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?
NO. Honey bees will do no structural damage to a building. Unlike other pests, such as termites or carpenter bees, honey bees do not chew or eat much wood. Some people choose to leave the colony alone and have had bees inside a wall for many years. 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 bees, insect pests and rodents.
When did they move in?
When a colony of honey bees splits by swarming, part of the old colony leaves to seek a new home. 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 suffocate them?
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.
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. Our beekeepers are willing to do this, and those who do, often charge a fee and may still leave the responsibility of any repairs up to the homeowner. Be sure that you agree about price and what is expected in this service.
Can the bees be trapped out or made to leave?
Trapping is sometimes done, but it is rarely practical because it takes several weeks and doesn't remove 100% of the bees. 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 bees, insect pests and rodents.
Is it illegal to kill honey bees?
Not if they are in your home. Although 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.
Why isn't simply spraying the bees sufficient to solve the problem?
A honey bee colony within a wall can be killed with an 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 40 pounds of honey within a wall by the end of spring. The remaining honey and wax will either attract another swarm of bees, or eventually ferment and run down the wall or ceiling, so it should be removed after the bees are killed in the best way possible. 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.
How do I spray the nest?
Use an aerosol "bee and wasp" spray; the kind typically found in most lawn & garden centers or retail stores. Spray the chemical directly into the entrance hole during the evening hours, when all adults are most likely inside. If you're spraying overhead, protect yourself from any chemical mists that drift down toward you. If you need to use a ladder to reach the nest, be extremely careful. The spray may cause the bees to fly out of the nest toward you. Wear long-sleeved shirt and pants and a hat, if it makes you feel more confident. If the colony has been active in the wall for more than two or three weeks, consider opening the space to remove any wax and honey. Once the bees and nest material have been removed, fill the void with insulation, caulk or close off the entrance so that future swarms will not be attracted to the same cavity.
Why didn't the spray kill them?
The insecticide must contact the colony to be effective. Sometimes the nest area is not close to the opening. Try to locate the exact nest area by tapping the wall and listening. If necessary, a quarter-inch hole may be drilled into the wall to introduce the insecticide. In this case use a pesticide product that has a "crack & crevice" tool (a straw-like attachment for the nozzle that allows you to inject the chemical into the void).
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, and their colonies die out each year by spring and are therefore much easier to eradicate.