BEES & WASPS
There are many insects that people call bees. Some are bees, some are wasps, but many of them are not honey bees, the subject of this page.
The honey bee benefits the economy immensely. Honey bees produce millions of dollars’ worth of honey and beeswax, as well as pollinate commercial fruits, vegetables, and field crops. However, by establishing a colony in a house, building, or hollow tree next to the home, honey bees may become a nuisance or hazard to humans. Some people have severe allergic reactions to the sting of a honey bee. Although it is not unlawful to destroy honey bees, it is always best to save them if possible.
Diagnosing the Problem
The forepart of the abdomen is yellow and there is some yellow between the four brown bands on the rest of the abdomen. The Caucasian variety, a mild-tempered bee, is dark, and its abdomen is banded with grey.
An established honey bee colony will sometimes divide itself, and one or more swarms will leave the hive. The new swarm may cluster for a while on a tree limb or bush near the old hive while scout bees search for a suitable place to establish a new home. Usually scout bees find a hollow tree, but occasionally they will choose the wall voids of a home. Unfortunately, bees may nest in the wall or attic some distance from where they enter the wall.
Are they about 2cm long? If much bigger or smaller, they are not honey bees. Very large bees are usually carpenter bees. Very small bees may be any of many species of mostly non-social bees.
Are they yellow jacket wasps? Yellow jackets are about the same size as honey bees, and nest in moderate-sized colonies. They are dark black and bright yellow, with clearly defined black and yellow bands. Honey bees are more brownish, and fuzzier, with less well-defined bands
Are They Foraging Bees, A Swarm in Transit, Or an Established Colony?
If you just see many bees flying around flowering plants, they are most likely just foragers visiting the flowers for nectar and/or pollen. Foragers can sting, but generally only do so if they are trapped or crushed. There is little than can be done to deter foraging bees except to remove the flowers.
If you see a cluster of bees hanging in a tree, ranging in size from a baseball to bigger than a football, it is probably a swarm. Swarming bees are bees that have left their original colony, with the old queen, and are looking for a suitable cavity in which to form a new permanent nest. When they find one, they will move on again en masse, usually in a few hours to a few days after they land. The tens of thousands of flying bees in a swarm taking off or flying is a very dramatic sight, but usually not a great danger. Since the bees have little to defend, swarm bees are usually docile (but not always, so don’t disturb them). If you can see the edges of wax honeycombs sticking out of the cluster, or if it remains in place for a week or more, it is probably an established colony.
If you see many bees coming and going from the same place (usually a hole that leads to their nest cavity, but sometimes you will just see them flying out of vegetation at one place), they are probably an established colony, living in nest made of beeswax combs that they build, usually, but not always, inside a cavity. These are the most troublesome, because they are permanent, and because the bees are more likely to defend their nest by stinging. I generally advise people to remove established colonies as soon as they can after they discover them, because the colony will continue to grow, build more comb, store more honey, and become more defensive. Unfortunately, it is not terribly simple to remove an established colony inside a cavity.
Dealing with Bees in The Wall
Removing a bee colony from a wall is probably not something you want to do yourself. I recommend calling a professional. You want to get someone who has the equipment and experience to deal with bees, and do it right. Not all pest control operators will do all that I recommend here, and I think you are asking for trouble if you just have the bees killed and nothing else, so persist in finding someone to do the complete job.
Sydney’s Best Pest Control Chemical Free Bee Removal
Bees play a very important role in the pollination of flowering plants. They are the major type of pollinator in ecosystems that contain flowering plants. Bees will either focus on gathering nectar or gathering pollen depending on the supply demand at the time. It is estimated that one third of the human food supply depends on insect pollination, most of which is accomplished by bees.
It is unfortunate that the bee population over the past few years has decreased dramatically and without the work of the bees many food crops that we depend on in life will become unavailable if the bee population continues to decrease.
This is why Sydney’s Best Pest Control has implemented chemical free bee removal. This process safely and humanely removes the bees, the honeycomb and the hive. However please note that removal processes are dependent on different circumstances and the position of the hive.
- Swarms are often found hanging in trees or on fences.
- A bee vac is used to suck the bees into a screened box and removed.
- The captured bees are transported to a bee farm.
Formed Colony Removal
If a colony has already formed, there are 2 methods to removal.
Method 1 – Trapping
Trapping is a method used when physically creating an opening in the structure is not feasible such as brick or stone structures.
- A conical shaped one-way trap over the main entrance is created which blocks off any secondary entrances.
- The bees are able to leave the hive, but cannot return
- Food supply is reduced
- The size of the colony is reduced
- Trap hive is placed near the conical trap and is baited with a queen bee.
- Bees begin to gather in and around the trap hive.
- Bees accept the trap queen and establish a new colony in the trap hive.
