How to Keep Bees Away: Safely

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Bees and other buzzing insects all have an important place in our world. They help maintain a natural balance and provide important pollination services for many of the foods we eat. However, not everyone is a big fan of bees. And, even those of us who are may find ourselves wanting to learn how to keep bees away from time to time.

Keep Bees Away from You & Your House

Honey bee in window inside house.

Okay, it is a fact that we have to share the world with our beneficial insects. But, if you plan to spend any time outside, chances are you will come into contact with bees.

In most cases, this is no reason for alarm. Bumble bees and honeybees, for example, are actually very docile unless their nest is nearby.

Those we see out gathering nectar and pollen are field foragers. They are the workers responsible for collecting all the resources needed by the hive. Leave them alone and they mostly ignore you.

Tips to Keep Bees Away from Your Backyard

There are several reasons to reduce a bee-load in an immediate vicinity. Before breaking out the chemical bug killers, it is a good idea to try some natural methods of keeping bees away.

  1. Grow herbs or flowers that repel bees
  2. Sprinkle ground cinnamon near seating areas
  3. A water and vinegar spray may work well on non-plant areas
  4. Make a spray using water with a little vanilla extract
  5. Essential oils of some types are reported to discourage bees
  6. Do not wear bright colors outside in garden settings
  7. Avoid floral perfumes, hairspray or scented sunscreens
  8. Keep trash cans away from sitting areas – bees love soda cans
  9. Close up openings in the siding of your home or the eves
  10. Remove any known nests while they are small
  11. Provide alternative food source short term

Use Plants that Discourage Bees

While bees and flowers have an important relationship, 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 are repellent to bees.

These include some herbs such as peppermint, 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.

Citronella oil, cinnamon and vanilla extract examples of using odor to keep bees away.

Use Scent to Keep Bees Away

Like many insects, honey bees are very sensitive to odors. Their ability to use scent to find food is far superior to ours. There are also odors that they do not care for – such as cinnamon. It does not anger them – they just don’t like it.

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.

Cucumber peels are said to repel investigating insects. Consider placing some on plates during your next outdoor activities. Crushed garlic is another one – if you can stand the smell yourself.

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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.

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!

As a matter of fact, it is a good idea to keep a few on hand just in case of a sting. Some essential oils provide bee sting relief.

Don’t Attract Bees to Yourself

If you dislike insects, 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. This is exactly what you do not want.

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

During picnics or outside barbecues, avoid leaving food scraps or soda sitting around. Move trashcans away from people areas. Sugary drinks are especially enticing to insects. Once one finds the treat, they bring back friends.

Keep 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.

Small wasp nest in house eves.

Remove Wasp Nests and Colonies

There are many differences between the nests of bees and wasps. But, none of them need to set up house-keeping near your doorway.

It is best to remove any unwanted nests while they are still small. Wasps nests are easily destroyed in the early stages. 

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 is one way to have fewer nests 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.

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.

Sharing the Outdoors

In spite of the benefits that these beneficial insects provide, you may wish to reduce the number of stinging insects in an area.

Some people have an intense fear of bees or are allergic. Young children may not know how to tell a bee from a wasp yet.

Keeping bees away from hummingbird feeders or explaining how your neighbors can keep bees out of the swimming pool – these are the times when the lives of bees and humans clash.

Whether 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.

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.

There are many things you can do. But, try to avoid resorting to harsh pesticides. It hurts us all in the end.