Honey bees are valuable pollinators playing
an important role in both native and agricultural
crop production. Beekeepers keep bees in wooden
manufactured hives, but the most common natural
nest site for bees is a hollow tree or other
cavity. Occasionally, honey bees may use a
wall void or attic space in a house as a nesting
site. In these situations, the decision to
take action depends upon the circumstances.
Here are some common questions asked by people
who discover bees nesting within their home.
Will the bees cause any damage
to my house?
Yes. Unlike other pests, such as termites
or carpenter bees, honey bees do not chew
or eat wood. Although the honey bees do
not eat the wood, they do it tar paper in
the area of the hive. This can cause water
to leak into the structure and can cause
dryrot. It is amazing that some universities
have done studies to say that they do not
cause problems to the home. 100% of the
time, the honey bees will eat the tar paper
in the area of the hive and that is a large
area. Occasionally, the bees can die from
disease and the honey left in the wall can
cause damage. If you do decide to exterminate
them, any large quantities of honey left
behind should be removed to avoid staining
and destruction of inside walls or ceilings.
The honey and nest debris may also attract
other insects pests and rodents. The ideal
situation is to have a bee specialist remove
the bees, wax comb, and honey.
When did they move in?
Honey bees reproduce by swarming where part
of the old colony leaves to seek a new homesite.
Swarming occurs mostly during the months
of April and May. If you notice bees in
your house at another time of year, especially
summer, chances are great that they have
been there since spring and you have just
now noticed them.
Can I just plug up the hole and
If the entrance hole is plugged, the bees
will look for another exit. They may find
another crack or opening or they could follow
light and enter your living quarters instead
through gaps in baseboard, electrical outlets
or vents. However, if you do succeed in
trapping the bees in the wall, expect to
have a stench from the hive in the wall,
and it is very probable that honey will
seep out of the structure.
Can a beekeeper come and take out the bees?
Yes. However, removing the bees usually
takes a lot of time and effort once they've
moved within a wall. The value of the bees,
alone, is not sufficient to justify the
effort and liability of involved in removing
them. There are very few bee specialists
that know the proper procedure for removal.
Often, I have finished the job of an amateur.
Can the bees be trapped out or made
Trapping is sometimes done, but is only
practical when the structure cannot be opened
up due to brick, stone, or stucco and when
removal from the inside structure is not
desireable. Trapping usually takes about
6-8 weeks. Most people do not know how to
trap and think just from a diagram they
can do it. This is why most companies do
not offer this service. However, we have
perfected the art of trapping and have a
very high rate of success. Because of the
time and supplies and the multiple visits,
trapping costs sometimes more than just
opening up the structure. We can give free
estimates with just a picture of the problem.
Is it illegal to kill honey bees?
Many pesticide labels include warnings to
avoid spraying flowering plants or crops
outdoors where honey bees are likely to
be foraging for nectar and pollen (e.g.,
in a garden or planted field). In those
situations, it is important to obey the
labeling to help protect the bees. However,
when bees invade a home, or a colony is
a threat , you have the right to remove
them (preferably) or to kill them if necessary.
We try to save the bees as much as possible
due to the high winter deathrate of the
honey bees in the last 5 years. We often
use our beevac to save the bees. We have
decided that if we are going to remove the
hive, we might as well save the bees. Many
others just kill them, because it is easier
to avoid being stung.
Why isn't simply spraying the bees
sufficient to solve the problem?
A honey bee colony within a wall can be
killed with insecticide by the homeowner
or a licensed pest control operator. However,
if the bees have been in the wall for more
than a few days, wax combs and honey may
already be stored within the wall. The longer
the colony has been there, the greater is
the likelihood that large amounts comb and
honey have accumulated. There may be as
much as 50 pounds of honey within a wall
by the end of spring. The remaining honey
and wax could eventually ferment and run
down the wall or ceiling, so it should be
removed in the best way possible. The greatest
amount of honey will likely be found at
the end of spring and the least amount found
at the end of winter. Large quantities of
decaying bees may also attract carpet beetles
which could, in turn, attack natural fibers
materials (e.g., wool, fur, or silk) within
the house. It is often that I see wax moths
near a bee colony. The only time that killing
the honey bees is preferred, is when the
bees just arrived and have entered the wall
void. Most people never see the swarm arrive.
They just assume that when they first saw
the bees that they must have showed up then.
Most of the time, when a homeowner has first
sighted the bees, they have been there long
enough to increase in colony size and that
is why they have then noticed them.
Are there other house-nesting insects
that might be mistaken for honey bees?
Yes. Yellow jackets sometimes build a nest
in a wall cavity, as do honey bees, and
many people are not able to distinguish
the two insects. The difference is important
because yellow jackets do no build wax combs,
do not store honey. The way to distinguish
the two apart is yellow jackets are smaller
and fly in jerky angles. However, be careful
when observing the yellow jackets, because
they can be very aggressive if you are near
their nest. If you see a dead one, look
at the color. Yellow jackets are bright
yellow with black stripes. Honey bees fly
slow and kind of lob into their nest. Honey
bees are never bright yellow, but can range
in colors. Yellowjackets often eat through
drywall when trying to expand their hive
and can be heard scratching the wall with
a clicking sound. Pesticides is the only
way to rid your house of a yellow jacket
nest. Many times the yellow jackets will
eat all of the drywall in the nest area
and leave only the paint. I have often just
slightly pushed my fingers through the drywall
to notice that it was only paint.