Honey bees are among nature’s most fascinating and productive insects. Honey bees pollinate around 80% of our nation’s flowering crops, constituting about one third of our entire diet. To put that in monetary terms, a recent Cornell University study estimated that honey bees are responsible for pollinating about $14 billion worth of seeds and crops annually in the United States.
These facts are especially pertinent today since the honey bee population has been rapidly declining in recent years. This decline remains largely unexplained; wildlife pathologists have called the phenomenon Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Given all the good that honey bees do, this decline is very troublesome since their well-being is directly tied into the stability of our food supply. For this reason Creature Control technicians strive to remove hives without destroying the bees, if possible. After all, honey bees are responsible for $2 billion in revenue for Michigan’s fruit and vegetable industry, the majority of this revenue being derived directly from pollination. Honey bee farms are located all over the state: Onsted, Dryden, Howell, Byron, Saline, Jackson, Lansing, South Lyon, Dexter and Stockbridge are all home to virbant bee keeping operations.
Life Cycle of the Honey Bee Colony
That is all well and good, but how did that hive wind up under the eaves of your home or behind your siding? When an existing bee hive begins to get overcrowded, the bees will begin a process called “swarming.” The bees will gather together with the queen, gorge themselves on honey, then fly for several miles, eventually landing on a tree or other structure. From there they will send out scouts to identify a new location for a potential hive. Once the scouts have found an ideal location, they will bring the rest of the swarm and begin construction of the new hive. Bees are incredibly industrious workers: once they have chosen a location for a home, they can build a fully functional hive overnight. During peak season, it only takes them a month to build hives 10 feet long by 2 feet wide. This is uncommon, however; most hive are 2 to 5 feet long. As soon as the hive is built, the immediately begin constructing the wax comb in which the queen will lay eggs.
Bee society is strictly regimented into three groups: the queen, the drones and the workers. In any given hive there is only one queen, who is the matriarch and mother of all the bees in the hive and is also the only fertile female, mating only once in her life. Drones are stingerless male bees who are alone capable of mating with the queen. Worker bees are neither queens nor drones. The worker bees fill all sorts of roles within the hive: serving as “nursery bees” by feeding larvae, cleaning the hive, guarding the colony (worker bees alone sting humans) and gathering pollen. Worker bees are unique in that they alone can “make” new queens. When worker bees decide to make a new queen, either because the old one is weakening, or was killed, they choose several small larvae and feed them with a secretion called “royal jelly” in specially constructed queen cells. This “royal jelly” ensures that the selected larvae will develop into queens, which will either kill the existing queen or leave the colony to start their own hives elsewhere.
Worker bees also are responsible for the production of honey, which is an extremely nutrient rich substance formed from worker bee saliva mixed with pollen. Honey serves as the bees source of food throughout the winter.
Honey Bee Hive Removal
Because of the great value of bees to our ecosystem, Creature Control goes to great lengths to preserve these creatures when they take up residence in your home. Many pest control firms will simply exterminate the bees without regard to the good of the ecosystem. With other pests this would be a valid solution; however when it comes to bees there are several other things that you must take into account before simply spraying pesticide. Bee hives can be very hard to exterminate due to the complex structure of the hive. Hives may begin in one area of the wall but spread to other areas. This means that the area that you see the bees are entering and exiting from may not necessarily be the location of the hive. Thus, treatment of the hive from the outside may not be the most efficient way to get rid of your problem. Even if you kill the bees, you must still remove the hive to prevent it from being repopulated. Also, if the honey and comb is left in the wall space it will begin to rot and can attract all manner of pests, such as ants, mice, raccoons and anything attracted to sweet odors.
At Creature Control we employ a bee keeper that will extract the hive intact and move it so that the hive is not destroyed. After the hive is removed the location must be treated will an odor barrier that will discourage other colonies from forming hives nearby. We also seal the entry point, making it difficult for other bees to get into the structure in the future. This process removes the bees from your structures without destroying the valuable hive.