Bees populate Tucson and the surrounding Arizona desert areas year-round, but it’s important to note that their peak time is spring and early summer. When we talk bees at Gecko Pest Management, we are specifically talking about Africanized Honeybees. First, let’s cover a little about the bees, their biology, and why you may need bee control services in Tucson.
Bees are often harmless, however if you are concerned about bees at your house, you should call Gecko Pest Management for a free consultation with one of our Tucson bee control experts.
Africanized Bees are an aggressive species that originated from a poorly administered science experiment. The cross breeding of African Bees and European Bees created the Africanized Bee. This was being done in Brazil in an attempt to optimize honey production in a tropical climate. Unfortunately, when one scientist decided to remove the physical barrier holding the reproductives of the colonies from escaping, 26 swarms escaped and the epidemic started, like a horrible zombie movie.
An Africanized Bee colony will leave the hive in search of a new nest site when the queen dies, when a hive reaches a certain maturity point, or for no reason at all. We call this a swarm. This is usually visible as a cloud of bees flying 5-15 feet off the ground, sounding almost like a miniature train. These swarms are typically not aggressive at this time (unless people start to swat at them). When the swarm lands, they gather into a cluster. We usually encounter this in a tree, the eaves of a house, or even just on a wall. Again, please note, they are usually docile at this time. They will wait at this spot while scouts search the surrounding areas for a suitable environment to establish a new nest.
Once a scout finds an area of interest, it will return to the hive to dance. Yes, dance! The scout does a dance around the colony to attract more scouts, communicating that she’s found a great new spot to check out. If found to be suitable, worker bees will set up a nest and once this nest is established, the colony will escort the queen into the hive. Soon egg laying, brood and honey production starts. Once this starts to happen, Africanized bees become much more defensive of the site. If you notice a swarm of bees that hangs around (literally!) for more than two or three days, you will need to call a Tucson bee removal expert like Gecko Pest Management to see if you need bee removal services.
PEST OR NOT?
Now that we understand some of their habits, we’ll take a moment to illustrate what Gecko Pest Management deems as a Tucson pest and whether our bee removal services are needed.
- Bees in a swarm have no hive to protect and so they are not aggressive, unless egregiously provoked. They will typically move from this area in 2-3 days, as a swarm will starve if it does not quickly find a home and more nectar sources.
- Spraying them with water WILL NOT encourage them to leave!!! But it may encourage them to put you in the hospital. At this time, they are not considered a pest and Gecko Pest Management will not treat these areas. If they still haven’t left after about three days, they may have decided to make honeycomb, attaching it directly to the branch. This may be hard to spot as the honeycomb will likely be completely covered with bees.
- Bees pollinating in trees are not defensive because they aren’t by their hive. In the spring when everything is blooming, it is not uncommon for hundreds even thousands of bees to be found in one tree. The sound of them flying around the tree may be intimidating! Rest assured, they are not defensive or aggressive while pollinating as they are not near or around their hive.
- Pollinating bees will not be treated by Gecko Pest Management and in addition to that, Gecko Pest Management will not spray any trees in an attempt to prevent bees from pollinating in the tree.
- Once the colony establishes itself and begins creating honey, they become quite defensive – more so than other species of honey bees. It is at this time that the bees are dangerous to people and animals if the hive is near a house or dwelling.
- This is the only case in which Gecko Pest Management eliminates bees.
GECKO PEST MANAGEMENT’S TUCSON BEE SERVICES
Gecko Pest Management’s bee control service offers three distinct Tucson bee removal options, designed to allow the customer pick exactly how much (or how little) they want to be involved in the whole hive removal process.
Gecko Pest Management’s Tucson bee removal options:
1. Colony elimination only: Gecko Pest Management treats and eliminates the colony ONLY. After we treat and eliminate the colony, it is the responsibility of the customer to access the area, remove the hive and honey, disinfect the area, and repair any damages.
2. Colony elimination, hive and honey removal, disinfection: Gecko Pest Management treats and eliminates the colony. It is the customer’s responsibility to create/clear access to the area. Gecko Pest Management will return to remove the hive and honey, then we disinfect. It is the customer’s responsibility to repair any damages caused by the colony.
3. Total removal (colony elimination, hive and honey removal, disinfection, minor repairs): Gecko Pest Management treats and eliminates the colony, creates access, removes hive and honey, disinfects, then repairs to paint ready condition. Please note: All access and repairs are made by our licensed contractor! DO NOT EVER let an unlicensed person cut into your house!
DANGERS OF NOT REMOVING THE HIVE AND HONEY
Below is Gecko Pest Management’s policy on bee hive removal and honey removal. Before any bee removal service, you will be asked to sign and date a copy of this policy acknowledging you have received it.
