Bees and wasps are part of the Hymenoptera order of insects, which is deemed the most beneficial and one of the top 3 largest orders. They make nests and hives to live in, and they typically look for overhangs and cavities. Because of this, many homeowners find themselves in a situation where bees and wasps invade their homes.
Your home may attract bees and wasps because of convenient entries, the scent it radiates, bright colors, discarded fruits or garbage, and damp areas. Unfortunately, areas like your chimney, wall spaces, fencing, and underneath your decking are frequent areas that are suitable for bees and wasps.
So, before we get into the nitty-gritty of why we get these bees and wasps in our home, I think it is important to know the difference between the two. What is the difference between a bee and a wasp and how can I tell just by a quick glance?
Understanding The Differences Between Bees and Wasps
Well, for starters, there are a lot of bees. Over 20,000 different species if you want to talk specifics. The bee in question here is a common honey bee, and they are much less aggressive than your average wasp.
The jobs these flying insects do are different as well. Bees are pollinators, they pollinate plants and flowers. They mostly just want to make honey, keep their queen safe, and find a good place to live.
Wasps, on the other hand, are hunters and most of their purpose in life is to keep down the insect populations near us.
Ohio State University explains that honey bees are much more docile and their bodies are hairy so they can collect pollen. A wasp is much more likely to use its stinger and is much sleeker and thinner than a bee because its job is to hunt. Different uniforms for different professions, if you will.
Honey bees are usually darker in color as well, and can even be all black in some cases. Some honey bees are brown and have lighter stripes, while wasps often have more vibrant colors on them.
There are some different species of wasps that sort of look like honey bees, which can get confusing. A yellow jacket can resemble a honey bee due to similar striping. This is where looking for the hair on their legs and body shape comes into play.
Longer, sleeker insects are wasps. Stubbier, hairier insects are bees.
One more difference between bees and wasps is that most species of wasps actually don’t make honey, but some do. You can read more on that in our article: Do Wasps Make Honey? 5 Interesting Ways Wasps Eat
When Do Bees And Wasps Typically Burrow And Make Nests?
Bees and wasps are typically looking for their new homes in spring and early summer. Most of the time, they do not venture far from their original homes. They usually only go upwards of about 200 yards away from where they once lived when finding a new place to stay.
When bees move, they will often swarm. According to the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources department, bees swarm for reproduction for their colony. A single swarm of bees can have anywhere from 5,000 bees to 20,000 bees in attendance, which can look pretty intimidating.
Usually, bees fly in a dense swarm. The buzzing sound coming from the swarm is intense and can sound scary if you have never heard it. When bees are looking for a place to move, before they swarm, they will send out a few scout bees that look for places to make a nest before the swarm goes together.
When bees are swarming and entering a new hive, they will not be very defensive at all because they are moving their most valuable possession, their honey. They move slowly and almost methodically so that they can keep their valuables safe in the move.
You can be on the lookout for male bees that are searching for female bees as well when hives first form. These bees are looking for freshly made and established hives to live in when the springtime rolls around.
Now that we know what to look for when bees are on the move as well as how bees move, it’s time for the question:
Why Do Bees And Wasps Keep Coming Into My House?
There are a few reasons your home, in particular, might be a hot hang-out spot for colonies of bees and wasps. Something about your house must draw them in. It could be the look or the smell of your house, or even just the accessibility of it.
According to the University of New Hampshire, bees and wasps can easily slip through small spaces to get to a larger cavity or gap on the other side of it. They only need about 3/16 of an inch opening to get into your house from the outside. Some people say to look for any opening about the size of a pencil eraser because it is more than enough for a bee or wasp to wiggle through.
Bees And Wasps Typically Enter Homes In The Springtime
The University of California also says in the springtime, wasps are looking for places to build nests after coming up from their winter ground nests. They are looking for things like under hangs (like on your porch or your garage) or even places like underneath your deck.
When I was growing up, we had multiple wasps’ nests form on the gas tank in our backyard as well as at my grandparent’s house where it was underneath the cover for the gauge. They like anywhere they can fit and most of them make more of a papery nest since they do not need honeycombs like a honey bee would.
There are certain types of wasps, like the brown paper wasp, looking for somewhere inside to live when they emerge in the springtime. They like to go for places like attics and they can cause a lot of damage there by chewing on the wood.
Bees look for a cavity at least 4 gallons in size, but they would much rather have up to 9 gallons to work with. Honey bees want dark and damp places to build their new castles. They want their entrances to be positioned somewhere easy to guard, preferably a small entrance.
Honey bee colonies cause little damage to the place they are inhabiting, as long as the building structure is solid. If they were to move into an old, abandoned house or even a house with poor upkeep, the outcome might differ.
After getting a good basis of understanding for where bees and wasps build their nests and why it is important to know the answer to the question…
How Do I Get Rid Of Wasps And Bees In My House?
When it comes to removing wasps and bees, it is important to understand that most of us are not professionals. While a can of RAID to eliminate bees might seem like a good idea, it actually could be harmful to not only the bees, but our homes and ourselves.
