If you are a longtime reader of The Optimist Daily, you’ll know that our team loves bees (and other pollinators). We’ve published many stories on why bees are critical to our world’s ecosystem and to our species’ survival, as well as articles that highlight amazing people and initiatives that are working to protect, conserve, and support bee populations.
Yet, as much as we appreciate bees, a colony might set up its hive in an unwanted location, and it might be necessary to relocate it. Before deciding to remove a hive, know that bees are not defensive and don’t usually attack unless their hive is under threat. Assess the situation and if the hive is at a safe enough distance, the better choice for the bees and for the planet is to leave it alone.
However, if the hive gets built in a bedroom wall, as happened to one of our staff in 2020, moving it makes sense. Other factors, such as having severe bee allergies or living with children and/or pets who might pose a danger to the hive (and therefore put themselves at risk of getting attacked), are also legitimate reasons to relocate a bee colony.
How to sustainably relocate a hive
Hives come in two forms: non-structural (meaning that the hive is located within another framework such as the hollow trunk of a tree) or structural (which means that the hive is attached to a wall or chimney-like structure).
Whatever kind of hive is inconveniencing you and your home, it is best to find a professional to relocate it. The American Beekeeping Federation has a list of state organizations that can connect you to a free nest removal service. You can also do an online search for local “humane bee removal services.” If the hive is not attached to or inside your home, and you have an apiary in your area, then you can inquire if they offer any bee removal services. Apiaries are also interested in saving the bees. They will often be more than happy to relocate the bees to their own hives.
Humane and sustainable bee removal services will not use pesticides. So be sure to ask how they will get the job done before signing yourself up with a professional removal team. The service you’re looking for will be similar to the one below:
- Firstly, they will locate the hive. If it is hidden behind a wall or structure, a heat sensor might be used to find out exactly where the hive is. Once the hive is located, they will poke small holes into the wall to determine the entry points and mark out the area of the wall that needs to be removed.
- Then, the bee removal service providers will smoke out the bees. They only administer as much smoke as is needed to calm the bees, not kill them.
- Next, they will remove the honeycomb one sheet at a time with a special tool.
- The honeycombs (with the bees still on them) will then be placed carefully into an apiary bee box.
- The original location of the hive should be thoroughly cleaned at this point, to remove any honey or larvae that might attract rodents, ants, and other insects.
- If part of a wall had to be removed, then they will repair the structure and seal off access points to prevent the bees from returning.
- Lastly, the bees will be brought to their new home.
How to prevent a hive from being established in the first place
Our homes aren’t just comfortable for us—they also offer bees inviting crevices and nooks to build their home in, especially if you are cultivating a bee-friendly garden. To discourage bees from establishing a hive in and around buildings, consider these six tips:
Inspect your structures
To start with, examine your house, garage, shed, and other buildings that make up your home and make sure there aren’t any access points where bees could get inside. If you identify a few access points, then use sealants like tar or small mesh screens to cover them up.
Make a bee hotel
Bees are much less likely to set up a hive by or in your home if you build them an ideal bee hotel to move into.
Set up a bait station
The fact that bees rely on their sense of smell to navigate can be used to your advantage. If you set up a bait station far from your home in the spring before bees start scouting for new-nest locations, the colony will be redirected.
Garlic and vinegar
Place crushed garlic or spray water and vinegar on vulnerable areas in and around your home to deter bees from establishing their hives there.
Citronella grass and mint
Bees don’t like strongly scented mint like peppermint and citronella grass (also called lemongrass), so growing those around your home will also dissuade bees from setting up shop. Just make sure to grow mint in pots to prevent it from spreading everywhere in your yard. If regionally appropriate, eucalyptus is another good bee deterrent.
Hanging up mothballs where bees are likely to build their hives is another good way to keep bees and their hives out.