So You’ve Got Bees in Your Wall
Many people contact the NABA each year with honey bees living in the walls of their homes. We are pleased that most are concerned with the plight of the honey bee and don’t want to destroy them unnecessarily. You can scroll down to complete the form requesting help or read on to better understand this complex situation.
What kind of bees are they?
We often hear from people who are uncertain whether they are encountering honey bees or another type of bee or wasp in their yard. Click on the graphic to the right for a good representation of the types of stinging insects we have in Middle Tennessee. In addition, we have a lot of red wasps and some fire ants which also sting. Honey bees will rarely nest underground; yellow jackets are the most common ground-nesting hornet in our area. Beekeepers are not usually able to assist with anything but honey bees. Contact a licensed exterminator for help with other insects.
Why not just kill them?
As beekeepers, we hate to see a thriving colony of bees killed. They provide a valuable service to you and your neighbors by pollinating plants in a wide area. Depletion of feral colonies through parasitic mite infestation means every colony is that much more valuable. However, as homeowners, we also understand your desire to keep the stinging insect population to a minimum around your family.
Simply killing a honey bee colony in a wall may present some problems. Most exterminators will be reluctant to kill honey bees because they are a protected species under state law. When honey bees establish a colony, whether it is in a hive, a hollow tree, or a wall in your house, they build combs of wax. These combs are quickly filled with honey, pollen, and brood – the baby bees. The bees are constantly regulating the temperature by circulating air through the colony. Once these bees are killed and hot weather arrives the comb will begin to melt. Undesirable side effects include honey dripping through walls or ceilings and decomposing brood that produces a foul odor. The unguarded remnants of the hive may attract vermin as well as wax moths and other insects that may further damage your home.
When the bees are gone, through whatever means, all entrances to the space must be sealed tightly. Any opening 5/16″ or greater will allow more bees to enter and you may end up with another swarm next spring.
What’s the best way?
The very best way to remove bees from a building is to actually open up the wall and take out all the comb along with the bees. Obviously, this is not always an option. Alternate methods include trapping the bees out so that their population inside the hive slowly dwindles as they consume the honey stores inside. It may be preferable to allow another colony to “rob” any remaining honey from the wall at this point in case the colony perished before all the stores were depleted. These trapping methods obviously require a lot of time and attention which is why it is difficult to find beekeepers willing to do it for free.
Aren’t the bees valuable?
Beekeepers pay a lot of money for a healthy colony of bees, often $100 for a three-pound package. However, swarms of unknown origin present many challenges. First, there is no guarantee that they are particularly productive or easy to handle. They also may harbor parasitic mites or brood diseases that might threaten other colonies the beekeeper owns. A colony has no future without a queen and she perishes under many of the removal methods.
Who can help?
Again, feel free to call a beekeeper in your area, especially if the wall can be opened up from the inside or out. If your home is convenient to them they may even be interested in trapping the bees. Please don’t be offended if they decline the opportunity as either method is a major undertaking.
There are individuals who will remove bees for a fee. Before you agree to pay someone for this service be sure they are addressing all the issues above so new problems don’t arise. Fill out the form below to send a message to multiple NABA members who will consider your details and contact you if they are able to assist.
What about those bees in my tree?
We occasionally get calls from people concerned about bees living in hollow trees around their houses. Admittedly, bees present some risk to humans. They are an attractive nuisance to bored kids with rocks. There are rare individuals with a life-threatening allergy to bees. However, the bees can happily coexist with you and will be a benefit to gardens, fruit trees, and wildflowers in your neighborhood. Most honey bees are not aggressive and will tolerate mowers, kids, dogs, etc. as long as they don’t perceive them as a threat to their colony. If you can recognize and respect their flight path as they go to and from the hive it may save you from a near-sighted worker bee. If the bees must be removed, the same methods for removing them from walls can be adapted for trees.