How do I get rid of a bees' nest in the top of a tree?
April 17, 2005 1:11 PM   Subscribe

At the top of a 50' tree hanging over our house, there is a very large (perhaps 1' by 2') bees' nest. Enough bees live there that it's become quite a problem for us. It is impossible to climb anywhere close to where it is. How can we get it down?

We live on 24 acres of forested mountain property -- solutions that might bother the neighbor or potentially injure bystanders are not likely to be a problem here. We're tired of getting stung, and we'd like to be able to sit out on our porch, now that it's spring. I've read up on the actual process of dealing with a nest, it's just reaching it that's the problem here.
posted by waldo to Home & Garden (34 answers total)
I don't know about the USA, but in the UK the local police keep records of known beekeepers that they can call on to move/contain swarms of bees. My dad used to keep bees and was called on a couple of times to sort out swarms in people's gardens. Even if your local police don't keep such a list, the local council/authority might. Failing that, there may well be a local beekeeping club/society that might be able to help.
posted by TheDonF at 1:29 PM on April 17, 2005

Around these parts (foresty-Maine) the local utility companies are frequently called out to cut down branches of trees that are about to fall and take lines out (power lines, cable, telephone -- whatever). Anyway, they use a device that looks like a small chainsaw on an extendable arm. It's electric (so you can turn it on/off while extended) and is used on those hard-to-reach tree limbs.

You could either try rigging something like this up yourself, or purchasing one already built. The real question is what happens after you cut the thing down? I'm sure you can imagine how angry the bees will be, and in a nest that large, you might have to cut and run like hell before it hits the ground. Don some thick, protective clothing when you go to clean it up. It's not the prettiest solution (nor the most environmentally friendly) but at least it will solve the problem.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:01 PM on April 17, 2005

why not hire someone to cut the branch down and deal with the bees? I'm sure that if you call garden specialists or landscaping specialists they will know exactly what to do without endangering themselves - or you.

This is best done by a professional, not by a homeowner who has read a few books and consults the internet.

I don't mean to be snarky here! I only worry about what the bees will do once their nest is down. Leave it to the professionals, waldo, don't get hurt.
posted by seawallrunner at 2:05 PM on April 17, 2005

Response by poster: Well, like I said, I live out here in the country, so we can get away with a lot more here than perhaps would be done elsewhere. Were I a better shot, for example, I'd take a bow and arrow, tie a length of cord to the arrow, shoot the arrow through the nest, pull the thing down and step into the house. (The same method that I've used to raise many a bear bag up into the air.) But there are so many reasons why that probably won't work that I hardly know where to begin. :)

OTOH, if I could get up there (this tree is on the side of a very steep hill), I know I could just bag the nest and break it off of its branch. When I got to the ground, I'd submerge the whole affair in the stream for a little bit, and that'd be that.

I'm not opposed to calling in the experts, but, were this on the ground, I could handle it without difficulty. I feel like, surely, I must be missing some method of getting me up there or getting the nest down.
posted by waldo at 2:16 PM on April 17, 2005

posted by crunchland at 2:25 PM on April 17, 2005

Best answer: Call your county, or agricultural extension office, or nearest university with a big ag program. There are probably people who can help you.

solutions that might bother the neighbor or potentially injure bystanders are not likely to be a problem here

In that case, I'm not entirely joking with any of these, but they'd all kill the bees instead of allowing for capture and moving:

(1) Shotgun. I've known friends on ~20 acres who used a shotgun successfully for emergency spot de-icing of tree branches near power lines.

(2) If it's over your house, so that it's not 50' above the nearest reasonably safe surface, you could get a long fiberglass pole such as painters, pruners, and advertisers use and knock it down, or burn it off with a rag on the end? I don't know that I've seen these longer than about 20' though.

(3) Will a pressure washer reach it with enough force to either knock it off or drown the bees? Could you add maybe a dram of insecticide to the flow to do them in?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:32 PM on April 17, 2005

My dad had a pretty bad case of wasps making a den inside a crack in the exterior of the house. He had pretty good luck with one of those 'electric flyswatter' things for killing the wasps until there were sufficiently few of them to make it worthwhile to seal the crack.

Myself, I had fun with a can of WD-40 and a lighter.

Maybe attach an electric swatter to a 50' pole (?) and ablate enough of the bees so it'd be less unsafe to cut the thing down with a pruning hook and dumping the thing in a big bucket of bleach?
posted by PurplePorpoise at 2:47 PM on April 17, 2005

a device that looks like a small chainsaw on an extendable arm...You could either try rigging something like this up yourself, or purchasing one already built

for the love of God, DON'T try rigging up a chainsaw on an extendable arm by yourself...please, just DON'T
posted by leapingsheep at 2:51 PM on April 17, 2005

Roll in enough mud to disguise yourself as a little black raincloud, then float up to where the bees are by using a bunch of helium balloons. Make sure you sing a song about being a little black raincloud. This might fool them; it might not. You never can tell with bees.

