Facts About Honey Bees
The honey bee was introduced to North America in the 1600s by European settlers. Various honey bee species can be found throughout the world. There are two notable honey bee species in the United States, the European or common honey bee and the Africanized honey bee. Honey bees are critical to our environment and economy as they are the major pollinators of fruit, vegetable and other necessary crops. Honey bees also make the valuable honey and beeswax.
Honey Bee Stings
European honey bees are not aggressive and will only sting if stepped on or if the entrance to their hive is approached. Unlike yellow jackets, honey bees sting only once then die. The barbed stinger holds fast to the “intruder”, and the stinger and poison sac are ripped from the bee’s body. The stinger should be removed as quickly as possible since the poison will continue entering the intruder’s body.
Use your fingernail or a knife to remove the stinger. Avoid squeezing as this will release more poison. Disinfect the area with soap and water, and apply ice to reduce swelling. You may experience localized pain and itching, and a small welt will appear at the sting site. If your reaction is anything more than this, seek emergency medical attention immediately.
Honey Bee Infestation
Honey bees will build their hives in cavities that are protected from the elements like hollow trees, wall voids, or attics, but most honey bee colonies live in artificial hives and are cared for by beekeepers.
Honey bees collect nectar and pollen from various flowering plants including dandelions, clover and fruit trees. They consume the nectar to make honey, then combine the honey with pollen to make “bee bread”. Bee bread is stored in chambers within the hive and provides sustenance to the bees. Larvae eat honey and “royal jelly” a white, nutrient-rich substance created by workers.
These bees are social insects that live in colonies. Colonies can range in size from 20,000 to 80,000 individuals and have a caste system which includes a single fertile queen, infertile female workers and male drones. The queen will only mate once in her lifetime and can lay up to 2,000 eggs a day. Queens typically live two to three years and overwinter with their colonies. The workers care for the queen and her offspring, maintain the nest, collect nectar and pollen, make honey and guard the hive. Drones emerge occasionally and live for only a short period of time.
When the colony has grown too large for the hive or if the queen has become old and weak, honey bees will swarm. The bees will cluster together as a group while they hunt for a new home. If you see a swarm of honey bees on your property, perhaps on a tree branch, they are best left alone. Swarms will move on in one or two days as they search for a new home.
Types of Honey Bees
Honey Bee Identification
Honey bee workers range in size from ½ to ⅝ inch. These insects have stout bodies with tapered waists and translucent wings. They are golden brown, have blackish stripes on their bottoms or abdomens, and are covered in thick hairs. Honey bees are known for the bushey “pollen baskets” on their hind legs used for collecting pollen. The infertile female “worker” honey bees have barbed stingers.
Africanized Honey Bee Identification
Africanized honey bees, also known as “killer bees” look very similar to the more common European honey bee, only experts are able to tell the difference under a microscope. These bees, native to Africa, were accidentally introduced in Brazil during the late 1950s by a biologist trying to cross-breed for better honey productivity. Queens from this species were unintentionally released and began establishing their own hives in the wild. Africanized honey bees have spread quickly throughout South and Central America and into the Southern United States. Africanized honey bees have several behavioral tendencies that differ from their European counterparts. These bees are more aggressive and will pursue intruders for much further than European honey bees. They swarm more frequently, have a larger number of guard bees, and tend to settle in subterranean cavities more often.
Honey Bees In The Garden & The House
There are a few telltale signs that you have honey bees in your home. You may hear a buzzing sound within the wall or notice some bees that have decided to forage for food inside your house. You might also notice a wet spot on your wall where the honey has begun seeping through. Damage from honey bees is usually nothing structural if they are currently living in your house and maintaining the hive, but if the bees decide to abandon the hive in search of a new home, the honey and wax comb will melt and ruin drywall, insulation and siding.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you kill honey bees?
We prefer to contact a local beekeeper to remove and relocate the honey bee colony. In some circumstances, if the honey bees are an immediate danger to people or livestock, we will use a treatment that eliminates the bees.
What do you do with the honey bees?
We will often reach out to a local beekeeper to remove and relocate a honey bee colony. We also have a special “bee vacuum” which gently pulls honeybees from the hive and allows us to preserve and relocate the colony.
Are honey bees aggressive?
European honey bees are very docile, but will attack if their nest is disturbed or if the bees are extremely provoked outside of the nest. Africanized honey bees are more aggressive. They are more easily provoked and will attack in larger numbers than European honey bees.
How do you get rid of honey bees?
The key to successfully getting rid of the bees is to first find the hive. This includes a comprehensive inspection of your home and property to identify favorable conditions for bees, as well as entry points to the nesting site. Once the bee hive is located a pest management professional can gently remove the bees using a bee vacuum and allow a beekeeper to relocate the colony. Sometimes pest management professionals need to open up a wall or ceiling to get access to the hive.
What are the Benefits of Professional Honey Bee Pest Control?
A pest management professional has the education, equipment and skills necessary to effectively address a honey bee problem. Finding and treating the honey bee hive can be challenging, especially if the main nest is hidden somewhere outside. A pest management professional provides their expertise to identify and determine the best possible solution to resolve the honey bee infestation.