As the weather shifts from freezing your toes off cold to roasting your skin hot, insects come out of hibernation to bug us all. One question no homeowner wants to ask is, “Why the heck are bees flying around my roof?!”
Roofs and attics provide many attributes bees search for when looking for a new place to build a hive. It’s dark inside, elevated, and offers protection from predators. The small holes or cracks under eaves at the roof line offer an easily defended entrance.
If you have bees flying around your roof, it’s probably because it’s offering something they are looking for. Often bees will fly for a long time before they settle down in a permanent place, especially if there aren’t any suitable natural places. The roof of a house makes for a near perfect home for bees. Let’s get to fixing the problem!
Reasons Bees Are Flying Around Your Roof
You could have honey bees or carpenter bees flying around near your roof, and each one is there for slightly different reasons. Either way, you don’t want these fuzzy buzzers getting into your house or causing damage, which will need to be repaired.
The following reasons are the most common reasons you could have bees flying around your roof, and what you can do about them.
1. Your Gutters Are Attracting Bees
All living creatures need water, and bees are no exception. Areas with small puddles of water may attract honey bees. If you have a low point in the gutters where water stands or even a clog, bees may stop by for a drink.
When honey bees drink, they need to prevent themselves from becoming completely submerged. If they get covered in water, they could drown. Once their wings get wet, it’s very difficult for them to fly away.
To get enough water, bees will search for small, shallow puddles, or find a way to “perch” out of the water while still slaking their thirst. Standing water in the gutters will attract all kinds of pests, so make sure you clean them out every year and perform any repairs in a timely manner.
Seeing bees around your roof could mean you have a water problem in the gutters. If you suspect water is attracting bees to your roof, you should have someone come and check all your gutters to make sure they are in good working order.
Damp areas are one of the most common reasons why bees and wasps get into houses.
2. Carpenter Bees Love Your Woodwork
Carpenter bees often like to hang out around eaves, roof lines, or other places if they are made of wood. Those big, buzzing, shiny, black dive bombers are often carpenter bees trying to protect their nests.
These you don’t have to worry about as much unless you have a lot of them flying around. Though it doesn’t mean you can just let them go on and do their thing. One or two won’t cause significant damage, but they will return year after year.
Male carpenter bees are the ones that seem like they are playing a game of chicken with you when you get close to their perfectly round half-inch diameter holes. Their droning buzz, intimidating size, and the way they seem to get a little too close for comfort can have most people frightened of these insects.
Though they can seem pretty aggressive, carpenter bees rarely sting. In fact, the males do not have a stinger, and can’t do much of anything except look and act intimidating. The females of the species have a stinger and can pack a painful jab.
Female carpenter bees, thankfully, are not aggressive either. But if someone sticks their finger in the bee holes, or someone tries to handle a female carpenter bee, then it will have no choice but to attack.
These bees love weathered and unpainted wood, but will still chew through painted or stained new wood at times. They are drilling holes in the wood to lay eggs and raise their larva. They don’t eat the wood, they just need to make a safe haven for their youngins!
You can seal up these holes with wood putty or caulk once the parents leave, but they will probably come back next year. Wherever carpenter bees are born, the babies will return the following season.
To help trap carpenter bees and keep them from returning, try out these Original B Brothers-Carpenter Bee Trap-2 Pack. They mimic the natural nesting habitat of carpenter bees. They fly in, but can’t find their way back out, which keeps them from coming back year after year to chew more holes in your woodwork.
3. Your Roof Provides A Safe Haven From Bee Predators
Your roof offers protection from predators. Let’s face it, honey is an all-natural, delicious treat that many of us enjoy. There are plenty of animals out in the wild that will do almost anything for that golden, sticky, sweet treat.
Most animals that eat the honey from a hive are also just as willing to eat the larvae and the bees themselves. Skunks especially will target hives to get to the larvae first, then if they are still hungry, they might eat the honey as well.
Bears, raccoons, and opossums are also omnivores that will eat the honey, and the bees if they can get to them. So hiding out in a roof makes sense for the bees because it offers a great deal of protection for them.
Often times, this is a common place to find bees during the day!
5. Bees Love To Be Elevated!
Bees like to be off the ground. When they are looking for a new home, they like to find hollowed-out tree cavities that will support them. If there aren’t any trees around, then to bees, roofs are the next best thing.
