Normally, thoughts of bees are quickly associated with beautiful blooming flowers and sweet succulent honey, but there is a not so sweet side to these little insects that can be easily overlooked. Bees are one of the least feared flying insects, mostly because of their small size and working demeanor, but this familiarity with these insects may cause more harm than good, if they decide to form a colony inside your home.
Most beehives/colonies are located in secluded areas, and are built very articulately as to keep their queen safe from harm, but in some instances, bees tend to venture to the indoors if necessary. In this case, our familiarity with these little insects may do more harm than good, causing us to overlook their abundance until it is too late. In order to prevent bees from nesting inside our homes, we must first understand how they operate. In the passages following, we delve deeper into the lives of bees and their reasons for nesting in homes, to find effective methods that will keep them out permanently.
What are bees?
Found in the same order of insects as wasps and ants, Hymenoptera, bees are flying insects best known for honey production and pollination. They are usually easily recognized by their standard black and yellow appearance, but this is not necessarily the standard. There are about twenty thousand (20,000) known species of bees present on the earth, many with different colors and characteristics, which diminishes this standard colour to a minority of the species. This means that in order to identify if it is indeed a bee that you have seen, you may have to look just a little longer.
Bees are present in six out of the seven continents of the earth, and are generally found in any area that their colony may find food. They are vegetarian creatures, usually indulging in a diet of nectar and pollen. The nectar they intake helps to provide them with the energy they need to work, as well as important nutrients such as protein, while the pollen taken from flower is used to feed their larvae. While bees are known for producing honey, it is important to note that they also produce other substances such as Beeswax, that many humans use on a regular basis for various purposes.
What do bees look like?
The appearance of a bee is mostly dependent on its specie, but most bees have some physical features in common, despite differences in color or size. Every bee (similarly to the makeup of an ant), has a head, a thorax, an abdomen and four wings. Each section of the bee serves its specific function which is detailed below.
This section of the bee normally houses its sensory faculties, such as the antennae and eyes. The bees use their heads to not only search for food, but to guide their movement through relying on their different sensory faculties for information.
This section is the middle part of a bee’s body, and normally has legs attached to it, the number of which depends on the type of bee. While bees do tend to use their wings more frequently than any other body part, the legs are important for assisting with pollination and feeding the larvae.
This section is most important because it houses and protects all of the bee’s major organs. The abdomen is also the home of the tough exoskeleton, that protects the bee not only from predators, but from any impending danger.
Perhaps the most important part of a bee’s body are their wings, as they spend most of their time in the air. Most species of bees contain four (4) wings, that are designed not only to glide speedily through the air, but also to resist harsh weather conditions.
Types of bees
As listed above, there are over twenty thousand species of bees present on the earth, but in the interest of getting rid of those pesky pests sooner than later, here are four of the most common types of bees that may invade your home. Keep in mind that some bees are more social than others, which should inform your actions and behaviors toward them, whether indoors or outdoors. With that being said, let’s dive into the 4 types of bees that are more likely to invade your home.
The honey bee will differ in color based on the specific region that you’re in, but they can normally be identified by their behavior and classic bee color. Normally, honey bees have black stripes encompassing the width of their abdomen, with bands of amber surrounding them. While most honey bees have brown hair, some may look distinctly black. These bees are generally not very large, and tend to stand at about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch.
These bees can be identified by their shiny black color and their quick, erratic flight, similar to that of a hummingbird. While they are not as hairy or as colorful as other bees, they do fall in this order. Perhaps one of the most distinct features of carpenter bees is that they nest alone as opposed to in hives like their other counterparts. They live in wood by burrowing through to farm their nest, making many homes susceptible to carpenter bee infestations. The males of this specie are normally more aggressive than the females, but fortunately, the female carpenter bees are the ones who sting. If you identify small, almost perfect holes in your wooden structures, or piles of sawdust around, your home may be invaded by carpenter bees.
While almost the same size as carpenter bees, bumble bees are distinctly different in all aspects. They can also be identified by their distinct black and yellow color, and their entire bodies are generally covered by hair. Bumble bees fall in the category of social bees because they are most likely to be seen flying, pollinating and hovering around, and generally cause little, if any harm to humans.
It’s important to note that killer bees are not so named because one sting will kill you as the myth states, but because they are very aggressive and defensive insects. Killer bees, more accurately known as Africanized Honey Bees or AHB for short, can be identified by their distinct bee look, which is very similar to that of a honey bee. The major difference between these two species however is their behavior, as killer bees will attack if provoked. Killer bees can become easily irritated by vibrations and loud noises, as well as certain smells. These bees are sure to attack in swarms if they believe their hives are being threatened, so be careful if you encounter these pests.
