Honey bees are the most common true bees found in South Carolina and most of the Unites States. They are essential pollinators and therefore are afforded more respect than most other insects: Unless honey bees are nesting inside a home or other building or otherwise creating a hazard to humans, they are generally left alone. There are even laws requiring pesticide applicators to take care not to accidentally poison honey bees while applying pesticides for other insects. We need them to pollinate our crops.
The honey bees' tireless pollinating efforts are actually incidental to their nectar-gathering. Nonetheless, the term "busy bee" has become synonymous with an industrious, energetic, reliable approach to work.
Honey bee colonies are also studied by scientists and are considered the epitome of social organization in a non-human species. They even have at least two languages that we know of: one using chemical messengers called pheromones, and the other using various bodily gestures and flight maneuvers. They use their languages to talk about things such as the best potential nest locations, the direction and distance to flowers, the presence of possible threats to the colony, and other such things that are important if you're a bee.
Honey bees have a reputation for being very aggressive, but that reputation is a bit unfair. Yes, they will attack ruthlessly and in great numbers if they believe that you are threatening them in some way. But otherwise, they're actually pretty mellow. They're far less likely to sting someone who's not threatening them than are most of the wasp species that many people mistakenly call "bees," possibly because unlike most wasps, honey bees die after they sting.
Honey bees establish new colonies when the queen (or sometimes a virgin queen) leaves an existing colony with a contingent of the colony's workers. When the main queen departs, usually she takes the majority of the workers with her. When the departing queen is a virgin queen, the number of workers she takes with her will usually be less. Once in a while two or even more queens will leave the colony, each with a contingent of workers, thus creating several colonies from the one original colony.
When the time for the swarm arrives, all the bees depart the nest together, but they don't travel very far at first. In order to conserve food and energy, the swarm will congregate and huddle somewhere (usually around a tree limb, but it really can be anywhere) while a small number of "scouts" go looking for a suitable location for a new nest. After they've had a chance to look around, the scouts have a meeting, discuss the possible locations, and choose the one they think is best. (I'm not kidding, by the way. They really do meet and decide as a group where to build the new nest.)
When honey bees swarm, it can be terrifying to people who don't understand what's going on because it can look like the bees are "attacking." The reality, however, is that a fight is the last thing the bees are looking for. Because they left the prime colony with only the food in their bellies, they don't have any energy to waste waging a war. All they really want is to be left alone until they find a new place to build a nest, because they only have a few days to do it before they die of starvation.
The moral of the story is that if you see a bee swarm, unless they're causing an immediate danger, it's usually best to leave them be. They'll be gone before long -- usually that same day or the next, in fact -- so there's no need to do anything about them unless they're putting people in danger. They'll either move on of their own accord to build a new nest, or they will die.
The time to call us is when honey bees have built a nest in a home, barn, business, or other building. As much as we like honey bees, when they build nests inside homes and other businesses, they have to be removed.
Honey bees build nests in voids. In nature, this usually means hollow trees. But with hollow trees at a premium these days, bees have been forced to find other void areas; and being the bright creatures that they are, they've discovered that our homes and other buildings are full of suitable voids in which nests can be built. Honey bees commonly build nests in wall and ceiling voids, soffits, and practically any other structural voids that they can find.
The problem with the nests themselves is that we are talking about honey bees, and honey bees make honey. Having honey in the walls, ceilings, and other void areas of a home is simply unacceptable. It attracts insects and other critters and creates fire and electrical hazards.
In addition, the presence of honey and beeswax in the nest means that when we remove honey bees from your home, we also have to remove the nest. As long as the bees are present, they regulate the nest's temperature with their wings. But once they're gone, the honey and wax will start to melt, creating a very sticky, messy situation.
In most cases, this means that we will in fact have to cut into the wall or ceiling void to remove the nest. We do it as neatly as we can and replace the sheetrock when we're done, but the customer is responsible for taping, finishing, and repainting the area. Fortunately, our technicians are very good at localizing honey bee nests, so the amount of cutting necessary is usually minimal.
Our crews are also equipped with equipment like electronic stethoscopes and infrared FLIR cameras to help them pinpoint nests that are especially hard-to-find. So although some cutting will be necessary to remove the nest, our technicians are trained to work neatly, and they do keep the cutting to the absolute minimum required.
Another thing you should be aware of is that a honey bee nest can be quite a distance from the visible entry holes that the bees are using to get into and out of the building. The bees just travel inside the walls and ceilings back and forth between the nest and the entry hole. What this means is that you should never block the entry hole or spray it with an insecticide. You won't solve the problem that way because the nest is most likely someplace else. But even worse, if you block or spray the entry hole, you could force the bees into the living area of the house.
So don't take any chances. If you have a problem with honey bees, please call us instead. We have the staff and equipment to make sure it's done right.
Honey Bee Control Gallery
Here are a few pictures of honey bee extraction jobs we've done.
Honey bees in a cabin near Columbia
Aiken, South Carolina honeybee removal job
Honey bee swarm on the limbs of a tree
Infrared photo of honey bees in a chimney
Honey bee removal job in Beech Island, SC
Close-up of a piece of honeycomb
Honey bee foraging on a catnip flower
Honey bee nest in a house in Columbia
Brad removing a honey bee comb from a wall
Difficult honeybee removal job at a hotel