Friday, March 30, 2012

I Have Bees and Wasps in My Pool - What is Water Foraging?

I Have Bees and Wasps in My Pool – What is Water Foraging?

The summer months bring hundreds of calls from people throughout Arizona and other southwestern states experiencing an increased number of African honeybees and wasps at their fountains, swimming pools, bird baths, ponds, pet water bowls, leaky sprinkler heads, and irrigation systems, etc. Large numbers of bees and wasps taking water from a swimming pool can virtually make the pool un-useable during the hot summer months.

 These water foraging bees typically settle and drink water for 30 or 45 seconds at the water source and then fly away. These bees are taking water back to their established colonies to keep the beeswax that makes up the honeycomb from melting. Honeybees store their nectar, honey, pollen (bee bread), eggs and developing babies (brood) in the cells of the beeswax based honeycomb. If the temperature exceeds 86F to 92F the wax will begin to melt, causing the bees to lose the structure that contains their food stores and offspring. For these reasons, honeybees will send out a lot of water foragers to bring back water to pour on the honeycomb, and then the bees will line up facing the same direction and fan their wings to cause evaporation of the water and keep the honeycomb cool, like an evaporative cooler.

African honeybees, commonly called “killer bees” are now pervasive in the southwestern United States. Their colonies tend to be more aggressive during the hot summer months and are more irritable because of the constant struggle to maintain their honeycomb and the large numbers of workers that are sent out to forage for water accomplish this task. If you are in the proximity of a known established bee colony, expect it to be in a much more aggressive and irritable state. If you are aware of an established bee colony in proximity, it should be exterminated immediately by a licensed bee removal specialist to prevent harm to humans, pets or livestock. If you are unsure of the colonies location, you may wish to have your property inspected by a licensed bee removal specialist to eliminate the possibility of any direct or indirect threat. In fact, we strongly advise that you do so.

Most commonly, you will see more water foraging bees and wasps in the morning and evening with fewer being present during the hottest part of the day, depending on how hot it is. Bees and wasps do not gather water after dark. Water foraging bees may be individually aggressive, protecting their water site, but will not attack in mass. They are simply gathering water and have no reason to try to defend the water source as they would the area around their home colonies. Additionally, you may have water foraging bees and wasps from many different bee colonies and wasp nests at the same water source.

There is no perfect bee removal or wasp removal solution for water foraging bees and wasps other than to eliminate the water, or the access to the water source. Generally, in most states, the use of pesticides around any water source is forbidden. Most insecticides, even if they are approved for use on bees or wasps, are water soluble and thereof not safe to use. Otherwise, there are a few things you can try, working with bee and wasp behaviors, none of which are known to be 100% successful. They are not listed in order of effectiveness below:

1. As stated above, you can either eliminate the water or eliminate the access to the water for at least 4 days to a week. This may require multiple attempts over a period of time. Swimming pool covers may be helpful if they totally restrict access to the water.

2. Change the alkalinity of the water with baking soda. You can get an alkalinity test kit and chart from any pool supply store in your local area. Consult your local pool service or supplier for information on the effects of this procedure on your particular type of pool and its structural surfaces.

3. Purchase a light colored, plastic pan, such as a dish pan or kitty litter pan; place some clean, rough, fist-sized rocks in the pan. Place the pan as close to the area where the bees are currently foraging as possible. Put water, flavored with honey (1-2 tablespoons to 1 gallon of water), into the pan. You must continue to keep this honey-laced water in the pan until the bees begin using it preferentially. Once you see that more bees are using the pan with the honey-laced water than the pool, fountain, etc., you can slowly move the pan away from the original water source at a rate of about 1' per hour, until you get the pan to a less intrusive spot on your property. Once the bees are trained to use the pan, you can use plain water, but you MUST KEEP WATER IN THE PAN, all the time or the bees will go back to using the original water source. Make sure you don’t cover the rocks with water. The bees have to have a place to land and hold on to so they can get their mouth parts to the water, but keep their bodies dry and out of the water.

