by Ric Bessin, Extension Entomologist
University of Kentucky College of Agriculture
While we benefit from honey bees by their pollination and honey they collect, they can be serious pests at times. Bees that establish a hive in a home can be a problem because of increased hazard of humans being stung. Trash bins and recycling centers may also encourage robbing honey bees.
Honey bees typically search for flowers containing nectar and pollen for food. However, they are very opportunistic, and will seek syrups, sugar, fruit juices, and other sweet substances within easy access when flowers are not available.
During the summer and fall when flowers are less numerous, robber honey bees and wasps can be very serious pests in places such as around trash containers and aluminum can recycling centers. Proper sanitation is the key to control of these problems.
Areas in which syrup or other sugars are frequently spilled or accumulate should be cleaned regularly to discourage honey bees. The use of plastic can liners and lids for trash cans will discourage honey bees.
In areas such as aluminum can recycling centers where it may not be practical to keep these areas clean, barriers such as windows and door screens, or lids on bins should be installed. A few initial bees discovering a readily available sugar source can recruit a larger number in a short period of time.
In the fall, bees and wasps may be troublesome in orchards or gardens when feeding on damaged, dropped or overripe fruit. Fruit drops, bird-damaged fruit and overripe fruit should be collected regularly and discarded.
Under certain conditions, a strong established honey bee colony will sub-divide and one or more swarms will leave the hive. A swarm may cluster for a while on an exposed tree limb or bush near the old hive while scout bees search for a suitable permanent place to establish a new home.
Some home owners become concerned about these swarms of bees they find clustering on trees in their yards. Swarming bees usually are not aggressive and are not likely to sting unless disturbed. Bee swarms usually find a home within a day or so and the cluster will leave the tree limb on their own. Occasionally a small number of bees are left behind on the limb. They will not survive on their own and will die within a few days. Swarms of this type are often sought by beekeepers.
Bees in Buildings
Usually scout bees select a hollow tree, but many times the wall voids of homes or buildings are chosen for colony sites. The bees may nest in the wall or attic some distance from where they enter the wall. The nest is the comb on which the bees rest, rear brood and store honey.
Colonies of bees that establish themselves in attics or wall voids of homes near a home can be serious problems. After bees establish permanent homes, they can become very defensive and are must more likely to sting than are swarms. It is best to remove or destroy bees enhived too close to human activity. Salvaging colonies from wall voids is usually not practical, so exterminating procedures are recommended.