If you have unwanted bees in your house, car, or landscape, your first instinct is probably to try to figure out how to kill or remove them. Unfortunately, there are almost 20,000 known species of bee, and their behaviors, risk factors, and methods of removal can be very different depending on what kind of bee you have encountered. It’s hard to know what exactly to do in every situation. But there are many ways to safely and naturally remove or eliminate unwanted bees from your home or garden, and we’ll look at some of the best ones.
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Although very few bees pose a threat to human health or safety, they should always be approached with attention and caution. There are two primary human threats from bees:
* Africanized bees
These hybrid bees are also known as “killer bees.” They arose when biologists sought to create European honeybees that were better suited to South American climate conditions, so they cross-bred them with African honeybees. These resulting hybrid bees were more productive, but also more aggressive. In 1957, 26 swarms escaped from cultivation in Brazil and these bees have been moving slowly northward through the Americas ever since then. Today, they can be found in the southern US from Louisiana to California, and as far north as southern Utah.
There are visual differences between Africanized bees and European honeybees, but they are subtle and difficult to identify in the wild. The more notable differences between the two are their behaviors. Africanized bees are more mobile overall; they swarm more frequently and travel further, they are more likely to migrate or relocate in response to environmental changes and stressors, and they are more likely to nest in cavities in the ground.
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And, famously, they are more defensive in a swarming state, and more aggressive in defending the nest. They have more guards overall, have a larger patrol zone around the next, deploy more bees when under attack, and pursue threats for much greater distances than the European bees they resemble. Their venom is no more dangerous than the sting of a conventional European honeybee, but because they attack in greater numbers, for longer periods of time, over greater distances, the victim ends up injected with many times more bee venom than from a European bee attack. These bees kill an estimated 100 Americans a year, and are therefore among the most dangerous insects in the world.
* Bee allergies
For most people, bee stings are painful, but the pain and swelling go away within a few hours. However, for those who are allergic to bee venom, the results can be much worse. Approximately 5% of the population is allergic to bee venom, but only 1% of children and 3% of adults have experienced a response so severe that it triggered anaphylaxis, causing breathing difficulties that may lead to death. However, current allergy tests are highly inaccurate in terms of predicting the likelihood or severity of an allergic response to a bee sting.
More specifically, among people who report having a prior reaction to a bee sting, when scientists subsequently test them with controlled bee venom, 40% of people who previously had a severe reaction had a second severe reaction, but 60% had a milder reaction. Among those with a prior mild reaction, 17% had a more severe reaction in the test environment. Up to 30% of people who had previous severe reactions to bee stings do not react to skin tests, and 6% of people who don’t react to skin tests have gone on to have anaphylaxis in response to bee stings.
Finally, not all bee stings are created equal; there are two different types of wasp venom, and several different types of bee venom, and not everyone reacts the same to either type. Blood tests and immune responses differ widely between those with bee allergies.
In short, it is unusually difficult to predict how severe an allergic reaction to bees might be for a given individual. Most people remain at approximately the same level of sensitivity, but individual stings might have milder or more severe reactions, based on factors we don’t fully understand at this time.
Despite these risks, the truth is that the vast majority of bees are not only harmless, but beneficial to people and the environment. However, due to these risk factors, it’s important to always use caution around bees, and it’s understandable to want to remove or kill them, particularly if the hive is located close enough to human activity that it may trigger the bees to behave defensively.
How to Identify A Bee Problem
Generally speaking, there are three primary ways that people recognize a bee problem.
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* Bees swarming
If a swarm of bees suddenly appears in a large mass on your house or property, it can be alarming. Bees swarm in a tight grouping, protecting the queen, as the colony searches for a new nest. If possible, simply stay away from the swarm, and keep children and pets away as well. A swarm will usually move on by itself within a few hours or a day, as the colony continues its journey.
* Bees in a house, building, or car
If you notice bees inside your house or car, it can be a cause for greater concern. Bees are attracted to sunlight, so they will typically fly toward the windows in an attempt to get out. While one or two bees inside may be simply a case of having left a window open by accident, if you notice larger numbers of bees, or they seem to be inside the house despite screens, there may be a nest inside. Bees sometimes build nests inside chimneys or vents that give them access to the inside of the house.
