Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Bees have nested in your home. How do you get rid of them humanely?
There are no easy answers to this situation. After you discover bees have taken nest on your property, the first thing to do is contact a local beekeeping club — and some not-so-local — to see if there is someone in the club who does this, not so much for the bees, but as a part-time job. Sometimes there is, sometimes not.
You may be lucky and find a beekeeper willing to do the work just for the bees. Don’t hold your breath, though. If you do, the beekeeper will probably simply remove the nest — the cleanup and reconstruction will be up to you. If there is a person who does this for extra income, there are several routes you can choose. The good ones will give you a quote over the phone after asking a few simple questions. Be sitting down.
Non-Lethal Bee Removal is Work
Removing the bees, and not killing them, is work: deconstruction, removal and transportation, and reconstruction. This is where choices come in. The minimum amount of work is removing outside, or maybe inside, coverings and exposing the nest and removing it, and then that’s it. This part will cost the least, because it takes the least amount of time.
Once removed, the cavity needs to be washed and filled with insulation so it doesn’t attract bees again. You can do that, then put it back together, or hire someone else to do some or all of this. My suggestion is that you hire a beekeeper, not a carpenter. Hire both because it usually costs less. But not always. Follow the job and the quote and make that decision.
I never recommend killing a nest, but sometimes the difficulty of removal, the expense of repair, or the location of the nest make removal all but impossible. It happens. And bees out of place can be just as dangerous, and just as destructive, as any other insect. Sometimes you simply have no choice.
Call the Exterminator or Do the Job Yourself?
You can call an extermination company, but they often won’t handle this because of the difficulty of the job. And it is difficult to kill an entire honeybee colony in a wall or other structure because very often the brood continues to emerge for days, and they don’t want to return and retreat.
Exterminators will also often say it is illegal to kill honeybees to avoid this task. It isn’t, but now you know why they say that. If they do come, they will spray or use pesticide powder at the entrance in hopes that the nest is nearby. It may be close, it may be quite far from the opening.
You can often locate the nest from inside the home by putting a glass to the wall where you think it might be and listening for the hum of the hive. Find the nest, find the opening(s) and you can plan from there. If the nest is a long way from the opening, a powder will be more effective because the bees will track it into the nest, gradually exposing all the bees to the poison. It’ll take a month to kill the colony if you do this, but once you see no more flying bees, you can do the deconstruction, cleaning and reconstruction yourself.
You can apply the dust yourself and obtain the same results. But here’s a trick: Watch the opening and make sure there is only one. If there are more than one, close all but one. Duct tape is effective for this for a while. However, if you see bees coming and going from more than one entrance, you may have more than one nest. Don’t miss that.
Ladders and such may not be your best friends, but for this you can probably hire a beekeeper to come and apply it. Sometimes you get lucky and the entrance is close, and the nest is right inside. For these you can use wasp and hornet spray 3 times per week, right at the entrance. It’ll take two or three cans, but it will work. If, however, you do have more than one nest and you close their only entrance, you will have another problem — they will find another entrance. And it will probably be inside the structure, not outside. Suddenly, you will have bees coming out of electric outlets, pipe cutouts or wherever.
After the Nest is Abandoned, Clean Up the Mess
Once the nest is dead, you have to go in and clean out the mess. There will be honey, wax, and lots of dead bees — figure a dead cat’s biomass that will gradually rot. The nest itself, now unregulated relative to temperature, will gradually disintegrate and the honey will run out, and soak through walls or ceilings. You have to clean and fill the cavity, fast.
When the Nest Does Not Pose a Threat
However, sometimes the nest is in a location that is not dangerous to passersby, not doing damage and not causing a problem. Can you let it stay there? In all likelihood, it will not make it through the winter and be gone by next spring and you can fix it then with much less difficulty and cost. Just leaving it alone is a choice, too.
Photo by Gallery Hip
Kim Flottum is the Editor-in-Chief of Bee Culture magazine. Bee Culture has international exposure and covers the practical side of keeping honey bees, whether one or two colonies in your backyard or on an urban rooftop, or managing them by the hundreds or thousands. Connect with Bee Culture on Twitter and Facebook. Sign Up For The BUZZ free, right here.
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