- The trap hive begins to thrive, and the original colony becomes very weak.
- At this point, the conical trap is removed. Which means the bees are able to re-enter the hive and collect nectar or honey.
- Once the trap hive removes the remaining nectar and honey, the entrance can be sealed.
The benefits of this method are that there is minimal damage to the structure (minor stapling of funnel, caulking, and screws) and excess honey and nectar is removed. This process can take up to 12 weeks for completion.
Method 2 – Cut Out
The cut-out method is the physical removal of the bees and all comb. This method has proven to have the best results, to prevent future bee hives.
- Hive is located
- The opening in the wall or ceiling needs to be opened to expose the entire nest.
- A bee vac is used to suck the bees into a screened box.
- The wax comb is cut out in sections and mounted into wooden frames
- The cavity is scraped clean
- The exterior entrance is sealed off.
The benefits of this method are that all remnants of the colony are removed and it usually can be done in less than 4 hours.
- Close all windows and doors
- If anyone has an allergy to bees, keep them away.
- Do not spray the nest with any insecticide
Where are the bees taken to after removal?
The bees are transported to bee farms, where they can continue to pollinate and produce honey and wax.
Does this process harm the bees?
No! This is the kindest and most humane method of removal.
What should we do if we see a bee hive?
Many people are happy to leave them alone, as colonies always move on with time. However, if you have children, pets or neighbours who are either sensitive or allergic to bees, then the best option would be to have the hive professionally removed in a humane and chemically free manner.
What are the benefits of using a chemical free removal?
Apart from the obvious that no chemicals or insecticides are used, the bees are simply relocated. With the continued extermination of bees, the population is dwindling quickly. Bees are a very important part of our ecosystem and the continued destruction of bees could in the future mean that certain food crops could become extinct, as many flora species require bee pollination to survive.
Can I keep the honey and wax?
We can give you a section of comb honey, but the remainder of the comb and honey must be taken for the bees, as the comb is placed in wooden frames and given back to the bees. The honey will be fed back to the bees so they are able replace the comb that was damaged. This process enables the bees to feed the colony while they recover from the removal.
Killing the Bees
Bees can be removed alive from the wall by someone accustomed to working with them but it is more difficult, and there is a greater risk of someone getting stung. Most pest control operators do not have the beekeeping expertise to do live removal, and besides, then they would have a colony of bees that they don’t want either. Therefore, most jobs will start with killing the bees. Many insecticides can be used to kill bees, the principal problem is getting the material to the bees inside a cavity, with multiple wax combs forming further barriers to insecticide application. Sometimes holes are drilled in the wall to inject insecticide, sometimes it can be applied through the entrance that the bees use.
Removing the Nest
If the job ends with killing the bees, you have up to 10 pounds of dead bees, several more pounds of developing bee larvae, wax combs and up to 100 or so pounds of honey still inside. The rotting bees can smell bad, and, with no bees to protect them, the combs may melt or fall. If this happens, honey will leak out and can seep out through your wallpaper and baseboards, and even between stories in a house. This is not good, and to avoid it you need to remove the dead bees and the nest. This almost always involves opening the cavity (i.e. removing siding or wallboard) scraping out the mess, and then repairing the wall. As you fear, this is expensive and troublesome.
Filling the Cavity
When you remove the nest, it important to keep in mind that the smell of the old nest will remain indefinitely and make the cavity especially attractive to future swarms of bees, so the problem can recur. To avoid this, it is important make it so there is no longer a cavity there for bees to move into. The easiest way to do this is usually to fill up the space (all the space you or the bees can get to) with fibreglass insulation. I prefer this because it generally will not settle, as some other materials do. Then, although scout bees may be attracted by the smell of the old nest, when they crawl inside they will not find a cavity of usable size, so they won’t bring the rest of the swarm.
Plugging Actual or Potential Entrances
Even if you have filled the cavity, it is a good idea to plug up or screen over any holes or cracks that lead into the cavity. When screening, use mesh with less than 6mm openings (e.g. 3mm hardware cloth or window screen). Remember, even if the bees were using just one entrance, other entrances may exist; you should search for them and close them off.
Do I Have to Do All That?
If you know for sure that a colony has moved into a cavity within the last 2 days, it will not have built much comb or stored much honey. In this situation, you may get away with just killing the bees, hoping they don’t smell too much, and carefully closing off all entrances to the cavity. It is always better to do the full job above, despite the expenditure in time and money. If the bees have been in place more than a week you are asking for trouble not to open the cavity to remove them. Sometimes you will get away with it, but it can make a bad problem a lot worse if you don’t.
What If I Can’t Open the Cavity?
Sometimes the bees are nesting inside a masonry wall, or other location that can’t be opened. Then the best you can do is kill the bees, perhaps fill the cavity with pourable insulation, block entrances very thoroughly, and cross your fingers.