Unlike yellow jackets which burrow into the ground and defend their nests with repeated, extremely painful stings, honey bees prefer to nest off the ground. They need some kind of protection for their honey stores.
Being off the ground helps to protect the bees and their precious honey from water runoff and predators.
6. A Colony Has Already Been Established
If you are seeing a lot of activity around your roof or overhangs, you might already have an established colony. It may only take a month for an active colony of honey bees to create a large hive.
Depending on food source availability, predatory activity, and colony strength, it could be a short time before a colony is established, or there might not be a decent-sized hive for an entire season.
According to Oklahoma State University, honey bees typically build their hives in cavities in hollow trees or logs. Attics and wall voids can entice honey bees as well. These colonies can get quite large, as many as 20,000 to 60,000 honey bees could inhabit a single hive.
You may not notice a few bees coming and going occasionally, so it could be difficult to act on a starting hive quickly. Once you see constant activity, though, then you should get a professional out to see what’s going on around your roof area.
Signs You Have Bees In Your Roof Or Walls
Some signs you may have a bee infestation in your roof can include a constant buzzing or chewing noise coming from the roof or walls. Strange stains on walls or the ceiling can be an indicator, as well as a constant supply of bees coming to and from your house.
Of course, if the bees have set up a hive in your roof or walls and then they suddenly vacate or something takes them out, the honey and wax will melt. This can cause a lot of problems if it’s not taken care of soon.
A smell could start from the melting of the wax and decaying of the larvae if they were left behind. Then again, if the hive was huge, it could cause the walls to fall.
If you suspect you have a beehive inside your roof, ceiling, or walls, you shouldn’t attempt to tackle the eradication yourself. A full hive of bees could contain tens of thousands of bees willing to defend their home, and someone not trained in the removal could easily get overwhelmed.
If you have bees in your walls or THINK you may – take a peak at our guide on what to do if bees are in your walls.
Ultimately, speak to a professional pest control service, or a honey bee rescue company to get rid of the hive and the honeycomb. Since honey bees are dealing with colony collapse disorder, it’s best to save the bees instead of eliminating them.
Since the bees work to keep the hive cool, once they are removed, the hive needs to be removed at the same time. Once the honey and wax heat up, they will melt and create an even bigger mess.
7. Roofs Provide Adequate Space For Beehives
While honey bees are out looking for hive real estate, a roof offers them plenty of space to stretch out their wings. Attics are usually insulated, protected from the elements, and don’t get many visitors, so if scouts are looking for a new place, they could easily colonize your roof.
The wood in an attic is perfect for attaching honeycomb to it. Honey bees can also spread out throughout the different sections, so when they see the perfect space, they will move right in and start setting up house.
To prevent bees from getting into your attic, have your roof inspected and fill any cracks or gaps.
To learn more, take a look at our guide on what to do if you have bees in your attic!
8. Roofs Shelter Bees From The Elements
Many bees and wasps like to create nests in overhangs of the roof. This man-made ledge offers great protection from the elements. The bees might hang out to shelter temporarily or build a nest.
The roof overhang can shelter bees from the scorching sun. They could be hanging out to rest in some shade, or to keep from being buffeted by heavy rain.
If it looks like you have bees trying to shelter from the weather, they should move on either when the heat has broken, or the rain has stopped. Just monitor the area for a few days and if you don’t notice any more activity, they have most likely moved away.
If you still see a lot of buzzing activity after a few days, seek some professional help to check out what’s going on up there, just in case the bees decided your roof was a nice place to start a hive.
Wasps often build their upside-down, papery nests at the highest peaks of your roof. They don’t cause any damage to your property, but the nests can get pretty large, look unsightly, and if they are disturbed, they can deliver some painful stings.
You may want to leave the wasps alone, especially if they are up high. When fall and winter set in, the wasps will move away and hibernate, and they do not return to their nests. You can then safely remove the nest without incurring the wrath of the wasps.
If the wasps are pretty close to your head, or their angry faces stare you down every time you get close, you can take care of them with a good spray. Spectracide Wasp and Hornet Spray works to immobilize wasps immediately. Just follow the instructions and take care of those angry-looking yellow and black wasps.
9. The Bees Are Swarming!
Have you ever seen a droning black cloud flying overhead or noticed one particular tree that had a lot of flying insects all around it? Maybe you’ve seen a moving mass of bees on the side of a building one day, but then it was gone the next.