Alternately, call up and a landscaping company and ask them about their non-raincloud-disguise techniques.
posted by painquale at 3:14 PM on April 17, 2005 [1 favorite]

Response by poster:
I'm just a little black raincloud,
Hovering under the honey tree.
Only a little black raincloud,
Pay no attention to me!
Everyone knows that a raincloud
Never eats honey, no, not a nip!
I'm just floating around,
Over the ground,
Wondering where I will drip!
posted by waldo at 3:22 PM on April 17, 2005

Somewhere in the USA, a nest of bees sits, blissfully unaware of the international plot against their lives.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 3:27 PM on April 17, 2005 [1 favorite]

Count Ziggurat - I like your style
posted by PurplePorpoise at 4:00 PM on April 17, 2005

I've never had a problem with bees nests, no matter how close to the house. What seems to be the problem? Don't act threateningly to a bee and it won't hurt you.

I've watched busy beehives from a foot away, and as long as I remained calm and didn't exude fear or aggression they ignored me. Once even, when bees began nesting in cracks in a brick facade of the house, I slowly and calmly began calking shut the entrance crack. The bees exited the nest while I was at it until the nest was vacant when I finished. Not a one of them stung me.

I guess if you have kids you worry about mischief and such, but otherwise I fail to see why humans and bees can't exist perfectly peacably in close proximity. Bees don't want any trouble, especially from creatures a thousand times their size.
posted by Shane at 4:16 PM on April 17, 2005

Around these parts (foresty-Maine) the local utility companies are frequently called out to cut down branches of trees that are about to fall and take lines out

No line is safe to touch, evah!
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:17 PM on April 17, 2005

Try calling your county's Cooperative Extension Service and/or the entomolgy department of the nearest public university.
posted by trondant at 8:59 PM on April 17, 2005

Maybe an arrow with an insecticide-soaked rag wrapped around the shaft? Or some poison-laced bait that they carry back home?

Also, I am assuming that by bees you mean black and yellow wasps, in which case Natural Wasp Control may have some ideas.
posted by LarryC at 8:59 PM on April 17, 2005

posted by trondant at 9:05 PM on April 17, 2005

"It's like this," he said. "When you go after honey with a balloon, the great thing is not to let the bees know you're coming. Now, if you have a green balloon, they might think you were only part of the tree, and not notice you, and if you have a blue balloon, they might think you were only part of the sky, and not notice you, and the question is: Which is most likely?"

"Wouldn't they notice YOU under the balloon?" Christopher Robin asked.

"They might or they might not," said Winnie the Pooh. "You never can tell with bees."
posted by five fresh fish at 9:11 PM on April 17, 2005

Shotgun, tight choke
posted by caddis at 9:14 PM on April 17, 2005

Shotgun, absolutely. You won't even kill that many bees -- they'll just leave and nest elsewhere. Pollinators are our friends if they live somewhere else.
posted by words1 at 9:20 PM on April 17, 2005

Response by poster: I've never had a problem with bees nests, no matter how close to the house. What seems to be the problem?

My house is poorly-sealed, and it's full of bees. Dozens of them, every day. They crawl into my shoes and sting my feet, onto my chair and sting my butt, into my food and sully it (I'm yet to get stung in the mouth), and into the bedsheets at night and wake me in a severely unpleasant fashion. My two pups are none too fond of being stung, but their curiosity too often gets the best of them. As I type this, one is on my monitor, one has crawled up onto my keyboard, and several of them are in front of me, clanging against the glass of the window, attempting to escape.

We'd like to sit out on the porch, now that it's nice, for breakfast and dinner, but with the rather fantastic number of bees and wasps that live in and around our house, it's impossible to do without getting stung or ended up with an iced tea glass floating with insect carcasses.

It's nice that you've never had a problem with bees' nests, but I suspect that you've never had bees in your house on this scale. :) After I get this big nest down, I've got to deal with the rather-extensive wasp infestation under our peeling-up shingles.
posted by waldo at 9:21 PM on April 17, 2005

Ugh. Wasps invade our laundry room every fall. Last fall we gave up trying to catch them and hung a curtain in the doorway to keep them in there until they expired. Nothing like twenty angry wasps in a small room to make doing laundry fun. And the heat of the dryer really sets 'em off.
posted by words1 at 9:27 PM on April 17, 2005

I remember from my rural East Texas childhood that people usually dealt with bee/wasp nests by filling a metal sprayer with gasoline and then dousing the nest with it.
posted by First Post at 9:35 PM on April 17, 2005

My house is poorly-sealed, and it's full of bees. Dozens of them, every day.

