Summer Buzzin’: Why Are There Bees At My Pool And What Can I do About It?

by Kaycee Wallace, Intern

Summer is officially here, which means our so called “pleasant” days of 95 degree weather is over. During these warmer months, you are certain to see visitors entering a pool area, some being the visitors you were expecting, others not quite. These unwelcomed and unwanted guests can become a nuisance when they fly and, “buzz, buzz, buzz” in your ear. Honey bees are attracted to swimming pools due to the limited source of water here in the desert. Bees are required to control the temperature of their hives. If not maintained at a temperature of 95 degrees or less, hive melt is likely to occur. To prevent this from happening, bees primarily use the water to cool their hive down. At this point, there is no need to worry about a hive being located on your property. However, if you see a significant increase of bees around the area at any

Photo by Casey Clingan on Unsplash

time, this can possibly be a signal that there is a hive on or near your premises. Bee activity that indicates the possible presence of a hive on your property includes the following:

  • Bees flying in and out of a hole within a structure, such as a shed floor, roof eave, or a tree stump.
  • Bees randomly flying around a man-made or natural structure that is obviously not a food or water source (shed, roof eave, etc.).
  • Bees flying into your head or hair area, or stinging you for no apparent reason. This aggression can mean they are protecting a nearby hive.

Considering that all wild honey bees in Arizona are Africanized, instead of looking for the established hive yourself, we recommend that you call a professional to perform an inspection. However, if you generally see the bees around your pool and they appear to be there for the water source, you can try to resolve the situation by providing an alternative water system. An alternate watering system can be as simple as a large bowl filled with water. Unlike wasps, bees cannot land directly on the surface of water, so you will need to provide an access way, such as a stick or a few rocks. This will allow them to walk down and approach the water. Over the next several days, move the new water source further and further away from the pool. This is not only likely to detract the bees from the current location, but will leave your “welcomed” guests alone to have a buzzing time, of course without the actual buzzing!

If providing an alternate water source does not prevent bees from returning to your pool, Desert Swarm has a non-toxic treatment for deterring bees that can be safely applied around the pool or other water features. If you are unsure or have any questions, please give us a call! We can help!

Common ‘Do-it-Yourself’ Bee Removal Mistakes

By Allison Williams, Co-Owner of Desert Swarm Bee Removal LLC

Desert Swarm appreciates DIY projects, but it is not something we recommend in bee removal. All too often, we see DIY bee removals gone horribly wrong leaving homeowners with a bigger headache than what they started with. We are faced with Africanized honey bees in AZ, and disturbing a hive can quickly escalate into homeowners, neighbors, and pets being stung or even attacked. Human and pet safety is always our primary concern.

Most homeowners do not have the knowledge and experience to perform a safe removal, so we always recommend calling a professional bee removal company or beekeeper. Please do not rely on Google for finding DIY solutions in bee removal, especially since our bee situation in AZ is different from the rest of the country. If it was that simple, there would be more people willing to perform removals of Africanized hives. For those considering tackling their own bee removal, we have listed the most common DIY bee removal mistakes that we see.

Sealing up an Infestation: Spray Foam is Not Your Friend This is a common scenario. A homeowner spots just a few bees flying under the roof eave and consistently entering a small crack. He/she decides that sealing the crack with spray foam or caulk is the solution for keeping the bees out of the roof. This is a huge mistake. The bees observed coming and going by the homeowner are only a small portion of the number of bees inside the roof which can be misleading to the untrained eye.  Typically, the homeowner unknowingly seals up an infestation composed of 6,000-10,000 honey bees inside their roof.

Hive in roof
Established Africanized beehive in a roof

The following three problems can result from sealing up the bee entry/exit of an active hive:

  1. Bees may flood into your home

Bees require an entry and exit to their hive from the outside world. When this is taken away, the bees inside the roof will search for another way out. Bees are attracted to light and will find ways into your home though vents and light fixtures. Nobody wants a hive of irritated bees to flush into the interior of their home!

  1. Returning, foraging bees may become defensive as they look for access

While the homeowner is busy sealing up the infestation, bees that were outside of the hive collecting pollen or nectar return to find that the entry to their home is gone. They have invested a lot of time in their hive and will not give up easily. In this scenario, it is common to see hundreds, if not thousands, of agitated bees flying around the home intent on finding access back to their hive. Many times, they will find a way back to their hive leaving a homeowner with an unresolved issue. Their agitation may also cause them to act defensively of their home leading to stings.