Understanding bee colonies
Honey bees have one of the most intricate and well-populated colonies of any insect, or other specie of bee. To learn the operations of a bee colony, we can simply take a look at how the colony of a honey bee is set up. Honey bees have colonies that contain up to 80.000 individual bees when fully developed, that live in hives and create honey. These bees operate in a caste system, with specific roles that help to keep the order of the hive organized. There are normally three castes:
These bees are generally the least important, and are males that head out to pollinate flowers and feed the larvae. This is their primary function, to go obtain nectar and provide it to the larvae, worker bees and the Queen.
These bees are normally females, and have the very important function of catering to the Queen. Worker bees generally ensure that the Queen is fed, takes care of her larvae and eggs, and protects the progeny.
This is the center of the colony. The Queen bee’s only responsibility is to breed more eggs and larvae to provide more bees. She is normally stationed at one place in the hive, and generally does not move.
This order not only ensures that the colony is never out of larvae and eggs, but it also allows for the needs of the colony to be taken care of with little effort. Drone bees are normally the only type of bees that leave the nest, and are generally very sociable and docile. These bees will not sting or attack unless they believe that their hive is threatened or has been attacked.
Do bees bite and what are the symptoms?
The short answer is yes, bees do bite, but it is a bit more complicated than it seems. Bees only bite insects that are too small to sting, so the possibility of bees biting humans is very slim. When bees do bite a smaller animal, they release a substance that is very similar to snake venom, that contains natural anesthetic properties so the victim is unable to move. The surprising truth about this is that scientists did not discover this phenomenon until very recently, leading them and the rest of the world to believe that bees only sting, and do not bite.
Bees will however sting humans in certain circumstances where they either feel threatened or believe that their hive is under attack. Bee stings are normally very painful, and may even result in severe allergic reactions to people that are allergic to the venom. Everyone’s reaction to a bee sting will differ, but there are certain symptoms that fall within the normal range of expected conditions. These include but are not limited to:
- Burning sensation around the perimeter of the sting
- Swollen skin
- Itchiness and irritation
- Excessive pain on the area of the sting
- Anaphylactic shock
The main reasons for these symptoms are because of the bee sting itself. A bee’s stinger normally consists of three different parts, a stylus as well as two barbed sides. When a bee stings you, the barbed sides alternate until it is lodged into the wound, following which the process repeats until the bee has released its stinger, and it is lodged in the wound of the victim. A bee’s venom is acidic, which is one of the main reasons that it causes those symptoms.
To treat a bee sting, one must neutralize the venom after pulling the stinger out of the wound. To do this, many use over the counter medications, but home remedies such as baking soda or toothpaste are also effective. With either remedy, simply remove the stinger and massage the area for about ten minutes.
Are bees dangerous?
Most bees do not pose a major threat to human life when left undisturbed. They are fairly harmless insects that contribute to the ecosystem in innumerable ways, not to mention producing sweet honey and other products such as beeswax. The most popular, and sociable bee, the honey bee, has recently been on the brink of extinction in many parts of the world due to Colony Collapse Disorder, but fortunately their colonies have been restored.
The only issue that may cause bees to be dangerous is due to their overpopulation in many areas. When honey bees were seen as almost extinct, scientists and environmentalists alike came together to breed and restore the colonies, resulting in an unsurprising excess of honey bees almost everywhere. In a year, honey bees were moved from almost extinction to being viewed as dangerous, due to their abundance which was of course repopulated by man.
The short answer is no, most bees are not dangerous when left unbothered, but if you get close to their hive or colony, they can attack.
Signs of a bee infestation
In a majority of cases, bees and humans coexist very peacefully together, but there are a few instances where bees and humans will not get along. One of these cases include a bee infestation, where the insect has either taken over a part of your home or yard space. The key to understanding bees is being able to decipher between a swarm and a colony.
A bee swarm occurs when the colony decides to move from one location to another. In this case, the Queen and half the worker bees leave the colony in an attempt to find a new home. They normally leave half the worker bees, larvae, pupae and any honey or beeswax that they have. In this case, bees have little to defend, apart from their Queen, making them pretty docile in this procedure. Swarms usually move from one location to another, either in a couple hours or a couple days, so it’s best to allow them to move on their own accord instead of disturbing them.