Those are all signs of a honey bee swarm. When a new queen is born—sometimes the original queen leaves—it sets off to start a new hive of bees. Some of the original hive will swarm around this queen to protect her as they search for a new place to move into.
If you see a large mass of bees on your house, or nearby, it could be a swarm looking for a place to go. Don’t worry about them too much because swarms are typically pretty docile. Just give them space, don’t bother them and you shouldn’t have too much to worry about.
The Tennessee Department of Agriculture talks about honey bee swarms. They say most honey bee swarms separate from the colony during optimal weather. They will rest on either a tree, a bush, or somewhere not too far away from the original hive for anywhere from 24 to 36 hours.
When the scouts find a new place to set up the hive, the bees move off and start building a honeycomb for the queen to lay her eggs. They are usually docile until they have established their new home.
The swarm may simply be resting before they take off again. If the swarm was on your roof or overhangs, and you are still seeing activity such as bees flying back and forth, then you should probably have someone check out your attic. The swarm might have moved in, and suddenly you could have thousands of bees in your house.
Other Things That Are Attracting Bees To Your House
Believe it or not, your garden could be attracting bees to your house. Typically, this isn’t a bad thing, especially if you have fruit trees or garden plants that need pollinating. Plants such as cucumber, pumpkins, squash, and okra require pollinating insects to make food.
These and/or your flower garden could attract honey bees to your house. While they are visiting to collect the tasty nectar to bring back to the hive to make honey, they could end up being curious and checking out any small gaps in your roof or along the eaves.
Most times, if you have a few coming by for a drink from your flowers, you have nothing to worry about. They are simply there to make food for themselves.
Speaking of which, if you have a hummingbird feeder near your house – this could easily be attracting bees. You can learn more in our article on how to keep bees out of your hummingbird feeder!
If you have small cracks or entrances in the siding of your house, or along the roof, there’s a slight chance a stray honey bee or other insects could find their way in. In either case, try to inspect your house periodically for these small gaps that could let insects inside.
Seal small cracks and holes with an outdoor caulk, or gap filler, and if you have sizeable areas such as dryer vents or attic vents, use a metal mesh or screen. To prevent honey bees from getting in, the holes need to be ⅛ of an inch wide or smaller.
If you have flowering plants in pots or hanging baskets and are worried about honey bees being attracted to them, you don’t have to get rid of them. Just move them farther away. Honey bees need our help because they have been in decline for years. If at all possible, help the honey bees out, but don’t harm them.
You can also apply scents that bees hate in areas that they frequent to help keep them away and not ‘sense’ other attracting smells!
Bees flying around your roof may not be a cause for alarm, but you should try to understand what is attracting them to that area and fix the problem. Bees may simply be sheltering from the elements or hiding out from predators. In that case, they will soon move on.
However, if you have a nest of bees inside your roof or wall cavities, you should have a professional come and take care of them. Bees won’t usually leave on their own.
There are companies out there who will remove the bees, hive and all, without doing them any harm, which is the ideal way to manage honey bees!
Carpenter bees will need to be dealt with so they don’t return year after year while they continue to drill into the wood. As long as they are taken care of quickly, they won’t have time to do much damage.
Making your house uninviting to bees is an important step in keeping them away. Filling in small gaps and taking away their entrance points is the easiest way to do this. If they get inside, it’s a loss for them and you.
Breed, Michael D., Ernesto Guzmán-Novoa, and Greg J. 3. Hunt. “Defensive behavior of honey bees: organization, genetics, and comparisons with other bees.” Annual Reviews in Entomology 49.1 (2004): 271-298.
Schmidt, J. O. “Attraction of reproductive honey bee swarms to artificial nests by Nasonov pheromone.” Journal of chemical ecology 20.5 (1994): 1053-1056.
Simpson, James. “Nest Climate Regulation in Honey Bee Colonies: Honey bees control their domestic environment by methods based on their habit of clustering together.” Science 133.3461 (1961): 1327-1333. https://www.science.org/doi/pdf/10.1126/science.133.3461.1327
Anderson, Kirk E., et al. “An emerging paradigm of colony health: microbial balance of the honey bee and hive (Apis mellifera).” Insectes Sociaux 58.4 (2011): 431-444.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
Download My Free E-Book!
Take a look at my guide on Pest Proofing Your Home In Under a Day! I get into the nitty-gritty on the most common types of pests you’ll see on your property including BOTH insects and wildlife, along with the specific signs to look for regarding any pest you have questions about.