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Honey Bee Removal

by Jon Zawislak - February 13, 2020

Removing a live honey bee colony from a structure can be difficult and time consuming, with no guaranteed results for the beekeeper.  Many homeowners assume that honey bees are valuable, and that any beekeeper should gladly remove them and put them to work making them a sweet honey crop.

The facts are not so simple.  The truth is that honey bees are potentially valuable, but the time and effort involved in relocating an unknown bee colony often outweighs the cost of simply buying bees that have been bred for productivity and manageability.  And the bees will typically not begin to store up surplus honey to harvest until the second year.  So a beekeeper must care for them for many months before they may realize any return for their efforts.

Some new beekeepers, eager for a challenge,  sometimes offer to remove a colony for a homeowner.  However, most experienced beekeepers have regular jobs, and have plenty of chores to keep them busy on weekends.  Therefore they are rarely eager to spend a good part of their free time doing manual labor on a stranger's house.  I have spoken to numerous homeowners over the years who were surprised and even outraged that a beekeeper would even think to charge a fee to remove the friendly little honey bees.  Do you have a job?  How much is your time worth to you?  How much is your day off worth to you?  Would you like to spend your weekend doing your job for me at my house for free?  No?  But many people expect a beekeeper to do just that.

Writer and Beekeeper Hilary Kearney has an excellent overview of what's involved in bee removal on her blog, Beekeeping Like A Girl, which addresses many of the public's misconceptions about relocating honey bee colonies.

Insects and spiders enter a structure and make themselves at home because they can.  Honey bees prefer to nest in a cavity (such as a hollow tree).  They need little more than a 1/4 inch opening to slip inside.  So they can only occupy a wall or structure if the homeowner has not kept up maintenance on the building's exterior.  A regular inspection of your own home, with a few strategic nails, some caulking and paint, can keep out bees and many other pests.