Recently, we’ve seen an increase in queries related to bee removal and how to go about this. As bees and their contribution to the ecosystem are increasingly covered extensively by global media, Australians increasingly want to remove bees without harming them. And rightly so.
To get some answers about best practice when it comes to removal of bees and beehives, we spoke to Jay Turner. Jay is a Rapid Training trainer with a lifelong interest in bugs and pests, and has vast knowledge to share about bees in Australia.
What bee species’ do we get in Australia?
Jay says that “the European honey bee is the main bee that we have in Australia, but we do have native bees too. Stingless native bees come in eleven different varieties, for instance. Stingless native bees don’t typically need control as they’re stingless, so they’re not of major concern for pest controllers.”
On top of that, Australia also has a lot of solitary native bees. But again, they don’t need to be controlled due to their solitary nature.
So, if a pest controller is called out to remove bees, it’s almost always the European honeybee. These do sting and aren’t solitary, so can pose a problem if they choose to take up residence somewhere that they could pose a danger to humans.
Why are bees so vital to the ecosystem?
It’s actually quite a controversial topic, especially here in Australia, says Jay. European honeybees aren’t indigenous to Australia, they’re a species that was introduced here in 1822. Since then they’ve become well-established as a crop-pollinating insect. Australia’s bee population is actually quite healthy and we haven’t had the colony collapse that many other countries have had.
Jay also mentions that in Australia, there’s a range of natural pollinators in addition to the European honeybee. This is the main reason for the controversy around whether European honeybees are actually vital to Australia’s ecosystem or not. Our native bees do of course pollinate plants and crops, but in addition to them there’s also other pollinators. These include flying foxes, moths, flies, and birds such as lorikeets.
Bees also compete with a lot of our native species who use nesting hollows; nesting birds and possums for example. So, you can see where the controversy comes in!
However, the general consensus from both pest controllers and the public is that it’s better to relocate bees rather than kill them. And while opinion is still divided, it’s also important to give your client the option for no-kill bee removal. In fact, Jay says that the most common query received from clients about bees is whether it’s possible to remove them quickly and efficiently without killing them.
Having said that, opinion is still divided. Regardless of what your view is, it’s important to give your customer the option for no-kill bee removal.
What bee removal options are there?
If the bees are swarming outside a building (in a garden or similar) then the process is easy. It also shouldn’t be too difficult if the hive isn’t within a wall. In these instances, the simplest route is to work with an apiarist. They can easily remove the swarm without harming the bees. These bees are then usually put in a bee box and used for a beehive at the beekeeper’s own premises going forward.
If the bees are in a wall cavity, the bee removal becomes much more complicated. Getting the bees out of the wall cavity without harming them is very difficult and usually involves cutting out the entire wall on the inside of the house and removing the herd. As you can imagine, this can be costly and messy. The other option is a trap out system on the outside of the house – which is effective, but very slow.
One of the main reasons that a pest controller will work alongside an apiarist is because they have the correct protective equipment and have received specialised training on safe bee removal. If destruction of the bees is required, this would fall to the pest controller.
It is also worthwhile offering your customer the option to proof the house following the removal or destruction of bees. This can be costly. However, it’s an effective way to prevent the bees from returning without harming them.
The best path is to give customers all of these options when you’re asked to remove bees. In past years, most people would have opted to just eliminate the bees entirely. However, as mentioned, recently there has been a move towards relocating the bees.
Jay mentions that one big bonus about no-kill bee removal for the pest control industry is the positive association that comes alongside it. Pest control sometimes develops a bad reputation due to the necessary removal and killing of certain pests. Removing bees without harming them helps the public understand that pest controllers aren’t “mindless killers” and will always want to do what is most professional.
When it comes to bee removal, safety first!
Regardless of the bee removal option that your customer opts for, removing bees is typically a fairly intricate and time-consuming job. Generally, customers are also concerned about being stung by bees during the removal – and it is a real risk with some types of bees.
For this reason, it’s important to make sure that clients are off-site for the removal of the hive. If they’re allergic to bees, this is even more important. And remember to check out our tips on pet safety during pest control too.
Keep track of your insurance
Remember, letting your pest control insurance expire can cost you dearly. Keeping your insurance valid and up to date is crucial if you work in any sort of pest control or building management.