Get a professional pest control company in now. If you have that many bees in the house they are probably living in your walls or something.
posted by caddis at 11:00 PM on April 17, 2005

I don't understand why anybody thinks knocking the nest out of the tree with a shotgun is somehow a solution to the problem. Aside from the fact that you've just angered and mobilized the entire hive, you've now given them a reason to look for a new place to nest, and there's no reason to think they won't move even closer to -- or into -- the house.

But given the number of bees you're already finding in the house, chances are you've already got a hive closer than you think. You need to bring in someone who knows what they're doing.

This is a professional-scale problem. Trying to fix it yourself is only likely to make matters worse, and might get someone hurt -- maybe even you.
posted by jjg at 12:04 AM on April 18, 2005

leapingsheep, those pics were hilarious. But you left out part of what I said in your quote that is sort-of the most important part: it's an electric saw, not some 20 lb. gas-powered monster on the end of a stick.

Apparently they're called (appropriately enough) polesaws. Might be the answer to your problems.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:52 AM on April 18, 2005

Please just call your local agriculture center and ask them who the county beekeeper is. Tell them you want the hive moved...they will move it. Don't anger or try to harm the bees. Bees are our friends. Wasps are not.
posted by iconomy at 4:25 AM on April 18, 2005

Bees are our friends. Wasps are not.

Honey bees do not make a big visible nest in the top of a tree; hornets do. Shotgun that hornet's nest and call in a pro to get the bees out of your walls. The pro can probably take care of the hornet's nest as well if you lack the proper weapon. I would not try the polesaw as the whole thing may come down on your roof somewhat intact. With the shotgun, hopefully the nest will be sufficiently destroyed as to encourage the hornets to go start somewhere else.
posted by caddis at 5:29 AM on April 18, 2005

this sounds more like a yellow-jacket invasion to me than regular bees ... yellow-jackets are really hard to get rid of ... the ones in the tree could be relocated with a shotgun, but they'll go elsewhere ... and they're not your major problem

the reason you have so many inside your house is that they've built nests there ... they will find any nook or cranny and build a small nest there ... in the walls, under the floor ... calling a pest control person may get rid of them for one year ... but they'll be back

aside from pest control, there's two things you need to do ... one, repair your house so they can't build nests there ... two, when you start seeing them at the beginning of the season, be diligent and merciless in looking for them and killing them ... you'll never get rid of them all, but you have a good chance to keep their numbers down
posted by pyramid termite at 7:54 AM on April 18, 2005

I'm with pyramid: I don't think you have bees. Bees don't sting unprovoked, as your little friends seem to, and they don't build visible nests. Do yours look more like this or like this?

One sure-fire way to tell if you've got bees or yellow-jackets/wasps: when you get stung by a bee, they leave behind their stinger, which you must then scrape off (do not squeeze or pinch it). Yellow-jackets and wasps can sting multiple times and leave nothing behind but a nasty sting.

And I second the notion of getting a professional to remove the nest and check your walls. A shotgun will leave them homeless and angry.
posted by Specklet at 10:22 AM on April 18, 2005

Man. To my ear, it's sounding more and more like the only real solution is going to be to pour gasoline in the livingroom and torch the house...
posted by five fresh fish at 11:17 AM on April 18, 2005

Response by poster: I'm totally taking my Mossberg to this nest. Excellent suggestion, ROU_Xenophobe.

We've had three pest control companies come out here in the past week about assorted critters in the house -- that's a different matter altogether. (We have a wasps' nest under the tarpaper of our roof and nests along the roof line.) We're getting that taken care of. But getting somebody up in that tree will cost a fortune. But a shotgun? Hell yeah.
posted by waldo at 11:50 AM on April 18, 2005

Happy shooting. It is probably best to perform this at night, or at least after dusk, when they are more dormant as described in the Natural Wasp Control link, and be prepared to run like hell (with the safety engaged) into the well sealed house after you unleash an angry swarm. I would imagine that it will be rather satisfying to blast them out of the tree.
posted by caddis at 12:54 PM on April 18, 2005

I'm totally taking my Mossberg to this nest. Excellent suggestion, ROU_Xenophobe

Huh. Well, remember, if you find yourself wanting to say "Hey, y'all, watch this!" then don't do it. Nothing good ever happens after someone says that.

My own just-about-that experience involved some firecrackers that might have been dead, or might have been just restin'. They was just restin'.

Now, if you had a Parrot gun and a canister of grapeshot...
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:52 PM on April 18, 2005

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