If you find you believe you have a colony of honey bees that appear to be intent on setting themselves up permanently in a place that is inconvenient for you, then you may need to have them removed.
Here is my guide to being as humane as possible. Hopefully, you can have them relocated to a suitable place.
But first, a few considerations.
First, be sure that you have honey bees. It is surprising how many people think they have a colony of honey bees, when in actual fact, they have a colony of bumble bees.
If it is actually a bumble bee nest, you can
more than likely leave them alone, because these nests only last a season so that the nest will no longer be active within a few weeks. Bees are having a hard time right now, so see
if you can do the bees a favour, and leave them alone.
Bumble bees, in comparison with honey bees, are rounder, sometimes more colourful, and live in much smaller colonies than honey bees. See the photographs below.
Take into account that bumble bees can be more varied in their colouring and markings.
Common carder bumble bee
Solitary bees can also be mistaken for honey bees. Species of carpenter, mason bees and leafcutters can all look fairly similar to honey bees. The question to ask is ‘how many bees are there?’ Honey bee colonies consist of thousands, not merely hundreds or ‘a few’ bees.
If so, I recommend against it unless you are a beekeeper and have the expertise and equipment to perform the operation correctly.
This job needs protective clothing, quite possibly a smoker, and an appropriate vessel in which to remove honey bees away from the area, and hopefully to a new location where they will be welcome to settle.
If it's a nest rather than a swarm, this needs to be done in such a fashion that wasps will not be attracted into the area later. Entrances to the nest site must be blocked and honey comb removed. Call a beekeeper or professional!!
In some parts of the USA, Africanized bees have to be dealt with in a particular way. Contact your local council to ask what the policy is, and see whether and how they are dealing with the issue.
If you see a swarm hanging from a tree branch, it may be temporary, but if you are concerned, a beekeeper will usually be able to remove them (assuming the location is not too awkward)! You can read more about bee swarm removal here.
A nest however, means the bees have set up a permanent residence! Nests tend to occur in crevices that can be natural or man-made.
The images below show the location of a wild honey bee nest in a tree trunk.
In this garden, the bees are left to continue with their activities.
Below is a close up view of the nest.
Firstly, ask yourself:
This means there will be less comb to be removed. The removal of honey comb is important to
deter other colonies of bees or even visits by wasps or hornets. In addition, any entrances to the nest will, as stated,
need to be identified and blocked to prevent other bees entering the nest area
once the honey bees have been removed.
When I first built this website, there was far less concern about bees among pest controllers than there is today. Increasingly, I’m hearing of these professionals refusing point blank to remove bumblebee nests because they are temporary and bees need help. Bumblebees are rarely a danger - you probably walk by them as they forage on flowers in a community park or planting scheme, without a care.
Not all pest controllers will remove honey bees either, and some may recommend that you contact a beekeeper. Others are, however, finding ways to remove the honey bees and relocate them to a safe place.
1. Identify whether the bees are honey bees or not.
2. Contact a beekeeper via your local beekeeping association, and seek advice and help. They may or may not charge, but you need to confirm this in advance.
3. If appropriate and you are able, leave them alone, or become a beekeeper.
4. If you need to have them removed, act quickly and get help – don’t attempt it yourself.
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