One method we like to use, is to test out scents that bees and wasps hate and use them to keep them away. More on that in our article: 8 Scents That Wasps Hate (and How to Use Them)
Many hardware store bug sprays are pesticides and can be harmful if sprayed in closed spaces, like a house, attic, crawl space, you name it. Understanding that although it might seem like the easiest route, it might not be the safest or the smartest.
If possible, it’s best to just stay away from the bee and wasp hives until you have a plan of action. In many cases, reacting out of fear of what they could do ends up making the situation worse than it was going to be from the start.
Penn State has a great 5 step method to remove bees and wasps. It is to assess, identify, understand the time of year, choose a removal method, and repair after removal is complete
Assess The Damage
The first thing we should do is assess the threat and decide what kind of insect we’re dealing with.
Is it safe to remove the bees or wasps from the structure they are in without causing structural damage? Often, they work their way into small cavities. You might have to take a wall down or open a hole in your ceiling to get a large colony out.
The type of insect you are working with also affects this situation. Use the information at the beginning of this article to decide if it is a bee or a wasp and decide how you want to handle the situation from there.
Understand The Time Of Year
Next, we need to look at what time of year it is. Move bees and wasps in the winter or early spring if possible because they are the calmest and the easiest to remove at this point.
Remember, bees are not looking to cause harm to you. All they want is to make their honey in peace. While you might think they are a threat, they are a vital part of the ecosystem.
Next, we can then move forward into what is the best option for removing these bees or wasps.
Call An Exterminator
For wasps, I would immediately recommend calling an exterminator to help you, since they can be harmful and hard to remove.
However, for honey bees, try to call a beekeeper for help. A beekeeper can assist you with extracting the bees while also making sure it gets done in the safest way possible.
While this is the safest method for all parties involved, it can be a challenge to get to the bees in their hiding holes. Many times, carpenters and beekeepers get involved in larger cases to help remove structures or move them to make bee nests accessible to the keeper.
The Tennessee Department of Agriculture explains not only do the bees need to be removed, so do the honeycombs. Honeycombs are made of beeswax and filled with honey, making them the deadly duo of sticky and waxy. They are also incredibly flammable since they are made of beeswax, so removing them is an incredibly important step.
The professionals from before can help with this or you can remove them yourself, but make sure you get all of it. This sticky and sweet mess honeycomb leaves can attract more bugs than you originally had on your hands, which is not what you want. Many bees want to use the previous honeycomb because it is easier for them when they move, so make sure it is all gone.
While calling a beekeeper to remove bees is the most ethical way, you can also call an exterminator to help you. Do not remove the bees on your own if you are inexperienced. Although they do not pose an imminent risk, they can still sting you.
Repair Bee Or Wasp Damage
Next, you need to repair any damage done during removal. While you are doing this, you can put preventative measures in place.
How To Avoid Bees And Wasps Living In Your Home
When you fix your home after a bee removal, ensure you are closing all entrances tightly and leaving no gap open. Remember, bees and wasps only need about 3/16 of an inch to get into a cavity, so it is important to seal up any openings, no matter how small.
Close Any Holes And Cavities In Your Home
To close holes and cavities in your home, you can use expandable foam, installation, caulk, wood, etc. Anything that can patch the opening or fill the cavity will work.
For smaller gaps, around one inch in size, you could use Loctite TITE FOAM Insulating Foam Sealant. It is an expanding foam capable of sealing and insulating materials like concrete, wood, metal, brick, stone, pvc, and more.
You will also want to make sure all these holes are closed because bees work on a cognitive map and can often relocate their past homes. Their sight is so good they can keep a visual memory as well. So, making the cavity unavailable is your best bet in preventing bees.
When doing maintenance to ensure bees and wasps stay away from your home without paying rent, it is important to make sure that you know how to make your home unappealing to them.
Remove Bright Colors In Your Home That May Attract Bees Or Wasps
Things like bright colors and patterns, fruits, and discarded garbage attract bees and wasps. Bees, in particular, are very attracted to damp areas. Leaky faucets or where puddles accumulate are prime real estate for them.
Washington State Department of Health explains you need to ensure you are closing trash cans tightly. Bees and wasps love leftovers and sweet smells.
Hummingbird feeders can attract bees and wasps with their bright colors and sweet smell. Moving these away from your home can help you in the long run, even though they are fun to gaze at through windows.
You can learn more about keeping bees and wasps away from your hummingbird feeders in our article: 8 Tips to Keep Bees and Wasps Out of Hummingbird Feeders
Remove Excess Food
Additionally, make sure you do not leave any excess food out and keep your area is clean and dry to let bees know they are not welcome to move in. Also, bright flowering plants around your house can attract bees.
Try things that do not flower if you still want the plants without the bees, like ferns. Things that bees cannot pollinate will not attract them.
Although these are great steps in keeping bees and wasps away from your home, the best thing you can do for prevention is to make sure they cannot get in. So, check your chimneys and walls and watch for swarms around your home. Looking for indications a bee could move in is the first step to preventing them.
While bees and wasps are both playing an important role in our ecosystem, they can both potentially cause harm to us. While it might seem like the end of the world when the bees and wasps come flying in, you have options.
Remember to look and decide what type of insect you are working with, make a plan on how to get rid of them. Then figure out how they are coming into your home and take action. Take preventative measures to keep them away and keep yourself, your family, and your home safe.
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