How to Keep Bees From Moving in.

How to Keep Bees From Moving in.

If you live in Arizona, chances are you will find a colony of bees either living on your property or becoming regular visits to your pools and water features during the summer

Starting around the end of February, just when citrus and other Spring plants begin to bloom, the honeybees are starting to build their numbers in order to take advantage of all the nectar that will be coming in. It also means that colonies will begin to reproduce themselves by sending out swarms to colonize areas further away. All honeybees do this, but Africanized honeybees, which are the dominant species in Arizona, produce 10 times more swarms than European honeybees. These swarms will rest in trees and bushes while sending out scouts to find a more permanent home. It is ideal to catch them before they move into that home, however, if you don’t, please call a beekeeper like myself to relocate them. 

swarm of bees hanging from a branch

Where do those Swarms Move on to?

One of my favorite things to do is bee removals or relocations. Some of them are challenging and uncomfortable, but mostly they are fascinating. I’m always amazed by the choices bees make when making a home. I have found bees in speakers, vacuum cleaners, couches, chairs, pots, statues, saguaros, gourds, ice cream makers, and tires. There is no telling where a colony may end up, but there are some typical places where I find bees making their homes, so I thought I would give you a heads up along with a few methods for keeping them out of the 10 most common.

pulling the lid off an irrigation valve box with bees on it

1. Irrigation Valve Boxes

Some of the first calls I get in the Spring are from homeowners who suddenly see bees coming in and out of their irrigation, or valve boxes. Bees love these because they are a perfect size, they are cool and often have some moisture.

To prevent bees from moving in, first inspect your valve boxes to make sure the lids are secure and don’t have gaps or holes. Then feel around the edges to see if there are gaps in the soil around the box. Fill those in. You can use duct tape to cover the holes used for opening the lids, but the fail-safe way of preventing bees from moving in is to fill the space with something. I always recommend using an old pillow because most of us have one and it is easy to remove when you need to access the valves. Insulation would also work. 

compost bin with a bee hive in it

2. Compost Bins

I’m not sure why bees love compost bins. Maybe it’s the biology that is going on inside them, or maybe it’s because they are dark and cozy. Whatever the reason is, they can build quite a lot of comb very quickly in them.

To prevent this from happening, simply turn your composter every few days, or keep it very full. 

exposed beehive in a shed floor

3. Shed Floors

Another very popular location for bees to move into is underneath a shed floor. Usually the space underneath a floor is about the depth of a 2 x 4, which is perfect for bees. The bees enter in a gap between the floor and wall, or in the vents. Then they begin to build comb in an orderly fashion from the top down. They can fill the space in a matter of months.

The best way to prevent bees from moving in is to fill in that space between the floor and dirt with some kind of insulation or rocks. In addition to that, seal up any gaps with caulk or mesh.

bee hive in the eaves of a house

4. Attic Spaces or Eaves

In addition to looking down for bees, don’t forget to look up. When scout bees are checking out spots to move their colony into, they are often seen darting in and out of the eaves of houses. Take care to pay attention when you see this behavior.

Quickly seal up any areas where woodpeckers have punctured through mesh or where seams have opened up.

beehive in a wall

5. Walls

Similarly to attics and eaves, walls that have small cracks and holes are welcome mats for bees. Check anyplace that has pipes or conduits entering the wall. These spaces often have seals that have cracked leaving gaps where bees can move in. Once they do they will begin to build comb and fill any space between the studs that have no insulation.

To prevent this: 1. seal holes in your walls, and 2. make sure to fill spaces in walls and ceilings with insulation.

gourd with bees in it

6. Pots, Gourds & Statues

You may not realize it, but you likely have decorative items in your yard and patio that make perfect houses for bees. Honeybees really like to build homes in spaces they can easily fill and easily defend. Upside down pots, urns, and statues with small holes in the bottom meet these needs perfectly.

Be sure to check those items and seal holes or fill the space with paper, rocks, sand, or anything else that prevents anything from moving in.

bees being relocated from a block wall

7. Block and Brick Walls

I’m always amazed that bees choose block walls to build hives in. For one thing, the gaps in the block are small and very segmented. For another thing, block walls can turn into ovens in the sun. Somehow, bees make it work, and that can be a problem for homeowners.

To keep this from happening, inspect your walls to find any 1/4 inch gaps between blocks or columns. Get a bucket of Stucco Patch like THIS to have on hand for around $30, and fill all those holes. It is surprisingly quick and easy. Be sure to check the other side of the wall as well, even if it is your neighbor’s side.

bees under a conex container

8. Conex Containers

Not everyone has a Conex Container on their property, but if you do, there is a good chance bees will move in underneath it. These containers, like sheds, have an insulated space just right for bees to build massive hives in. To remove them we often have to cut the floors open.

The best thing you can do to keep them out is to seal the holes at the base with utility screen like THIS. If you do catch them just after they move in, it is possible to smoke them out. One friend used a generator’s exhaust connected to a pvc pipe to move them out. (see pic above)

bees coming out of a mulberry tree

9. Trees

It should come as no surprise that bees love to live in trees. Who doesn’t remember Winnie the Pooh trying to scoop honey out of a tree and then getting stuck? European honeybees are known to prefer trees over anything else. Africanized honeybees like them too, just not exclusively. Here in Arizona the trees that seem to offer the best homes are Mulberry, Olive, Carob, and Cottonwood. We do also find them in cracked Fig and Citrus trunks at times. Mulberry trees are very hollow and have holes any place a branch was cut. Woodpeckers make holes in the as well. Olive trees usually have cavities underground where the roots are, so you often find bees going in at ground level. The other trees usually offer entrances where they are wounded or cracked, high or low.

Fill large cavities with sand or insulation or pillow stuffing. Spray foam can work sometimes, but it usually doesn’t last and the bees eat through it, or other bugs make holes bees can enter through. Check your trees regularly and try to at least fill entrance points.

bbq grill full of bees

10. Barbecue Grills

Honey BBQ anyone? Yes, bees will make hives out of your unused grill. I’ve had many calls in the spring when people open their grill to cook and find that a swarm has recently moved in. Usually grills are used enough and are at least passed often enough that bees are found at the swarm stage and are easily scooped up and relocated. Sometimes, however, they are not found until later in the season and there is a very full hive with honey and brood filling the entire cavity. These are difficult to remove because bees build right through the racks inside.

Store items inside the grill so that bees have no place to build. Simply putting a pillow or two inside will work.

Finally, if you have done all you can to keep bees from taking up residence in your home, and you still find that they decided to move in, call a beekeeper ASAP.

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