If you think you have bees inside your house, the best way to try to identify the source is to silence as many sounds as possible, and listen for the humming of a hive. Bees in a hive create a constant sound and generate heat, and it’s often possible to find it, even inside a wall, just by listening.
* Bees on your property
Many species of bee prefer to build hives underground. If you see continuous bee traffic to and from particular places in the ground, inside a tree, or elsewhere on the property, it could be a sign that you have a hive.
How to Get Rid of Bees／Kill Bees Naturally
Keep in mind that most bees are harmless, and that some species are actually endangered. They play an important role in the ecosystem, and shouldn’t be killed indiscriminately. If you have a bee problem, often the best thing to do is find a local beekeeper or removal service. There are many beekeepers who will gladly come to your house our property and safely relocate the hive, not killing the bees but simply moving them to a more desirable area. These services will generally relocate both swarms and hives, and is the most productive and environmentally sound thing to do when you have a bee problem.
However, if you don’t have a local bee removal service, or need some way to kill a bee infestation, here are some safe and natural ways to do it:
1 Kill bees with soap
If you have an unwanted bee swarm, you can kill bees with ordinary dish soap. Dish soap breaks up the surface tension of the water and interferes with a bee’s natural waxy coating, ensuring that the bees are not only too wet to fly, but that water inhibits their breathing and drowns them. Here’s how to naturally kill bees with soap when they are swarming:
Bees are diurnal, meaning that they are only active in the daytime. It is best to begin this procedure at night, when they are less likely to attempt to respond by attacking
If possible to do so safely, spread a plastic trash bag beneath the swarm. This will further drown the bees and make removal easier
Make a solution with ¾ – 1 cup of liquid dish soap and 1 gallon water
Use a pump-style garden sprayer and keep well away from the swarm, as you begin to spray it with the soapy solution
As wet, soapy bees fall off the outside of the swarm, they will expose the dry bees beneath. It’s important to keep spraying until all of the bees have been doused in the solution
Bees that fall from the swarm will land on the layer of plastic beneath, preventing them from drying off and ensuring that they drown
Keep spraying until you have drowned all the bees, and keep well away from the plastic until you are sure that all the bees are dead and that you can handle it safely
Note that this method only works on bee swarms, or, as with a spray gun, on individual bees or wasps. It is not effective for bees that are in a hive or nest inside a wall, in the ground, or in a tree.
2 Kill bees in the ground
The most natural way to kill bees in the ground is to trap them and prevent them from accessing food and water, thereby starving the hive. If you notice that you have a hive in the ground and are relatively certain how they are accessing it, there are two ways to kill bees safely in the ground:
If you only have one or two entrance and exit points to an underground hive, place a large glass jar or clear plastic container over the opening, and weigh it down so it stays in place
The bees will be attracted to the sunlight, but be unable to access food or water, and will eventually die in the hive
However, this system will only work if you cover all entry and exit points: otherwise, they will simply use another exit.
If you have bees underground and are unsure of their exact entry and exit points, you can spread a tarp over the entire area and weigh it down to seal bees in the nest regardless of their path. This method is harmful to affected plants, but is a safe and natural way to kill bees that are nesting underground.
3 Kill bees inside your house or car
It is particularly difficult to safely and naturally kill bees if they have established a hive inside your walls, on your home, or in your car. It is best to call a professional in these instances, for a few reasons:
If you try to simply plug up holes or openings in your walls and let the bees die inside the enclosure, the dead bees, dead larvae, and any honey in the hive will attract other pests and predators, and may smell. You may unwittingly create a worse situation
It can be difficult to identify the exact location of a hive or nest inside an inaccessible, enclosed area. Use of chemical pesticides can be ineffective or dangerous if applied incorrectly, and may not solve the problem
Many professional beekeepers have adopted a number of strategies to manage even Africanized bees, since they do so readily cross breed with local bees, and produce much larger volumes of honey. The fact is that bees are an essential part of our ecosystem and food production, and it’s important that we learn to safely live alongside them and respect the important role they play. If you have unwanted bees, it is best to choose the safest method of relocating them, and only kill them when necessary, and when they can be killed safely and naturally. Killing individual pest bees with soap is a great way to control a specific nuisance without having a larger negative impact on the environment and plant life. The most important thing is to be careful and protect yourself and your family from any risk posed by bees, and find effective ways to kill bees naturally.