If you suspect a honey bee colony resides within a structure’s walls (house, garage, etc.), try to confirm the insects are indeed honey bees. Other insects that can set up housekeeping in structural walls are carpenter bees, yellow jackets and European hornets.
Is It a Honey Bee Colony?
Honey bees vary in color from yellow to black, with black or brown bands across the abdomen. They are about 2/3 inch long and covered with fine hairs. Foraging honey bees have pollen baskets on their hind legs, often loaded with yellow or dark green pollen balls.
Carpenter bees are robust, heavy-bodied bees ranging from 3/4 to 1 inch in length, with bright yellow, orange or white hair on the thorax (back and chest region) and a shiny black abdomen. They bore round, 1/2-inch diameter holes in exterior wooden surfaces.
Yellow jackets do not have the body hair found on carpenter bees and honey bees, nor do they have pollen baskets on their hind legs. They are ~1/2 inch long, and their abdomen has alternating bright yellow and black bands.
European hornets are much larger than honey bees (~1.5 inches long) and sometimes establish colonies inside structural walls.
Removing Honey Bee Colonies
Honey bees do not make a new entrance to a nest, they look for an existing entrance. Periodic inspection and caulking can prevent them from moving into your walls.
If honey bees have already built a nest in your walls, they can be removed with the assistance of a beekeeper. Pesticides don’t work — the left-behind comb attracts insects and rats, and the honey ferments and oozes through walls. Decaying bees and fermented honey smell terrible!
A bee removal specialist will expose the colony, rescue the bees and relocate them to an apiary, and remove the honey and wax. The process takes several hours, and is chargeable.
Some colony removals are more difficult than others. Varying skills and equipment are required. The San Mateo County Beekeepers Guild does not endorse any particular beekeeper for your job. As a homeowner, you are responsible for verifying (1) that the beekeeper you employ has the appropriate skills, and (2) that a licensed, insured contractor is available to repair the damage.
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