BEES & BEEHIVE REMOVAL IN SOCAL
Despite their small size and ferocious stinger, bees are among nature’s most valuable players in Southern California and beyond. As pollinators, they assist in the fertilization of plants to produce fruits, vegetables, and seeds. About 75% of the world’s food crops are dependent on the work of pollinators.
Because of bees’ importance to our food sources and environment, it is difficult to label them a “pest.” However, when bees get into places they do not belong, they risk making the transition from friend to foe. Still, with bee populations shrinking to alarming levels worldwide, it is crucial to handle these infestations in a way that both helps the homeowners and, whenever possible, keeps the bees alive to do what they do best.
BEES OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
According to the Planet Bee Foundation, there are more than 1,600 species of bees native to California.
Bee species are remarkably diverse. While we typically think of bees living in groups, approximately 70% of bees are solitary; they reside alone rather than in a hive community. These lone bees may make their homes in the ground or holes found in tree trunks and other surfaces. Some are even parasitic, laying their eggs in the nests of other insects.
California’s most common native bees belong to five groups:
- Apidae: Bees in the Apidae bee family are typically large and often solitary, though some live-in colonies. The group includes carpenter bees, digger bees, and bumblebees. There are two species of bumblebees common to Southern California: the yellow-faced bumblebee and the cuckoo bumblebee. Both grow to 1-2 inches in length, with furry black and yellow markings.
- Colletidae: Colletidae bees live alone, though sometimes in proximity to each other. Often called plasterer bees, they can produce a substance that allows them to seal their nests, keeping water and fungus out.
- Andrenidae: Andreidae bees are miners, carving tunnels through the soil where they lay their eggs. These bees are picky about their pollen, preferring to take it from a few select flowers.
- Halictidae: Bees in the Halictidae family are drawn to the sweat on people’s skin. The Agapostemon texanus also called the ultra-green sweat bee, features a shiny green exterior. Sweat bees often build their nests in colonies in the soil.
- Megachilidae: Bees in the Megachilidae group usually live in pre-existing holes and spaces, building chambers for their larvae from found materials like leaves and hair. The leafcutter bee, which carves circular holes from leaves, is in this group, as is the mason bee, which crafts mud walls in its nests.
In addition to these native populations, California is home to some non-native species. While now familiar across the United States, honeybees were brought to North America from Europe in the 1600s. Now, they compete with the native bee species for resources. Two species of honeybees are frequently found in Southern California: European honeybees and Africanized honey bees. The wool carder bee, a member of the Megachilidae family, is another invasive species found in California.
WHEN BEES BECOME A PROBLEM – COMMON ISSUES AND HOW TO ADDRESS THEM
Most of the time, bees live harmoniously with the human population. However, when they begin to invade human spaces, they can create problems.
STINGS AND STRUCTURES: ISSUES WITH BEES FOR HOMEOWNERS
One significant concern for humans is the risk of being stung. While a bee sting may be a mere nuisance for many people, it can cause more substantial issues and even death for those with allergies. Some bee species pose a greater danger than others. Bumblebees can sting more than once, while Africanized honeybees, an aggressive cross-breeding of European and African bees, often attack in swarms.
Additionally, some bees can cause damage to homes and other structures. Carpenter bees, like termites, build their homes by boring holes in wood. This puts wooden eaves, decks, and other features at risk for damage.
Honeybees may build their hives between walls, attics, and other spaces that protect the bees’ nests. The presence of a hive increases the risk of being stung. It also creates structural strain, both from the honey and other debris and the hive’s weight. The typical hive can hold as much as 100 pounds of honey or more.
MANAGING AN INFESTATION OF BEES
When a home or yard becomes infested with bees, there are two solutions: kill the bee population and or remove it. Given the declining numbers of bees, extermination should be used only when necessary. Safe removal by a trained beekeeper is always the preferred option.
Removing a hive has other benefits in addition to saving the bees. First, it ensures that the honey, hive, and dead bees are not left to rot in place, likely preventing future issues or, at the very least, an unpleasant odor. It also helps to impede future infestations, both bees and other unwelcome guests who could take refuge in the remaining hive.
HOW TO HELP THE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA NATIVE BEE POPULATION
While no one wants a bee infestation in their home, bees remain essential to our world. Homeowners, gardeners, and bee enthusiasts can take many steps to help support the native bee population in Southern California. Below are a few of the tips offered by The Bee Conservancy:
- Avoid the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers in the garden, as these may harm bees. Whenever possible, the use of organic materials is best.
- Provide bees with a water source to quench their thirst. Stones or pebbles arranged in the bottom of a birdbath so that they emerge from the water give bees a place to rest while they hydrate.
- Give native bees a home. Leaving a corner of the yard uncultivated or building a bee condo provides a welcome home for solitary bees.
These actions, along with the others suggested by the conservancy, will help ensure that the world’s bee populations remain intact.
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