4. Nightly, scrub the hard surfaces of the site where the bees are landing with a very mild solution of vinegar & water. This will reduce the pheromone the bees have individually applied to the site that helps them find their way back to this specific area. After drinking, each individual bee will deposit a pheromone scent marker at the spot before it leaves and will generally return to the same spot. Nightly scrubbing may help confuse the water foragers.

5. In a hand-held spray bottle with about a one quart capacity, mix in a couple ounces of “liquid smoke” with water. Liquid smoke, a food additive, can be commonly found in grocery stores. You can add glycerin to make it last longer on the surface, if it won’t damage or stain the area to which you are applying it. A couple of hours before you are going to be in your pool or spa, etc., begin spraying this smoky smelling solution around the dry areas, as close to the area where the bees are gathering to forage for water, as possible. You will have to re-apply this as the smoky smell diminishes, but this will help deter the bees from using your water source while you are trying to be in the area. You may have to adjust the ratio of liquid smoke to water until you find the most effective concentration. Avoid direct contact with the water. Again, it is not necessary to do this after dark. The bees will be back in their colonies for the night.

None of these suggestions really works for water foraging wasps. Wasps can float on the surface of the water to drink. Your pool maintenance person can put an additive in your pool that lessens the surface tension of the water so the wasps aren’t able to land on the surface without drowning. Consult your local pool service provider. Other than that, the best solution is to locate where the wasps are nesting, usually nearby, and have them exterminated.

These suggestions may be helpful, we hope so. Unfortunately, whether or not there are natural water sources like mud puddles, ponds, etc. available to them, the bees still need water when it’s hot and will go to un-natural sources if they are forced to do so. You may have the only suitable water source for miles and if that is the case, none of the above suggestions will be very helpful, except restricting or preventing access to the water source.  As the temperature decreases or the availability of natural water sources increases, such as during the monsoon season, you will experience a decrease in the amount of water foraging bees and wasps.

Friday, March 23, 2012

What Should I Do if I Have Located an Africanized Honeybee Colony?

What Should I Do if I Have Located an Africanized Honeybee Colony?
If you do discover a honeybee colony on your property, immediately look under Bee Removal in the Yellow Pages and call a company who is licensed with the Office of Pest Management. Beware of companies who advertise that they are licensed; however, they may not be legitimately licensed with the Office of Pest Management. By law, in Arizona, a licensed pest control company must display their OPM license number in their display advertising. Companies which are not licensed with the Office of Pest Management are unable to purchase the appropriate chemicals with which to eradicate an established colony as these chemicals are restricted and are sold only to licensed Pest Control Operators. Using the wrong chemicals can cause an attack, can result in bees fleeing the pesticide and coming inside the living space of the home, and can cause nausea or chemical reactions in people with chemical sensitivity.
Unlicensed individuals do not necessarily obtain adequate education or carry an appropriate amount of liability insurance as licensed Pest Control Operators are required by law to do. Additionally, it is a Class 6 felony to apply pesticides on property you do not own without an OPM license. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO ERADICATE THE BEES YOURSELF, unless you are a licensed Pest Control Operator and bee removal specialist and know the appropriate procedures to follow to abate and control an Africanized honeybee colony.
African honeybees colonize a chosen site very quickly. They are potentially very dangerous to humans, pets and livestock, and should be treated with respect. They are an invasive species to Arizona and other southwestern states, extremely adaptable to our climate and already well established throughout the southwest. Outside of the danger a resident African honeybee colony presents, they also cause tremendous structural damage to residential and commercial properties in terms of honeycomb meltdown, saturation of materials, wet rot and pheromone deposits which, left untreated, will almost certainly lead to future bee infestations, even if the original colony has been removed.  We do not have a bee scarcity problem as has been the case with some of the northern state’s European honeybee populations. African honeybee colonies are plentiful in the desert southwest and the only control on their expansion that we have observed is drought and long periods of extended freezing cold. If you have a resident bee colony on your home or property, or if you know of one nearby, realize it is very probable that it is Africanized and should be removed by a licensed bee removal specialist company.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Consumer's Guide to Bee Removal Services

Please enjoy our new eBook: "A Consumer's Guide to Bee Removal Services." While specifically discussing africanized honeybee infestations and the bee removal services industry in Arizona, it has important information for anyone that has a bee problem.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Can You Hear Me?