The colony on the other hand, is extremely different from the swarm because of the importance of the products and babies that these bees make. In a colony, bees are in their home, where they not only have their young, (larvae and pupa) but also honey and wax that they are in the process of creating. In this case, you would definitely need to be concerned. Bees can create colonies in walls if allowed, which will ultimately pose a problem for both you and these insects. In cases familiar to this, it is best to call a pest control company.
There are some telltale signs that will help you to identify and discern whether or not you have a bee infestation. The signs are:
- A sudden appearance of bees everywhere – While it is normal to have a few bees buzzing around your garden, having them inside your home or your yard, or randomly buzzing and dashing past your head may be a bit more concerning. In this case, it would be wise to check your home or yard for other bees, and trace them to find out where the hive is present.
- Constant/consistent buzzing sounds – One sign that many people tend to ignore when it comes to identifying a bee infestation, is the constant buzzing sound that they continuously hear over time. The truth is that these sounds can be drowned out if our environment is rowdy or noisy, or if we just don’t pay attention. Perhaps the best way however, to identify if we have a bee infestation, is by taking the time out to be quiet and listen.
- There are holes in wood around the home – A telltale sign of a carpenter bee specifically, is the presence of small round holes in wooden walls, sheds, roofing or furniture. Because a carpenter bee doesn’t operate with a hive, they may be much easier to get rid of, but an infestation can still occur. If holes in wooden spaces around your home and sawdust particles are becoming more and more prevalent, you may just have a carpenter bee infestation.
Why you may have a bee problem
While there are many factors impacting how bees choose a home, the major factor affecting their choice is availability. Some species of bees need specific circumstances to live and build a colony, but when swarms such as honeybees are moving, their main concern is to find a warm, safe environment to protect their Queen, their larvae and their honey and beeswax. If your home happens to be accessible and available, then a swarm may believe it is a good place to nest. Bees, unlike other pests are not necessarily focused on crumbs and leftovers, but instead, their main focus is a nearby garden or field where pollination can take place. Once a bee is able to stay in a warm, safe environment that is also close to flowers and is easily accessible, they will not want to leave.
How to get rid of bees
When one thinks about bee removal, they often get images of a swarm chasing a seasoned exterminator, and get overwhelmed. The truth is that getting rid of bees may be less of a hassle than you think, but in all cases, it can be done. The following list details the best practices to be taken when attempting to eradicate a bee infestation.
Step 1 – Identify the type of bee
The first step that many people often overlook when attempting to get rid of a bee infestation, is understanding that bees are different, and have many different modi operandi, or ways of doing things. Some species of bees also require specific treatment and you may need professional help due to their aggressive nature, so before you aim to get rid of the nest that has taken over your basement, make sure to decipher whether you simply have a social honey bee infestation, or aggressive carpenter or killer bees.
Step 2 – Inspect the area with the suspected bee nest/colony
Depending on the type of bee you are dealing with, there may be several nests in your home instead of just one. This is why it is important to inspect the area where the colony may be located, to ensure it is the only one. This is important for eradicating the bees from your property once and for all.
Step 3 – Use home remedies or call an exterminator
There are several different home remedies that can be used to get rid of a bee infestation, as well as the more popular option of allowing a professional to take on these complications for you. The choice is yours, but whether you choose to allow someone else to do the work, or apply some home remedies to do it yourself, here are some instructions to follow.
Excluding swarms, most bee infestations normally start with one bee finding a comfortable and safe space to raise its family. Restricting bees from your home or yard means allowing them to feel discomfort in your surroundings, and making sure they have little to no accessibility where possible. There is not much that can be done to prevent bees from infesting certain areas, but there are a few tips that might reduce the possibility of a bee infestation occurring in your home. These tips are listed below.
Make your home less accessible to bees
The truth is that bees will invade your space if given the chance, but not necessarily in swarms. The best way to prevent this is by denying them access in the first place by securing all entrances and exits in the home. Be sure as well to search for any areas where holes may have developed and look for little openings that were not there before.
Bee repellent spray
If you have noticed bees around your home or yard, but want to keep them at a safe distance, a bee repellent spray may be your best and most ideal option. This can either be bought at the store, or be made using essential oils and herbs from your local health food store.
This is also a viable option for people that want to get rid of bees but also want to be hands off in the process. Whether you decide on a homemade or store-bought bee catcher, it will be a great help to reduce the amount of bees surrounding your home or property.
There you have it, how to get rid of bees in a nutshell. When instituting these practices, remember that some may take more time than others, and that most bees are friendly creatures that are just looking out for their homes and hives before anything else.