How to remove bees or yellow jackets
Honey bees and yellow jackets are just part of life when you live in the suburbs. Most of the time, we easily coexist with them – honey bees actively pollinate up to ⅓ of our total food supply, while yellow jackets are annoying, but mostly manageable with attractant traps. The problems arise when these insects make it into your house or get too close for comfort in your yard. In my experience, the way to handle honey bees and yellow jackets is vastly different – I’ve had the experience of dealing with both.
Bees are essential parts of our natural ecosystem – they pollinate up to 33% of our food supply here in the US or about $15B worth of US crops annually and they make honey, which has many useful benefits. The problems start when they get too close to you in your yard – the last thing you want is to have your kids or pets get stung in a swarm. Something about bees & bee stings seem to really trigger kids – they don’t want anything to do with them and will actively avoid any known bee infested areas.
One day, I noticed a large spherical mass attached to my redwood tree – maybe 7 feet off the ground. Seeing this 1.5 foot diameter mass move and change shapes made me question my eyesight – but sure enough, this was mass active. Walking a bit closer, it was obvious that this was an active beehive – there were the many honey bees buzzing around the elevated hive, each bee showing the customary fuzzy, dull yellow and black striped bodies. Being so close to my main yard area, the kids refused to play outside – and I couldn’t blame them a bit.
Honey bee removal
I certainly wasn’t going to handle this myself – I didn’t want to get within 15 feet of this massive hive. After some research on the web, Facebook, Nextdoor, and Craigslist, it turns out that there are alot of bee keepers that will happily come and remove these honey bees for free. They have to be honey bees (not yellow jackets or wasps), but these folks advertise that they’ll remove bees for free. So I called one of the folks from Craigslist – he came out, fully dressed in his protective gear, and slowly corralled the massive hive into one of his boxes. While there were still some lingering bees,, the nest was gone, simple as that. The next day, the kids deemed the area safe and were back to playing outside again.
A yellow jacket infestation is a completely different matter. From my view, yellow jackets are annoying and don’t serve any purpose other than to scare kids even more than bees. Apparently, these fears are well-founded – the sting of a yellow jacket is more painful than that of a regular honey bee AND a yellow jacket can sting you more than once. However, yellow jackets are useful to the environment because they act like nature’s cleanup squad by feeding on aphids, caterpillars, and dead meat of rodents, etc… Without yellow jackets, we would be swimming in dead carcuses. These benefits don’t make up for the fact that these things are annoying at picnics and pretty much anywhere there is food outside. Luckily, yellow jacket encounters are mostly outside, until they’re not.
I didn’t think too much of the first dead yellow jacket body I found in my bathroom. I figured the kids had left the door open and one of these flew in the house and ended up dying in the bathroom. A day later, I found 2 more dead yellow jackets. Since my bathroom is pretty much sealed except for a window with a screen, I couldn’t understand how 2 more of these things mistakenly flew in the house and died in the exact same area. Becoming more concerned, I looked around for any possible entry points. Not seeing any, I walked to the outside of the house to examine the exterior walls of the bathroom. Just below the roofline, I saw some yellow jackets buzzing around a small crack between the roof and the house. I observed them for a couple of minutes and saw several yellow jackets coming in and out of this tiny crack. At this point, it was obvious that there was a yellow jacket nest in my bathroom ceiling – I just couldn’t figure out how they got through the roof into my bathroom. Was it the drains? Faucets? That would be impossible.
Yellow jacket removal
Regardless, I immediately hopped online to figure out the best way to get rid of these things. Starting with bee removal folks, it was clear that they only removed bees (they made this very clear on the site) – they don’t deal with yellow jackets. Searching my usual sources, I found an exterminator who would handle yellow jackets for a $300 fee. He came out, took one look at my situation and said that these things will typically get inside through recessed lighting – there are small cracks in the lights that they squeeze through. He then proceeded to spray a smoke-like, chalky substance into the exterior crack where the yellow jackets were buzzing around. He said that I may see 1 or 2 yellow jackets in the house, but this treatment method is highly effective and would effectively kill the nest. Sure enough, a day later, the yellow jackets were dead, entombed in my ceiling forever. A few weeks later, I took apart my recessed light (it’s sealed since it is in the bathroom) and I found 30 or 40 dead yellow jackets in the light fixture.
If you’ve got a bee or yellow jacket problem, make sure you know exactly what you are dealing with. Bees are desirable and people will come remove them for free – yellow jackets are pests that you’ll likely have to pay to remove.