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the Valley Since 1999

With the arrival of the Africanized honeybee to Arizona, it is important to know what you can do to prevent bees from establishing a colony in your yard or house.

1. How honey bees establish colonies

Domestic and Africanized honey bees are social creatures that reside in groups of up to 60,000. At certain times of the year, a portion of a colony separates from the rest and leaves looking for a new “home”. While on the move, the bees are called a swarm. The swarming bees may rest in large group in the open such as on a tree branch, and then move on to another site. Once they have found a suitable place to nest, the bees will begin to build a multi-celled structure called a comb. An established colony with comb and brood is much more defensive than a swarm. Africanized honey bees are also known to move their entire colony to a more suitable location, a process called absconding.

2. How to prevent honey bee colonies

The best way to prevent bees from establishing a colony on your property is to deny them an ideal environment for survival. Honey bees require three things in order to survive: food, water, and shelter. Honey bees use nectar and pollen from flowers as a source of food: visit swimming pools, hot tubs, and pet/livestock watering dishes to consume water and to keep the hive cool in the scorching desert. Domestic and Africanized honey bees nest in a wide variety of locations, such as animal burrows, overturned flower pots, holes in saguaros, trees or rocks, irrigation valve boxes, discarded automobile parts or appliances, and in walls of homes. They may enter openings as small as 3/16-inch in diameter (about the size of a pencil eraser) as long as there is a suitable-sized cavity for a nest behind the opening.

A. Eliminate shelter

To prevent bees from establishing a hive in your yard or house, you will need to be vigilant for potential nesting sites.

  • Fill or cover all holes 1/8-inch in diameter or larger in trees, structures and block walls.
  • Caulk cracks in wall, in foundation and in the roof.
  • Check where the chimney meets the house for separation and make sure chimneys are covered properly.
  • Put window screen over drains, attic vents, and irrigation valve boxes.
  • Remove any trash or debris that might serve as a shelter for bees, such as overturned clay pots, automobile parts, tires, old appliances, cardboard boxes, or stacks of crates.
  • Fill or cover animal burrows in the ground.
  • Make sure window and sun screens are tight fitting.
  • Keep shed doors tightly closed and in good repair and exercise caution when entering buildings that are not used frequently

B. Monitor water sources

It will be difficult to prevent access to water sources near man-made lakes, but in your yard you may:

  • Discourage bees from visiting evaporative coolers by placing a few ounces of pine-scented cleaner in the water.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of vinegar per gallon of water to discourage bees from pet water or birdbaths.
  • Cover or drain pools or tubs when not in use.
  • Repair leaky faucets and faulty irrigation systems.

Removing flowers as a source of food is generally not effective nor recommended, and individual bees gathering pollen and nectar from flowers should be left alone. Bees are very important because they pollinate many plants including crops such as cucumbers, squash and citrus. In fact, about a third of our daily diet is attributed to insect pollinators.

C. Inspect your home and yard monthly for signs of bee colonies.

A single bee or just a few bees in your yard does not necessarily mean you have a colony in your yard because bees will fly some distance in search of food and water. Look out for numbers of bees passing into and out of or hovering in front of an opening, and listen for the hum of active insects. Look low for colonies in or at ground line, and also high for colonies under eaves or in attics.

If you do find an established bee colony in your neighborhood, don’t panic. On the other hand, don’t ignore it. Small colonies that have recently swarmed may be docile at first, but tend to become more defensive and aggressive with age or as the hive becomes Africanized, furthermore you should have any bee colonies around the home removed As Soon As Possible. Keep everyone away from the colony.

Do not try to remove colonies yourself!
Call ASAP Bee Removal immediately at 602-751-1002.

Informational content developed by members of the Urban Integrated Pest Management