The purpose of this policy is to effectively explain the bee and hive removal protocols that Gecko Pest Management recommends and follows.
Today, all the honeybees we encounter are recognized as having some “Africanized” bee biology in them. They are not aggressive, as in it is not their intent to hurt anyone. They are, however, very proud of their efforts and will defend their hive if they have one. They won’t stop until the perceived threat is eliminated, and they are very dangerous if provoked.
Swarms vs Hives
What is a Swarm?
Swarms are groups of bees you see flying in a mass together. Eventually they land and “ball up” around the Queen to protect her; this usually occurs on a tree, but sometimes on a wall, on your home, in the yard, even on patio furniture or play equipment. They are simply resting while scouts are out evaluating the surrounding area for a new home.
These bees do not have a hive to protect, so they are generally not a threat to you. They eventually will move on their own, in one to two days. We don’t want to kill them in these situations. Patience is the best course of action, and the bees will usually leave on their own.
What is a Hive?
Hives form when a swarm moves into a void of your home, property walls, hardscapes, or under sheds, to name a few. They release pheromones to associate this spot as the “hive” and this can be very dangerous. If not eliminated soon after their arrival, they will create honeycomb and brood. The bees start filling the honeycomb with honey and “fan” the honey to prevent it from melting. It is not uncommon to find 5-10 pounds of honey in just a few days, and over a hundred pounds in a few short months.
You DO NOT want to eliminate these bees without a plan to deal with the honey that will inevitably melt, draining down from wherever the hive may be. The melting honey, dead bees, and brood will attract vermin and other insects, not to mention create mildew on the building materials inside the voids of
It may be considered “expensive” to deal with this problem, but that cost pales in comparison to the size and complexity of the problem if left unattended.
It is for this reason Gecko Pest Management recommends a complete bee removal protocol to eliminate the bees AND the hive.
Here are the steps in which Gecko Pest Management’s Complete Bee Removal Protocol take place:
1. Eliminate the bees
2. Create access to the hive
3. Remove the honey, brood, and dead bees
4. Clean, sanitize, and pre-treat the area against future bee intrusion
5. Put the access site back to “paint ready” condition
THE GLOBALLY DECLINING HONEYBEE POPULATION
As you may have heard in recent years, the population of honeybees around the world have been declining. A number of different reasons have led to this: climate change, bacteria in the gut of the larvae, mites, virus, habitat loss, and (by popular belief) pesticides. We’d like to take the time to cover a couple facts that aren’t often explained or discussed.
It is a known fact that now, in the present day and age, all honeybees encountered in Arizona are considered at least partially Africanized. The reason for this is the aggressive invasive nature of the Africanized bees. They invade European honeybee colonies, find and kill the queen. They establish their own queen and start breeding three times as much. For this reason, they have decimated all European honeybee colonies in the wild Sonoran desert. Beekeepers have been dealing with this issue by killing an Africanized once they see their colony has been taken over, then replace the deceased Africanized queen with a European bee queen, About 1 to 2 months later, the colony calms down again and re-establishes itself.
These beekeepers not only make money from honey production but more so from leasing the colonies out to pollinate crops in Arizona and other parts of the country. An Africanized colony is not ideal for this, as they have a tendency to just leave a hive to establish a new nest site (making them hard to keep). They also don’t do well in cooler climates, as they can not go very long without foraging. Even though the news reports claim honeybee populations are declining, Arizona is still one of the major exporters of bees for pollination. Arizona is also home to the highest diversity of native bees in the country (we have 1,300 species, and honeybees make up only a small number of that count).
Additionally, Africanized bees are not native to the Americas: they were brought here after an experiment gone wrong. Our natural ecosystem in southern Arizona does not depend on them, but instead our natural native pollinators find themselves in competition with Africanized bees. The same rings true for the European honeybee, brought to the Americas in the 1600s.
Lastly, when many discuss pesticides impacting bee populations, they are referring to Neonicotinoids and Phenylpyrazoles; more distinctly, the broad agricultural use of them, not structural use. These chemicals are used in Southern Arizona by structural pest control companies but mainly as termiticides. These are usually buried in the ground or injected under a concrete slab, not in areas frequented or populated by bees. Regardless, the structural pest control industry has also been concerned with the honeybee populations so for the past decade – responsible companies have been adopting policies to help control wind drift and water runoff during and after applications. Also, in the last few years, policies written specifically to protect pollinators have been implemented, such as not spraying flowering plants, even when spraying chemicals not even loosely linked to Colony Collapse Disorder.
At Gecko Pest Management, our bee removal methods and materials used to eliminate these invasive Africanized bees does not have adverse effects on the local, native ecosystem.