As the above description suggests, it is troublesome and expensive to have bees removed from a nest in your house. It is far better to prevent them nesting there in the first place. This is where “bee proofing” comes in. If bees cannot find a hole leading to a suitable cavity, they won’t move in. You can get there first, and scrutinise your property for potential bee nests. Look for holes or cracks in the walls, soffits, etc. that may lead to cavities in the walls or attic. Caulk up the holes, or screen them over. Also, look for other potential nesting sites, anything with a fairly small hole leading to a cavity: examples include upside down flower pots, old water heaters, electrical boxes, barbecues, etc. If the cavity is removed (take it to the dump) made wide open (turn the flower pot over) or inaccessible (plug the holes leading to the cavity), it will no longer attract nesting bees.
Dealing with Swarms
Since swarms are relatively docile, and since they are generally completely exposed, collecting them or destroying them is easier than with established colonies. Also, if you do nothing, a swarm will usually leave with a day or so. The problem is, when they leave, it is to establish a nest in a cavity somewhere, where they are likely to be a greater problem. That “somewhere” may not be on property that is your responsibility, but it may be.
There was a time when it was easy to find a beekeeper who was interested in collecting swarms when he or she got the chance, sometimes for no charge. These days, that it rare, because there are fewer beekeepers, because liability concerns have increased, and because swarms are less valuable since they have been Africanised and will require a change to queen to be useful to a beekeeper. A swarm can be collected by knocking it into a box, ideally a beehive with combs, waiting for all the bees to go inside (usually until nightfall) and then taking the new hive to a permanent location. For a beekeeper, this is not so hard to do, since they are accustomed to working with bees, and have a veil handy to protect them from the possibility of stings (not too likely, but it does happen). For the non-specialist it is still possible, but more daunting. If the swarm is close to the ground it is of course easier to remove than if it requires climbing a ladder.
Swarms can be killed easily with insecticides, or with detergent solutions. Insecticides are more likely to annoy and disrupt the bees. For most people, the best course is hire a professional pest control person to remove the swarm of bees.
Allergic Reaction Symptoms
Most people stung will experience a “local” reaction with redness, pain, swelling and some itching only at the sting site. If the reaction progresses quickly to sites other than the sting site or is followed by difficult breathing or choking at the throat, the person is experiencing a “systemic” allergic reaction requiring emergency medical treatment.
Remember that if you are stung on the hand and your face begins to swell or hives break out all over your body, this is a serious condition requiring emergency room attention.
Normal Reaction: Lasts a few hours. Sting site is painful, reddened, may swell and itch, but will quickly dissipate.
Large Local Reaction: Lasts for days. Sting site is more painful, swelling and itching may be present both at the sting site and in surrounding areas.
Severe Allergic Reaction: Can commence rapidly (in a few minutes) after the sting occurs. The whole body is involved. Person may feel dizzy, nauseated and weak. There may be stomach cramps and diarrhoea. There can be itching around the eyes, a warm feeling or coughing, hives breaking out, followed with vomiting and swelling. There can be wheezing, difficult breathing or swallowing, hoarse speech, drop in blood pressure, shock, unconsciousness and darkened skin following. Reactions may occur in a few minutes with most deaths within 30 minutes, but some within 15 minutes and some in five minutes or less.
Whenever stung, try to capture or know the identity of the insect to help doctors diagnose the trouble. When a bee or wasp stings, it injects a venomous fluid under the skin. Honey bees have a barbed stinger. Only the honey bee leaves her stinger (with its venom sac attached) in the skin of its victim. Since it takes two to three minutes for the venom sac to inject all its venom, instant removal of the stinger and sac usually reduces harmful effects. Scrape away with a sideways movement (one quick scrape) with a fingernail. Never try to use the thumb and forefinger or tweezers to pinch out the stinger since this manoeuvre forces (injects) more venom from the sac down into the wound.
Wasps, yellow jackets and hornets have a lance-like stinger without barbs and can sting repeatedly. They should be brushed off the victim’s skin promptly with deliberate movements, then quietly and immediately leave the area.
Highly-sensitive persons should have two emergency kits prescribed for them by their physician within easy access at all times. It is best to store kits in a cool, dry place with easy access. The kit contains one sterile syringe of adrenalin EPIPEN, ready for injection, four chewable, yellow tablets of Chlortrimeton (antihistamine), two sterile alcohol swabs for cleaning the injection site and one tourniquet. Inject the syringe into the thigh under the skin as soon as the first sting symptoms show. A tourniquet placed above the sting site, when on an arm or leg just tight enough to obstruct blood return but not so tight as to stop circulation, will help until medical treatment is obtained. Loosen the tourniquet every 10 minutes.