What Do I Do If I'm Attacked by Africanized Honeybees?

What Do I Do If I’m Attacked by Africanized Honeybees?
If you are stung by a honeybee, if possible, SCRATCH THE STINGER OUT to remove it from your skin. TRY NOT TO PINCH it to pull it out, that will only inject more of the venom into you. However, if you can’t scratch it out, get it out as quickly as possible in any manner, rather than leave it in until you can get something to scratch it out. The venom sac will continue pulsing, injecting the venom into you as long as the stinger is embedded in your skin. If you are “bumped” or chased by honeybees, get away as quickly as you can safely do so. You don’t want to run and trip and fall if you are on rocky or uneven ground. Get into your vehicle or inside a home if at all possible. You may bring bees in with you, but they will fly to the windows trying to get out.  DO NOT JUMP INTO A POOL OR LAKE, the bees will wait for you to surface.  Also, do not run up to another person and ask for help as you will involve them in the attack. Honeybees target areas on your body where carbon dioxide is exiting. They will begin stinging around your nose, mouth, eyes, etc. Do not flail or attempt to swat the bees, just get away as quickly as you can safely do so. If you can cover your face, except your eyes, as you make your retreat it will be helpful. If you can’t get inside a house or car, you must get at least ¼ mile away before the bees will stop attacking you. Once you have been targeted as a threat, and the “attack pheromone” inherent in a sting is released, you have very few options other than distance and finding complete cover.
 If you begin to have difficulty breathing after you are stung, it is critical to get emergency assistance immediately. It is also prudent to seek medical attention if you have been stung more than 15 times. A normal reaction for a person who is not allergic to a bee sting may include swelling and redness in the area of the sting, after a day or two you may experience extreme itching. If the swelling continues to spread, consult a physician. When you are first stung and after you have scratched out the stinger, you can make a paste of baking soda and water and put it on the sting site to relieve some of the pain. If you are not sensitive to antihistamines, they may also help (consult your doctor if there is any doubt).

Monday, March 5, 2012

Will our above-normal temps create more african bee colonies this spring?

     African or (Africanized) honeybee queen bees, on average, lay 1,500 worker bee eggs per day.  This is almost 50% more per day than European honeybee queen bees lay.  In both sub-species, the more hours each day that the temperature is conducive for egg laying, the more eggs are layed.  Late winter and early spring is critical to bee colony build-up.  Provided that there is adequate pollen available, African bee colonies will "urge" there respective queen bees to lay eggs earlier in the morning and later in the evening when temps are warmer.  Conversely, when temps are colder than "normal", the reverse is true.

     Thus far, 2012 has been warmer than normal, largely due the the factors surrounding the La Nina weather pattern.  Consequently, those persons who live in all of southern and central Arizona, and the other southern states where African bees inhabit, must be vigilant when walking around structures and other locations where African Honeybees are likely to occupy.

     As it is now well documented by the various individual states' departments of Agriculture, that essentially, there are no more "feral" European Honeybee colonies in the Southwestern US, it is prudent to assume that any feral bee colony is an African Bee
 Colony.  Therefore, never attempt to treat a bee colony yourself.  Always contact an experienced licensed bee removal company equipped to properly exterminate a bee colony. We expect a busy bee season this year.

Friday, March 2, 2012

How Do Africanized Honeybees Colonize Your Home So Quickly?

