how to handle a bee problem in bushes
September 8, 2016 12:55 PM   Subscribe

Hi, We have had bees for weeks now flying into our bush. The bush is a medium sized one, and the bees have somehow created a hole (bigger than a fist) on the side of the bush, not the top. So they fly into the side of the hole and we can't see what is going on in there.

They are small bees and if you stand and watch them it's like one right after another going in there. This goes on the entire day and into the early evening. I have no idea how many there are but we see bees going in and out all day. The bush is right next to our garage door and I have a child. She is afraid to go outside to play and I'm worried one of her friends from the neighborhood will come over and get stung. Our walkway to the front door is near the bush. I must say, the bees don't seem to fly anywhere else except back and forth into this hole. So it is not a concern that they are getting into my garage, because they are so determined about their goal, whatever it is, but I still need to do something. I can't go out at all because if they are always flying back and forth and it's a bit scary.

They are small, not like a bumblebee and I don't think it is a wasp. Can anyone determine from my narrative what these bees are, what they are doing, and what coarse of action I can take? We called some bee people, but one guy wants a photo (of a flying bee!!!) and the other man told us that it's illegal to kill them. I don't want to kill anything, I just want the hive or whatever they are doing to be removed. Should I wait until the first freeze and cut the bush down? Will they be hibernating in there and then wake up and attack us? Please help! We are in Iowa.

thanks in advance!
posted by lynnie-the-pooh to Home & Garden (17 answers total)
No chance of taking a picture of them ? Maybe google bee/wasp/yellow jacket/ground bee pictures and see if one of those seems more right than the others.

Odds are there is a nest in the bushes. Maybe a paper nest, maybe a burrow nest (in the ground) or maybe getting behind the walls to your house. Regardless, it should be taken care of.

What kind of bee/wasp they are would influence my answer. If not honeybees, the answer is terminate with extreme prejudice (1 or more cans of wasp/hornet killer). If they are honeybees, then you find someone who will take the hive away for resettlement.
posted by k5.user at 1:06 PM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

A photo would definitely help, but the first thing is: don't panic. Particularly if they are just honeybees, they want less to do with you than you do with them, so panicked running or waving or shooing at them is about the only thing that will get you stung. Bees at work are calm and fun to watch: I suggest taking your child out on a bee watching safari; teach her not to react fearfully, and maybe see where the bees are going: bees collecting pollen and nectar are more worried about getting their job done than stinging you (heck, I've demonstrated to my kids by gently petting a bee who was at work on a flower to show that they're not hostile), so it's an even safer route to take. Even if she is very young, it shouldn't take too long for your child to realize that bees are friends, which will reduce likelihood of being stung.

You may want to try a different bee person, who will come out -- bees are in demand, a beekeeper should be interested in collecting a wild hive if it's available. But a picture would help narrow down who your bush neighbors are.

But that's if they're definitely honeybees. A bush seems to be an odd place for them to make a hive, that sounds more like yellowjackets. Most "scary" striped bugs like yellowjackets are yellow and smooth; most friendly bees, honey and otherwise, are brownish or more black than yellow/brown and are somewhat fuzzy. Brownish and fuzzy are your friends; yellow and smooth are more likely to sting.
posted by AzraelBrown at 1:12 PM on September 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

The bee guy just said "It's illegal to kill them" and that's it? How do you run a business like that? Are those the only two bee services around? I was just on Yelp yesterday for a similar problem and I found a bunch of services for dealing with bees, specifically to rehome them. I would try doing a little more digging to find the right service provider.
posted by bleep at 1:13 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think you got bad bee people. There definitely are bee people who will come and tell you what's going on and take the hive away if possible.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:16 PM on September 8, 2016

Don't panic. Explain to your child that most bees are busy worker bees. If they are not bothering you then they probably won't bother you. Try an insect identification site and see if you can figure out what they are. If you have a friend or neighbor who is not so scared of bees, perhaps they can peek into the access area of the bush and check it out with a flashlight. Do you hear anything on the inside of the wall that the bees bush is against? My biggest concern would be a nest happening in your wall. My other concern would be a hostile kind of bee who might attack you but it doesn't sound like that is happening at all. There's a kind of fly that looks like a bee, they are very small and tend to hover. I'm not aware of any way those can hurt you.
posted by amanda at 1:27 PM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

It's not surprising that bees are going in and out a lot. They do that.

Your idea of waiting for the cold is a good one, because bees don't like cold, and they huddle together inside. I've moved (commercial) bee hives, and we did it on a cool morning, just wearing gloves and veils. (I'm not recommending that; they were our hives and the bees were used to us. I'm saying it so you know that the bees tend to stay put when it's cool.)

If you can wait for a freeze, they will die, and you can cut the bush out and get rid of it somewhere far from your home. That would be the easiest thing. If it doesn't get that cold, you can move it when it's cool, but you'll need help. Beekeepers are a strange lot, and if you appeal to the amateur/hobbyist beekeeper, you might find a better reception than from the pros.

Anyway, if you can prop the bush up so it won't fall over, and on the morning before the move, cut the bush free but leave it in place. Try to not agitate the hive and KEEP CALM, whatever happens. If the bees come out and get on you, get up SLOWLY and walk away, gently brushing them off as you go. And don't wear wool - not joking - bees don't like wool.

