Maybe you’re expecting a few guests this summer. But what if 50,000 made a surprise stop at your house and had no plans to leave? That’s how many honeybees are in an average colony!
So what should you do if they decide to call your house home?
"Getting rid of bees is not a do-it-yourself project," said Angie's List founder, Angie Hicks. "In fact, last summer when I had bees attacking my kid’s swing set I called in a professional. The reason is, you might not realize how big of a problem it is until you’re actually in the midst of fixing it. You might see a few bees, but there might be a lot more behind where you can’t see. Hiring a professional can make sure it’s done safely.”
The first instict for many homeowners might be to grab a can of insecticide and start spraying.
But beekeeper Ross Harding says that is dangerous and inefficient. “If you were to spray an entire can of bee killer in that hole, yeah you are going to kill a bunch of bees and you might notice them stop coming and going for a couple of days, but the colony goes way far back into the house. And you’re not killing all the larvae either so you’ll kill a bunch of bees but farther down is a bunch of living bees.”
Besides, a thriving honeybee colony is a terrible thing to waste.
According to the American Beekeeping Federation, one-third of all food Americans eat is directly or indirectly derived from honeybee pollination. Colony collapse disorder — the sudden die-off in honeybee colonies — has many homeowners considering live removal as an eco-friendly option to rid their homes of honeybees.
“Live removal is really a great thing because basically you’re just relocating the hive. You’re not killing any bees. You’re removing the entire colony and their comb and you’re sealing up that hole so no bees will return. But then you can take that hive somewhere where they are actually wanted,” said Harding.
A bee specialist has the right training, expertise and equipment needed for safe bee removal and relocation to a proper place so that the bees can continue to function as pollinators and creators of honey and bees wax.
Beekeepers use 3 different live removal methods:
- Swarm removal: Harding describes a swarm as a cluster of bees about the size of a basketball that isn’t attached to a hive. Bees swarm when they’re looking for a new home. They typically aren’t aggressive, because they aren’t defending a hive.
- Cut-outs: Bee specialists use the cut-out method when the bees have established themselves in a wall or tree. To remove the bees and honeycomb, the beekeeper cuts into the wall. Specialists can employ different ways to pinpoint where the bees are inside of the wall, including using a stethoscope to hear the bees behind the wall or using a thermal scanner to find the hot spot in the wall. Being able to locate the bees helps minimize the damage to the home.
- Trap-outs: When a beekeeper wants or needs to avoid cutting into a wall or tree where bees are located, they use a trap-out. Trap-outs build a one-way bee escape, where the bees can leave their old hive, but not make it back in.
"Remember that it may take more than one company to complete the project," Hicks said. "The pest control company will come in and remove the bees but then you may have some repair work that needs done- maybe to walls or drywall - to make sure your house is back to perfect condition.”
Angie’s List Tips: Hiring bee removal
- Ensure the bee removal expert has the right license and insurance to perform the bee removal operation.
- Ask for references and how many removals have they done
- Will the bees be exterminated or relocated? Will they remove the honeycomb? A honeycomb left unattended will melt into a sticky mess that could seep through wall attracting more bees and pests.
- Will they repair the damage? Some companies may need to cut into your walls to get to the bees, but may have to refer you to another contractor to fix the problem.
- Be able to identify the bee when you call – yellow jackets and wasps are sometimes mistaken for honey bees. Where is the swarm located? How high is it? Have long have they been there? Write down as much information as you can before calling. Taking a picture can help identify too.
- You can make your home less attractive to swarms. Bees desire a small hole for a suitable cavity. Carefully inspect house walls, or soffits lining the roof's edge and trim around windows or doors. Inspect monthly during the warmer months.