How Do Africanized Honeybees Colonize Your Home So Quickly?
Africanized honeybees (African honeybees) are well established in central and southern Arizona. They are an invasive species and there are very few to no feral European bee colonies left in the wild. In order to establish more colonies, honeybees raise a new queen and the old queen and one half of the members of the mother colony leave in what are called a swarm. These swarms are usually made up of between 8,000 and 15,000 bees. People frequently see swarms flying through the air, swirling like a tornado of bees, buzzing loudly. Often these swarms will land on a tree or bush in a large clump. Other times, they will land on a structure with a small opening to a larger cavity, such as the vent boards of a house, a concrete block perimeter wall with a crack in the mortar, a water valve box, saguaro cactus, etc. When a swarm of African honeybees land on a structure of any type, they have found a new home and immediately begin funneling into the selected cavity through the small opening previously discovered, nearly disappearing inside within 10-15 minutes. Any opening large enough to slip an ordinary writing pencil into is large enough for the bees to enter.
Whereas European honeybees swarm once in the late spring and very occasionally in the fall, Africanized honeybees, apis mellifera scutellata, may swarm up to 15 times a year in ideal environmental conditions. This fact alone helps to explain why Africanized bees have become so prevalent in Arizona, although the first colony wasn’t discovered and identified until 1993, in Tucson. Since that time the number of Africanized honeybee colonies has increased dramatically.
Once inside the selected cavity, the bees begin exploring and cleaning the cavity, spreading their pheromone scent and building honeycomb. Pheromones are glandular secretions the bees use extensively to communicate with each other throughout the hive. In this case, the most damaging scent for the homeowner is the tracking scent they apply that marks the site as unique to that particular colony. Foraging bees from the colony can recognize the scent from as far as two miles away and use it to track back home. Unfortunately, unless treated, the scent is long lasting and can lead to future infestations. Even if the original colony is no longer in residence, a passing swarm of bees can register the pheromone and will occupy a former bee site preferentially to other new locations.
Often, the homeowner’s first clue that they have a bee problem is when they begin finding bees inside the house.  As the newly-arrived honeybees explore the cavity they have selected and before it is well marked with their pheromone scent, some of the bees who are exploring the cavity will get too far away from the outside entrance and no longer be able to see the light coming from that entrance. In an effort to find another way outside, these lost bees may come into the living area of the house via lighting fixtures or outlets or other small openings. They will immediately fly to the brightest light they see, during the day they will fly to a window or skylight, at night to a lamp. People will often think the bees have come in through a hole in a screen or through a door. This is very seldom true.
These lost bees do not want to be inside your house; they must be with the rest of the colony to survive and are trying to get back to the outside entrance. If you discover dead or dying bees below your window, glass door, skylight, or other light-filled area, you should take some time to walk slowly around the outside of your home. Frequently homeowners are able to locate the outside entrance to the cavity the bees have colonized. You may be able to see 3-4 bees or more going in and out of a specific opening or area of your home as they begin to forage for pollen, nectar and water. This activity indicates the entrance to a cavity the bees are using and starting to develop. If you discover dead bees in the house, call a licensed bee removal specialist immediately to have the colony located and eradicated. Do not allow a new colony to become well established and create a dangerous situation. As the bees build honeycomb, the queen will begin to lay eggs, as many as 1,500 per day. The queen may begin laying eggs as soon as two days after the bees arrive, and sufficient honeycomb structure is built, and the eggs of Africanized honeybees may hatch as quickly as 19 days after they are deposited in honeycomb cells. The honeycomb cells are also used by the foragers who immediately begin bringing nectar and pollen back to the colony to store it in these cells. Reflecting on the fact that 21 days after the bees arrive, there may be 1,500 more bees, and then the next day 1,500 more bees than the day before, etc., one can see why it is recommended that you call a licensed bee removal specialist immediately upon discovering you have bees in a structure.