What do you do when THIS happens?
Have you ever had a swarm of honey bees try to take over your house? We have. We went straight to our local extension office to learn more about behavior patterns of honey bees. We also needed to know how to respectfully, but quickly, remove this honey bee swarm from the home. Here are some guidelines to what you can do to get rid of the swarm, as well as, honey bee behavior.
Honey Bee Preservation: Importance of Protecting Pollinators
In this article, Pollinating New Ideas from University of Minnesota Extension, Marla Spivak, researcher and entomology professor, points out:
Honey bees and wild bees pollinate more than 70 percent of our fruits and vegetables. From a monetary standpoint, their value is estimated at $16 billion in U.S. farm income (insect pollinators in general account for $29 billion). Yet our bees are dying at alarming rates. Since 2007, an average of 30 percent of all U.S. colonies have died every winter due to disease, parasites, lack of plant diversity, pesticides and a flowerless landscape.
So, knowing this and after all this state’s insect is the honey bee, we know to protect our pollinators.
But, what do you do when they are pouring in the house around the chimney? Not just one, but thousands of honey bees.
This happens every year. The bees return to the same place. The sound of the swarm is recognizable now. One appears in the living room. Then another. And, then another. Within minutes, thousands of bees are in the living room. This year an immediate response was to tape a shower curtain over the fireplace as soon as the bees were heard.
Each year, the doors and windows are opened to let them out with hope the bees don’t like what they are exploring. Every year the swarm leaves, thankfully. But, in the meantime it’s a mess with a house full of bees.
As gardeners and conservationists, we want to protect our honey bee population. But, what do you do if you have honey bees swarming around your house or bees in your wall? We called our local extension office for more information on honey bee swarms. Here’s how to get rid of honey bees and advice on preventing honey bee swarms from settling:
3 Ways to Get Rid of Honey Bees
1. Call a Beekeeper
There will be some bee keepers that will jump on a phone call to capture a swarm. And then, sometimes capturing the swarm is sometimes not the easiest solution. Bees are pretty easy to get these days. In fact, there are easier ways to get a swarm rather than capturing it.
If the bees are inside a structure, it is possible bee keepers cannot get to the swarm at all. It is also most likely siding to the house will need to be removed. Some beekeepers do not like to mess with it, and would rather purchase starter hives or a nuc, a small nucleus of bees.
Try a bee keeper first. Especially, if the swarm is easily accessible.
2. Call an Exterminator
Calling an exterminator is a possibility, as well. This is often used as the last resort. Homeowners can eliminate the colony of bees if they are harmful to the homeowner or structure.
If they are in our house, we can kill them. There is not a law against destroying honey bees. It usually costs around $150.00 for exterminators to treat the swarm.
3. Use a Swarm Box
Swarm boxes or trap out boxes can be placed in the yard near the swarm in hopes of enticing the bees to nest inside the box. However, swarm boxes can actually attract other bees, making the bee problem worse.
Advice on Preventing Honey Bee Swarms:
If you have honey bees returning, here is what you need to know:
1. Get the honeycomb out from the structure.
If robber bees are looking for honey in a structure, at some point in time honey was there. To keep the bees from returning, remove the existing hive in the wall. Even if the hive is old, they will return.
2. Seal up all entrances.
Seal entrances on the outside of the house to prevent bees from entering siding. Once a hive is established, honey bees will swarm to investigate old hives. Honey bees often swarm to split the colony, to see if the conditions are favorable to setting up a new hive, or to rob the hive of honey.
Any gap in siding can be an easy entrance into a structure. Common entrances are around fireplaces. Be sure to check around fireplaces carefully for any gap that can be sealed. Spray foam is often used to quickly fill cracks when honey bee swarms are active.
3. Honey bees have a strong sense of smell for six miles.
Honey bees can smell a distance of six miles. If you keep bees or have hives nearby, that’s a long distance robber bees can travel.
4. Swarm activity can be honey bees robbing other hives.
When you see swarm activity in the warmer months, it can be robber bees looking for other active hives.
Honey harvest is May in gardening zone 7b, so warm spring days bees are very active days. Robber bees set out for another hive to rob its honey. If you raise bees, this may be common for you to see.
5. Monitor flight behavior of honey bees.
Bee Friendly Plants from University of Minnesota Extension (PDF file)