If you discover a bee hive near your home, it's important to remember that you could be dealing with any number of different stinging insects. Of course, getting close enough to observe the bees in action is a job best left to the professionals. So how can you tell one species from another, while keeping a safe distance?

honey bee hive

If you think the bee nest you're looking at may be that of honey bees, the following tips will help you confirm.

Where Do Honey Bees Nest?

Like most nesting animals, bees prefer certain locations for their hives. These preferences vary by species. Honey bees, unlike bumble bees, don't build ground-based nests. You are much more likely to encounter a honey bee hive in a hollow tree or in a rock crevice. Though more rare, you can also find them inside the wall of a building.

While popular depictions of bee hives often show them dangling from a tree branch, honey bees aren’t likely to leave their colonies so exposed. However, if you do see a large grouping of honey bees on a tree branch, it may be a swarm. This swarm has more than likely broken off from an existing colony and is in the process of scouting for its new home. However, it's still recommended to keep your distance and leave them alone because they are resting and likely to move on soon.

How Do Honey Bees Make Their Hives?

Honey bees make their nests out of wax they secrete from glands in their abdomens. Most of the hive is comb, a series of interlocking hexagonal cells made of this wax. To make wax, a worker bee eats honey and converts the sugar inside her body. It comes out through pores on her sides and then she chews it, mixing it with saliva to make it pliable.

Each cell is made of many tiny mouthfuls of this wax, and these cells are repeated tens of thousands of times as the hive grows. A typical nest is made up of approximately 100,000 individual cells. Usually, the cells at the top of the combs hold honey, the middle ones are used to store pollen, and the lowermost cells are "brood cells," where young bees are hatched and raised. 

Why Are They Called Honey Bees?

As their name suggests, honey is vital to honey bees. But these bees don't just need this honey to support their hive-building industry. They also rely on honey to survive the cold winter months when they can’t venture outside the hive to gather nectar and pollen. That means they have to store all the honey they will need to survive the winter — often between 40 and 60 pounds of it.

Honey bees also spend much of the winter around their queen, keeping her warm and capable of reproducing. That also requires a large expenditure of energy. Once again, honey fuels honey bee activity.

What to Do If You Find a Honey Bee Hive Near Your Home

Bees don't have to be pests. They are, by and large, beneficial insects. Without their pollinating flights between flowering plants, we would not enjoy many of the foods we do, from apples to almonds. However, if honey bees decide to build a nest on your property, they can become a nuisance.

If you're dealing with bees and want them removed, it's recommended to call a beekeeper. They have the necessary protective gear and know the best practices for bee removal. If the bees are in your home, call Terminix and we can help you find a solution.