  1. It becomes more difficult for the bee removal expert to diagnose the full extent of the issue, potentially costing you more time and money

To properly diagnose the full extent of a bee infestation and presence of hive material in a roof or wall, the bee specialist looks for the original location of the bee entry/exit. Bees are efficient creatures and will build hive material relatively close to that entrance. If the entry/exits are sealed and bees are entering through various other locations, this becomes a bit of a wild goose chase for the bee specialist.

Soapy Water & Over-the-Counter Wasp/Bee Spray are not Always the Answer We have received countless calls from defeated homeowners who have tried over-the-counter bee and wasp spray or a soapy water solution to resolve their bee issue. They are typically stung in the process and create a bigger mess. For a pesticide to be effective, each and every bee in the hive needs to be contacted. If the hive is inside a structure such as a wall or roof, it is impossible for a homeowner to properly apply the pesticide/soapy water on a hive of 6,000-10,000 bees.  This can quickly become a very dangerous situation as the hive becomes disturbed and agitated. Please contact a professional. A bee removal/pest control company should be licensed by the State of Arizona Office of Pest Management to legally apply pesticides and should know how to properly deal with large hives inside our man-made structures.

Lighting Fire and Smoking out the Bees  Regardless of what Google says,  bees cannot be smoked out and convinced to leave their hive.  The bees have a lot invested in their hive (honey, brood, queen, etc.), and although the smoke will confuse the bees and reduce their aggressiveness temporarily, this is not a long term solution for bee removal.  The bees will always win if you choose smoke is your removal tool.

Waiting out an Established Hive & Hoping They Will Leave On their Own A common DIY mistake is simply doing nothing and hoping the bees will eventually leave their established hive.  After waiting a week or even a month, you check on the hive, and they are still there.  Rather than a new infestation, you are now dealing with well-established bees and honeycomb which needs to be removed.  If not removed, honey will melt down your walls, other pests will be attracted to your house, and future bees will return!  Waiting costs you money!  A bee issue never gets better with time, only worse!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Live Bee Removal an Option?

Only if it is safe. All wild honey bees in Arizona are Africanized.

by Allison Williams, Co-owner of Desert Swarm Bee Removal LLC

We have responded to human and pet fatalities and injuries resulting from Africanized honey bee attacks, so this is not something we take lightly at Desert Swarm. In Arizona, we have the responsibility to handle Africanized bees safely. Although very valuable pollinators to our gardens and desert plants, these are not the same “gentle” species of honey bees managed in boxes for use in pollinating our nation’s commercial crops.

Africanized honey bee swarm

Our number one priority is to keep your family, pets, the public, and our specialists safe during a removal. Africanized bees become hyper-defensive to protect their hives and will attack when threatened. Desert Swarm will only perform live removals of newly-arrived & un-established swarms that have not moved inside of a structure. Our specialists always err on the side of caution as we will not put any human or pet life at risk. We do not offer live removals for swarms that are well-established or have already moved into a cavity or structure due to the territorial and aggressive nature of Africanized bees once disturbed. You can rest assured that Desert Swarm will solve your bee problem safely and effectively even if a live removal is not an option!

We are small-scale beekeepers and value honey bees, so if we can perform a life removal safely, we will! All live removals are relocated to our locally managed hives. Please contact us for more details on the type of live removals we will consider!

I have a swarm or hive of bees on my property, are they Africanized?

By Allison Williams, Co-owner of Desert Swarm Bee Removal LLC

All too often we hear this statement, “The bee swarm or hive on my property is not Africanized because it is not aggressive.”  Unfortunately, this is not a safe assumption in Arizona.

All wild (feral) honey bees in Arizona are presumed to be Africanized. When threatened or disturbed, Africanized honey bees exhibit an exaggerated defense response of their colony. We don’t always know what will irritate them – it could be a noise, vibration, or even an odor! Our technicians can tell you from experience that hives can vary in aggression due to a variety of factors, but each bee removal is faced with some level of defensive bee behavior. Always call a professional if you suspect you have a bee hive on your property.

The widespread prevalence of Africanized honey bees in Arizona is supported by researchers, scientists, beekeepers, honey bee experts, and bee removal companies, like us! We have compiled a list of resources for you so that you can dive deeper into the world of Africanized honey bees and be armed with the right information!

From the Experts

The University of Arizona Urban Integrated Pest Management Program has published a bee management fact sheet that describes Africanized honey bee behavior and provides safety guidelines in the chance of encountering a bee attack. Follow the links below to find out more.