Morning of the move, suit up, pick up the bush gently, set in the back of your truck, and drive slowly to your destination.

Oh - about your hibernating question - when it freezes, bees die. But they do like to go back to a good location, so they will likely return next Sprinig.
posted by OurOwnMrK at 1:28 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

You might have better luck identifying or taking a picture of them early in the morning or late in the evening when it's cool--bees are much less active then. I agree with AzraelBrown--fuzzy is friendly and smooth are likely to sting. You might also try following one away from the nest when it's cool and see if you can get a picture when it lands on a flower, if all the bee people insist on pictures.

Have you tried any of the people on this list or this swarm removal list?

(Eponysterical question!) Good luck.
posted by purple_bird at 1:34 PM on September 8, 2016

They are small bees and if you stand and watch them it's like one right after another going in there. This goes on the entire day and into the early evening. I have no idea how many there are but we see bees going in and out all day.

Yep, sounds like honeybees to me! They're not all that interested in the area immediately around your house because they have a pretty wide foraging range - in the square miles.

Re: the guy asking for a photo - most beekeepers would jump at the chance for some free bees, but they are also frequently called out to look at what turn out to be wasp and hornet nests, so I'm not surprised he asked for photos. But! Here's an idea: honeybees clean out their nests on a constant basis, and as part of that process, they dump dead bees onto the ground directly below the entrance. I recommend that you go out there tonight with a flashlight - bees stay inside at night and won't bother you - and search the ground for dead bees. Take a photo of one of them and post it here, and we can tell you if it's a honeybee.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:50 PM on September 8, 2016 [6 favorites]

There's some explicit and implicit misinformation in this thread. So let me clarify:

-Yellowjackets (Vespula) usually nest in the ground, not in shrubs.

-Bees do not build paper nests - if you see paper, it's not a bee.

-Bees don't all die in the winter, they can overwinter in Alaska with a little human help, and certainly in IA on their own.

So hopefully that helps a little. For the rest:
It is true that honey bees (and really most bees) are not aggressive, and pose little risk to you or your children.
It's not clear to me that they are causing any problem, you don't say anyone has been attacked or stung.

what coarse of action I can take?
I'd do nothing, assuming it is in fact a bee species, and you aren't already carrying epipens. Upon finding a bee hive on the property, lots of people would comment on their good luck, and opportunity to teach the kids and help conserve bees. Children aren't generally born afraid of bugs, they have to learn it.

If they happen to be a native bee, then you really shouldn't kill them, they are having an even harder time than honey bees are.

If they do happen to be yellow jackets, a can of raid applied late at night or very early morning, three days in a row should do the trick. But I'll bet you a donut they are not Vespula :)

Chopping down a perfectly nice shrub because of some bugs is complete overkill, and not at all necessary.

"Wasps and bees are beneficial insects. Bees are particularly valuable because of their role in plant pollination, including many agricultural crops. Wasps also pollinate to a much lesser extent and are important because they feed on a wide range of insects, including many common garden pests. "
posted by SaltySalticid at 2:28 PM on September 8, 2016 [13 favorites]

Endoscopes/Boroscopes are cheap and many come with LED lights on them. You'll need to get some kind of computer to within 10-15 feet of the bush, but you can tape the 'scope to a broom handle and extend it into the bush and see inside.

If you're a homeowner, a boroscope is an excellent tool for inspecting all kinds of nooks and crannies of a home, so this will not be a one-trick pony.

You could also probably improvise a bee smoker with stuff you find at home, one that wont' last long, but will last long enough for you to get in there and take pictures, or apply insecticide as prescribed above, if that is what needs doing. Cool smoke should calm the bees, or in any case think they have bigger problems than you.
posted by Sunburnt at 2:53 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seconding an endoscope/borescope - for under $20 you can get one that plugs directly into your laptop or Android phone, or a wifi version for $90-110. Not only great for bees but also "what's that noise behind the refrigerator"/"did I just knock that thing I need behind the washing machine and can I reach it without spending the afternoon on the project?" situations.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:10 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

There are thousands of bee species native to North America. They have been largely displaced by the cultivated Honey Bee. Some native bees are indeed borers, some nest underground. If they are natives and were in my yard I'd do my best to help them survive - they may be a threatened species.
posted by X4ster at 3:20 PM on September 8, 2016 [5 favorites]

SaltySalticid provided a much more informative response. I wish I'd read it before making my brief comment.
posted by X4ster at 3:27 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yes, please try some other bee keepers and see if you can find someone to help you remove these bees without harming them. We really do need every single bee (and wasp!) we can get right now. Most bees in the US are quite docile as long as you leave them alone. Many wasps are also docile and there is no need to go around randomly exterminating them. How about checking the internet or your local library and see if you can find some field guides to insects that will help you identify whatever it is in the bush? You can involve your child in this and hopefully curiosity and discovery will erase fear.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 4:35 PM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

PS thank you for NOT just grabbing a can of Raid and wiping everything out. I appreciate that you took the time to ask about this!
posted by WalkerWestridge at 4:37 PM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Also, if it is wasps or yellow jackets and you opt to exterminate, be careful when killing them. They give off a chemical signal when killed that calls to all the wasps/yellowjackets in the area to attack the killer.
posted by cecic at 6:21 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Try your county ag extension. They'll have someone knowledgeable about the local bees.
posted by BrashTech at 5:52 PM on September 9, 2016

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