Bees and Killer Bees
Homeowners, institutions, and businesses in San Diego County are properly concerned about the explosion in honeybee swarming activity; the past ten years have shown an exponential increase in bee swarms. New colonies are appearing at a startling rateContact us if you have any questions about a swarm or a hive.
African bees, often known as "Killer Bees" were first introduced into South America by researchers who were trying to improve the productivity of European honeybees. It turns out that African bees are very aggressive in everything that they do, from pollinating to protecting their hive! The experiment went wrong when African bees escaped from the research facility in Brazil and began to reproduce and replace the more tranquil European bees throughout South America and now here in California.
Africanized bees are a hybrid strain that comes primarily from crossing African drones (males) with European honey bee queens. Hybrids are normally sterile so even though hybrid bees are excellent pollinators, the queen often cannot replace herself and the colony will eventually collapse when the queen dies or runs out of fertile eggs. Transient swarms of hybrid bees appear in great numbers here in North County year round, but we notice them most in the summer and fall. Each Africanized hive has its own personality, and some are extremely aggressive while others are relatively docile. Do not take chances with bee colonies! African bees have been known to attack people and pets hundreds of feet away from their hives.
For more information about bees contact us. You can also find a lot of information on bees, beekeeping, and beekeeping supplies, at: http://www.beecare.com
African and hybrid bee colonies are comfortable close to the ground; you want to be especially careful when you see bees coming and going from under a shed, in a valve box (pictured), or a water meter, because they could be very dangerous. Well established hives are more likely to be aggressive than new swarms because they have a hive and brood to protect. They have been known to attack in great numbers and they can be deadly to pets and to people who cannot outrun them! Don't jump in the pool! Bees can fly longer than you can hold your breath.
A honeybee swarm is a basketball sized clump of bees that surround a queen bee while they are searching for a new home. Bee swarms that stop on a tree branch to rest for a few hours should be left alone as long as they are not a danger or a liability. They usually leave on their own.
Will a beekeeper help you with your hive? Beekeepers like to collect exposed swarms during the spring and early summer because it makes sense to pick up large colonies of European bees. A bee hive that is in a structure is much harder to save and most beekeepers will not handle those. By late summer and throughout the winter most of the swarms that you see are hybrids which are normally too small and aggressive to be useful for honey making purposes. If you think that you have a recoverable swarm anywhere here in North County Contact us for relocation or for a referral to a local beekeeper.
Honey in walls and ceilings: The queen will lay between 800 and 1,500 eggs each day, with no time off for holidays or weekends! Simple addition will show that once the brood comb is in place it does not take very long for her to build up a huge colony of active honey producers and some very aggressive guards. A honeybee colony left to grow in a structure can number over sixty thousand bees in less than a year and can have hundreds of pounds of honey stored in your attic, walls or floor soffit. This picture is of a bee hive that was in an overlapping roofline above an entry in Oceanside. We took out more than one hundred fifty pounds of honey and hive materials on this job. It is not that unusual for us to remove hundreds of pound of honey at a time when the hive is left to grow undisturbed. If the hive has been in place for more than a few weeks, you should plan to have the honey and hive materials removed to prevent damage the structure; the longer you wait, the more difficult it will be. Contact us at Pinpoint for expert advice and for honey and hive removal.
If you suddenly get a lot of bees in your living room, check the fireplace! We are often called to deal with bees in the top of a chimney. Smoke is a very effective way to move out a new swarm if you start early enough in the day, but you should plan to make the smoke as thick as you can, and keep it up for about two hours. If the hive is already in place, like in this picture, you will not be able to smoke them out and you do not want the wax and honey to run down the chimney! The bees will not leave in the late afternoon or evening and they will not leave the queen and the brood unattended and unprotected; they will just gather just outside of the top of the chimney until the fire goes away.
The bees do come back! If there has been bee activity in your home, you are likely to see more of the same in the future, especially if the bees have been there for long enough to lay in a winter's supply of honey. Even after the honey has been removed, there is a telltale residual odor that permeates the wood and tells new honeybee colonies that this is a good nesting site. Paint and de-odorizers do not completely disguise the presence of a nesting site; it is very important that you seal the bees out!
Bee proof your house! If you are looking for a way to protect your home or business from bee swarms, here are some helpful ideas from the Department of Agriculture, and you can contact us for help or advice.
- Remove possible nesting sites around home, yard, and out buildings.
- Seal openings larger than 1/8" in walls, around chimneys
- Inspect outside walls and eaves of home and plumbing.
- Install fine screens (1/8" hardware cloth) over tops of rain spouts, vents and openings in water meter/utility boxes.
- From spring to fall check once or twice a week for bees entering or leaving the same area of your home or yard.
Contact us if you live in North County, your Pinpoint inspector can help you keep the bees out or you can do your own exclusion work with a little coaching and advice from Pinpoint. What you will need is a roll of galvanized stretch-steel flashing with an eighth inch mesh (KwikMesh), needle nose pliers, metal snips, a tube of caulk, and a ladder.