Bee Management, University of Arizona

University of Arizona Urban Integrated Pest Management Program

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) maintains a honey bee research center right here in Tucson! The Carl Hayden Honey Bee Research Center is responsible for official identifications of Africanized honey bees, especially when the honey bees are found in new states. Gloria Hoffman, research leader at the center is quoted in this local news story on the topic of bee swarms in Arizona. The first link leads to that article, and the second link goes directly to the Carl Hayden Honey Bee Research Center webpage.

Bee swarms: What you need to know to stay safe, AZCentral.com

Link to the USDA Carl Hayden Honey Bee Research Center in Tucson

This link will take you directly to the Africanized honey bee information provided by the USDA on their website.

USDA Africanized Honey Bee Information

Within Saguaro National Park located in Tucson, wild bee colonies are quite common. Park biologists estimate that hundreds of bee colonies call Saguaro National Park home. All of these colonies are now considered to be Africanized. Here is a link to their park fact sheet on Africanized honey bees.

U.S. Department of the Interior Saguaro National Park

Beekeeping in Arizona is different from other parts of the United States due to the prevalence of Africanized honey bees. Patrick Pynes, Arizona resident and beekeeper gives perspective on this challenge and provides commentary on hive management in the following article in the beekeeping publication, Bee Culture:

Commentary – Killer Bees in Arizona by Patrick Pynes

Recent News

Unfortunately, the following news stories cover incidents of recent Africanized bee attacks.

American Racing Legend A.J. Foyt Survives Vicious Killer Bee Attack

Four Puppies Die in Arizona Backyard Bee Attack, One Puppy Named ‘Lucky’ Survives

Arizona Landscaper Dies After Attacked by a Swarm of Bees

 

Quick Reference Guide to Hiring the Right Bee Removal Company

by Allison Williams, Co-Owner of Desert Swarm Bee Removal LLC

We know that it can be very stressful or even scary to discover a swarm or hive of bees on your property.  Suddenly, you are forced to make a quick decision about what to do and who to hire to take care of this potentially dangerous issue!  To ease your worry, we have prepared this quick reference guide of the essential things you should look for when choosing a bee removal company!

Ask the Right Questions

In Arizona, we are dealing with Africanized honey bees (territorial and potentially dangerous). It takes skill, experience, and expertise to safely and properly solve your bee issue. There are numerous pest control companies advertising bee removal, but they are not all equal in their experience or in the services they offer. Here are some questions you can ask that will give you a better idea of their bee removal services:

  • How is your bee removal service structured and priced regarding inspection, treatment, and hive removal options? Are there any hidden costs?
  • Are you going to check for the presence of hive material? (This definitely applies if you suspect you have bees in your roof/wall/structure, etc. This is very important for a customer to know for preventing future problems such as bee re-infestation, attraction of other pests, and costly honey melt damages.)
  • If you do locate a hive in my roof/wall/structure what are potential removal options? (While this can vary greatly, they should be able to explain a common scenario.)
  • Do you conduct your own hive removal and any subsequent repairs of structures, if needed?

While not 100% comprehensive, this list of questions will arm you with some information about the services you may require and will give you a good idea of a company’s experience and capabilities. You do not want to be left behind with a melting hive or cranky bees!

Check for Proper Credentials and Licensing

It is required by Arizona state law that any person performing pest management services using pesticides must be a Certified Applicator through the Arizona Department of Agriculture Office of Pest Management (OPM). This is required for the company doing business and for each individual technician working on behalf of that company.  You can check for a business and their technician’s licenses by simply searching the OPM public website. Each Certified Applicator must be trained and licensed on an annual basis.  You can follow these step-by-step instructions to easily verify a company’s credentials!

  1. Go to https://opm.azda.gov/
  2. Find “License Search” in the side menu
  3. Select “Pest Management Companies”
  4. Enter the company name or license number
  5. Click on “More Info” to see a full list of licensed parties

Check for Liability Insurance

Any responsible business owner conducting bee removals or pest control should carry liability insurance. This protects both parties in case of incidental property damage or in the unfortunate scenario of someone getting hurt. For your safety and protection, we do not recommend hiring a bee removal company that does not carry liability insurance. We are faced with handling Africanized bees (territorial and potentially dangerous bees) here in Arizona, and this should not be taken lightly.

Check for Better Business Bureau Accreditation

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is often the first place an unhappy customer will report poor service. It is a great place to check for any previous complaints against a business. A transparent company that is confident in their business practices will most certainly acquire their accreditation through the BBB.

