpenter bees away. They rarely sting but they do considerable damage to wood decks and other wood structures.

Use Plants that Discourage Bees

Don’t invite a large bee population into high traffic areas. While bees help flowers by pollination, not every plant is attractive to bees. 

When choosing plants to decorate areas near doorways and walks or to use in containers, choose those that repel bees – or at least as not extremely attractive.

These include some herbs such as peppermint (when not in bloom), eucalyptus, and citronella. This will reduce the number of visiting bees and the predators (such as wasps) that are there trying to catch a meal.

Avoid flowering herbs that attract bees such as the salvias, borage and others. Perhaps you have a space for those over in a secluded corner – a private bee garden area.

Temporary Food Source

If you have an outdoor party planned and too many winged friends are expected, consider a temporary alternative food source.

A shallow saucer of simple sugar water or fruit juice may distract unwanted visitors. The bait should be placed well away from the entertainment area.

Infographic of keeping bees and wasps away from your house with colored boxes and tips.

Keeping Honey Bees Out of Your House

Seeing honey bees visit your garden is a beautiful experience. However, if they take up residence in your home – that can be a big problem. It is very expensive to have honey bees removed from the walls of a house.

Avoid this problem by sealing gaps or openings in the siding of your house, porch columns and eves.

A bee swarm is only trying to find a place for a new home but it is not best to have them sharing yours. A steady stream of bees going in and out may be a problem. Contact a local beekeepers association for help.

More Ideas

There are many reasons you may wish to keep bees away from your home or backyard – in spite of the benefits that these beneficial insects provide.

Some people have a specific condition -an intense fear of bees (apiphobia) or are allergic to stings. Naturally, they want to limit bees in some areas. Perhaps you enjoy hummingbirds – keeping bees away from hummingbird feeders can be challenging.

And, if you have beehives – you may find yourself explaining to neighbors can keep bees out of the swimming pool – these are the times when the lives of bees and humans clash.

Try several techniques until you find one that works for your target insect, you can even make your own beeswax citronella candles for evening parties.

FAQs

What is the easiest way to keep bees away from a home?

Using deterring scents is one of the easiest ways to keep bees away from your doorway or backyard picnic (peppermint, eucalyptus, citronella and even cinnamon.)

Do dryer sheets keep bees away?

Bees and wasps dislike the scent of dryer sheets. Place a few around at your next outdoor event.

Does vinegar keep bees away?

A vinegar and water spray can be a useful bee repellent (if you can stand the smell yourself.) Be careful where you spray vinegar and do not spray on plant vegetation.

Final Thoughts

When discouraging bees from visiting your personal space or keeping them away from your house, putting some of these ideas into practice is sure to help. There are many things you can do. But, try to avoid resorting to harsh pesticides. It hurts us all in the end.