Bees might be beneficial to the environment, but they can also be a pain in the neck if you get stung. Before grabbing your bee spray and heading out to tackle the problem on your own, here are a few things you should know:
Is bee spray really effective?
The spray you buy at your local hardware store or pharmacy might not be as effective as a pest management specialist’s arsenal. They might also be more harmful to you and your family. If you only have a few bees buzzing around your property and are worried that they might be trying to build a nest, the bee specialists at Texas A&M University suggest the following:
‟Mix one part dish soap to four parts water in [a] spray bottle. Spray all bees … with this solution. The soap-water solution will kill the bees but doesn’t leave a harmful residue like an insecticide. Spray every bee until no bees return for at least one day.”
If you want a spray that will be more effective on a nest of bees, there are several other factors to take into consideration.
Bee spray by species
‟Liquid sprays of carbaryl (Sevin), chlorpyrifos (Dursban), or a synthetic pyrethroid (e.g., permethrin or cyfluthrin) can be applied as a preventive to wood surfaces which are attracting bees. Residual effectiveness of these insecticides is often only 1-2 weeks, however, and the treatment may need to be repeated … Aerosol sprays labeled for wasp or bee control also are effective. Leave the hole open for a few days after treatment to allow the bees to contact and distribute the insecticide throughout the nest galleries. Then plug the entrance hole with a piece of wooden dowel coated with carpenter's glue, or wood putty. This will protect against future utilization of the old nesting tunnels and reduce the chances of wood decay.”
‟If control is necessary, it should be done by spraying or injecting a dust insecticide into the nest. DeltaDust (deltamethrin) or various liquid or aerosol pyrethroids are effective. Apply the insecticide after dark, using a flashlight with a red lens or a lens covered with red cellophane. Bees and wasps cannot see red, so they will not be attracted to the light, but the operator will be able to see well enough to apply the pesticide.”
The scientists at the University of Missouri go on to say about ‟sweat bees, mining bees, leafcutting bees” and other solitary bees that:
‟all of these bees are beneficial because they pollinate plants. Controlling them is not desirable, even if it were easy to do so … However, finding the nesting site is usually difficult because these bees may fly long distances.”
These types of issues are best left to pest management professionals. In fact, the city of Oakland brings up a very good point about DIY bee control for social bees as well, especially if the nest is in your home’s structure:
‟If you spray poison through the flight hole, it may not make contact with the nest and [won’t] kill the bees. This is the chief reason for failure in destroying the bees in the walls of houses.”
But if you are going to attempt bee control yourself, the University of Missouri lists the following compounds in bee sprays for the chemical control of bees:
‟Pyrethroid: Allethrin, Bifenthrin, Cyfluthrin, Cypermethrin, Deltamethrin, Esfenvalerate,Lambda-cyhalothrin, Permethrin, Sumithrin, Tetramethrin and Tralomethrin Botanical: Phenethyl propionate and Pyrethrum.”
An important note: If you are dealing with honey bees, strongly consider calling a pest management professional. Honey bees are extremely beneficial to the ecosystem and are very hard to control if you’re not trained. A specialist can help.
Bee spray by nest type
The University of Missouri also points out that the type of nest you are trying to get rid of plays an integral part in the treatment choice. For instance, with an exposed nest:
‟Apply a ready-to-use aerosol ‛wasp and hornet spray’ into the entrance of the nest during late evening according to label directions. If no activity is observed the next day, the nest has been successfully exterminated. If live wasps [or bees] are still observed, repeat the treatment at three-day intervals until they are all dead.”
In the instance of a concealed nest, the University of Missouri points out that ‟aerosol insecticides usually do not work very well against hidden nests.” For ground-nesting bees, a simple soap and water solution should be enough to discourage these solitary bee aggregations.
Be very careful with bee spray
Remember, the last thing you want to do is put you or your family in danger. If you choose to risk fighting bees on your own, heed the EPA’s warning on insecticides:
‟Before you buy a product, read the label! Compare product labels, and learn as much as you can about the pesticide. Contact your County Cooperative Extension Service (listed in the telephone book), local pesticide dealers, the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) at 1.800.858.7378, or your state pesticide agency for assistance.”
The EPA elaborates on how specific labeling is, giving you an idea of the potential hazard over-the-counter bee sprays present:
‟DANGER means poisonous or corrosive. WARNING means moderately hazardous. CAUTION means least hazardous.”
In some states, certain pesticides are illegal for use on bees, but not in others. The best way to be safe, legal and effective is to contact a pest management professional to recommend, handle and apply all forms of bee control, especially since bee spray might not even work on the type of bees endangering your family.