Check Customer Reviews

The internet is a wonderful resource for finding customer reviews. Customers can quickly rate a business in a multitude of ways across many review sites. We encourage you to look at several review sites instead of relying on just one such as Yelp, Facebook, Angie’s List, Google…the list goes on and on. If you do come across a negative review on a company, check to see how the owner chose to respond. Often, complaints are simple misunderstandings that can easily be resolved with further communication or a reasonable offer in return for dissatisfaction. 

We hope that this guide will ease some of your stress or worry in the search of the right bee removal company for you! If you have any questions please do not hesitate to call! 520-310-0707

Follow this guide to take the guesswork out of hiring the right bee removal company for you!

 

Are you seeing honey bees? Here’s why!

by Allison Williams, Co-owner of Desert Swarm Bee Removal LLC

Although it is not quite peak season, we are seeing an increase in honey bee activity in Tucson and surrounding areas! With the recent rains and increase in temperatures, bees are naturally becoming more active. Here’s a summary of what we are seeing!

Don’t be fooled! Honey bees do not leave for the winter

It is often misunderstood that honey bees will leave their established hive during winter. This is not so! They become less active and more dormant during winter months, but they do not leave their hives. We are now seeing these over-wintered hives become active, and customers are calling for hive removals. Please be aware of any new bee activity if you had an established hive on your property last spring and thought they “left” during winter.  We can help you prevent the problem from getting worse!

Bee Removal
Swarm of Africanized honey bees

Small swarms and scouting activity

A portion of honey bees (a swarm) will leave an established hive, typically in spring, as hives become overcrowded. The swarm will send out scout bees to look for a new hive location for building comb, raising bees, and producing honey. Currently, we are seeing some very small swarms and a bit of scouting activity. If you see bees that come and go or are focused on areas around your property, please be aware that it may be a swarm scouting your place for a new hive location. We can certainly prevent them from moving in!

Pollinating bees & robber bees

As winter transitions into spring, honey bees are out looking for food to support their hive. With little blooming in the surrounding desert right now, honey bees are attracted to blooms in residential and commercial areas. If you have a blooming plant or tree on your property and bees are focused on the flowers, there is likely no need to worry as these are pollinating bees! With scarce resources, bees are also attracted to sugary sweet odors like soda cans, garbage cans, and old honey comb remnants. We are also finding bees attracted to sap from evergreen trees in the area!

If you had a hive previously treated for bees without removing or sealing the area, other honey bees may try to “rob” the hive or move into the “ready-made” space.  It is  not easy for the untrained eye to distinguish robber bees from established bees, so please call us if you need help resolving this issue!

If you are unsure, please call us! 

As your bee removal experts, we are always here to help you resolve your bee issues. If you are seeing unusual bee activity on your property and are unsure of your problem, do not ever hesitate to call! We are always here to answer your questions. We are licensed professionals and are experienced with handling Africanized honey bees. ALL of the wild honey bees in Arizona are presumed to be Africanized, which can become extremely defensive of their hive with aggression. Unfortunately, we have seen people and their pets get hurt trying to handle their own bee issues.

Keeping you and your family safe is our number one priority!

Swarm Season is Fast Approaching

by Greg Williams, Owner of Desert Swarm Bee Removal, LLC

Giant Africanized honey bee swarm in Tucson area

Have you even wondered why honey bees swarm in the spring and summer?  Bees swarm for two main reasons: space and colony reproduction.

Southern Arizona has many native species that bloom between February and May, most notably, creosote, palo verde, mesquite, and ironwood.  As these plants bloom, honey bees are busy filling their hives with fresh pollen and nectar both of which take of lots of hive space.  As the hives become overcrowded, the existing queen and approximately half the bees will leave the hive.  This is a swarm that we all have seen or heard flying overhead.  This swarm of bees are now on the lookout for a new hive location where they will start from scratch and the hive they left will form a new queen and continue to build.

Swarming is also a natural way for a bees to reproduce on the colony level: one hive turns into two hives immediately!  The bee colony is an organism unto itself and swarming (i.e. reproduction) is a natural survival technique on the colony level.

The desert southwest is unique in that all of our feral bees (not living in white beekeepers boxes) are Africanized.  This is a hybrid honey bee created as a result of a cross between African bees (brought from the African rainforests to Brazil) and our European honeybees that originally inhabited the desert southwest.  Africanized honeybees are super aggressive and have a tendency to swarm a lot which is a genetic trait of inhabiting rainforests.  A healthy Africanized bee hive can swarm 10-20 times a year.  Do the math!  One original hive turning into 20!

With swarm season (bloom season) fast approaching please keep a look out for bees!