Friday, March 28, 2008

Honey bee swarms and hives- what's the difference?

When I get bee calls, which usually increase in the spring and fall, people want to know one (or possibly two) of three things.
1. Are the bees "killer" bees?
2. Why is there a big clump of bees on my tree/ shrub/ fence/ insert object here.
3. How do I get rid of bees that are in the wall void of my home?

To answer the first question, I don't know. Not really what most people want to hear from me, but I really don't know EVERYTHING. There's a lot of bugs and stuff to know about them and I still learn new things about them all the time...that's a part of what makes my job so great! But why I can't tell if the bees are "killer", or more appropriately Africanized, is because Africanized bees look pretty much the same as the regular European honey bees that everyone knows and loves. To figure out if bees are Africanized, the bees should be sent to the bee lab in College Station to be tested. You can find proper instructions and forms here:

Onto the second question. Bees swarm. This is when a newly produced queen and about half the workers leave the old hive to embark on a journey to find a new hive location (kind of like kicking your kids out of the house after they graduate from high school). Often the bees will rest in a big clump on various objects while scout bees search the area for a suitable nesting site. Swarming bees should be treated with caution, and left alone if possible. Swarms often move on in a few hours to a few days. If you are really concerned about someone getting stung, you can contact a local beekeeper to see if they collect swarms.

Number three is a relatively simple answer but, again, usually not one that people want to hear- contact a pest control company to exterminate the bees. Yes, I know, bees are beneficial and help pollinate plants and create wonderful products such as wax and honey, but it really comes down to the decision of you living in the house or having the bees live in the house. Since I pay the mortgage for my house, I'll pick me living in my house over bees. Once bees have been exterminated, the wall void should be opened and comb and honey removed. This may be a a DUH-moment, but you should NOT eat the honey since it's been treated with insecticide. If you don't remove the comb and honey you can get secondary pest invaders (cockroaches, rodents, etc.). Once all the honey and comb is removed, seal up the wall inside and out so bees cannot reinfest.


Anonymous said...

yes, but what about neighbors keeping hives; i was attacked, so was my husband and my dogs.
any suggestions?

Wizzie Brown said...

Since the hive is on your neighbor's property, it's really their responsibility to manage them properly. I would try to talk to your neighbor about the hive and any concerns that you may have about your family and your pet's safety.