Some 45 years back (when I was kid) we woke up to loud, aggressive buzzing coming from our fireplace. My dad called a beekeeper to come fetch the bees and was informed that the bees could be removed for a fee.
He became somewhat angry because he thought he was giving a beekeeper free bees. In my dear old dad’s defense, he was not the first and will not be the last to think bees equals honey equals a long-term income.
The beekeeper informed my dad that if he was not willing to pay the fee, he should contact animal control or an exterminator to remove the bees. Today, with bees rapidly becoming endangered or extinct, people understand the need to turn to beekeepers rather than exterminators.
So, why do beekeepers charge for bee removal?
Because beekeepers are businessmen, and bees are their business. To remove the hive will cost the beekeeper time, equipment, danger, travel expenses, and long-term care.
Additionally, the species, age of the colony, location, method of removal, and accessibility all carry unique costs as well.
Worst of all, wild bees could carry varroa mites or diseases that could be transmitted to the beekeepers established colonies posing a real risk to the beekeeper’s livelihood.
While some beekeepers are happy to remove bees for free, other beekeepers could charge $50 to $1500 for the removal of your invaders.
The fee is determined by several factors. Most beekeepers will not give an exact quote over the phone because they need to inspect the bees for breed, health, aggression, and accessibility of the colony.
Let us have a look at the factor’s beekeepers base their fees on for bee removal to help you understand where your money is going.
To trap a colony effectively, a beehive is essential. This is a box with frames in it. It is more alluring if some of the frames are already developed to the point of containing honey, nectar, or even larvae.
The box is cheap and easy to make, and most beekeepers do have one or two spares for emergencies if a hive is damaged, or if the bees need to be moved.
But it does still cost them some money to make the hive and to either purchase, make, or hijack a few frames from their existing colonies.
If the hive is between outer and inner walls or in an awkward place, a specialized vacuum will be needed to remove the bees.
The other critical item needed to move bees is a smoker. This is an item any beekeeper would – or should – own to calm bees down.
After many nasty phone calls, my dad finally was told to light a small fire to just smoke the bees out the chimney. When bees smell smoke, they gather as much honey from the hive as possible to have some supplies in case their hive burns and they find themselves homeless.
This is not ideal for two reasons:
- If you set a fire that burns quick and hot, you may actually kill the bees – and many species are dangerously close to becoming extinct.
- You may be ridding your home of the bees, but they have to go somewhere, and the longer they are out panicking because they have no home, the more likely the risk of the swarm attacking people or animals is.
If you are not knowledgeable about bees, leave it to the professionals. Aggressive bees may need to be exterminated, non-aggressive homeless bees need to go away to an area that is safe for them and for locals.
For a beekeeper to come and collect or dispose of your swarm, he will incur the tangible cost of travel.
They will have to come to your home to assess the situation, and advise you of an appropriate course of action.
They may need to set out a trap (an unoccupied hive with frames that are partially developed) and return later the same day or, if the bees are not inside your home, the next day. They will then close the door of the hive and remove the bees.
To cut down your cost, try to find a beekeeper as close to your home as possible. A beekeeper who has to travel 2 hours one way is going to cost much more than a beekeeper who is 20 minutes away because of the fuel saved.
To add to the travel expense is the investment in time – for travel and for advising, trapping, or disposal of the bees.
This is another factor that should influence your decision to find someone who is close to your home or property.
Remember that beekeepers also have a daily work schedule with appointments, drop offs, inspections, administering treatments, etc. For many the best-case scenario is that they drop off the trap and collect it when the bees have moved in.
Your role is to give the bees every chance of survival as possible to ensure the earth’s pollinators continue their critically important role in our food supply.
If you have called in a beekeeper, and before he arrives the swarm moves on, be sure to contact him as soon as possible to save him the trip.
If you can get a good photo of the bees safely, send him or her the photo so that they can either go on with their day or follow the swarm – or even just notify others in the bee’s paths – for the safety of people, animals, and even the bees.
Many beekeepers, authorities, and pest removal companies will charge a call out fee just to come and have a look. A photo could save a call out; but always check when you phone to find out if they have a call out fee and how much that cost is.
Species of Bee
There are roughly 20000 species of bees in the world. Of these, only 1 species produces honey! The humble honeybee.
Unfortunately, the honeybee is one of around 500 species that are able to sting. The sting is painful, but only really dangerous to people who are allergic to bees, or in cases where a whole colony attacks and stings.
This sting really is the only disadvantage of having bees on your property.
However, this should never be underestimated! You may know your body can take a sting or two, most of us have been stung at least once in our lives, but an aggressive swarm can pose a real threat to your life.
That is one of the reasons beekeeper’s prices will vary.
Beekeepers have to consider the risk to their own lives over the benefits to themselves. They only profit if the bees are honeybees.
But even so, if you have a swarm of honeybees, they may be very aggressive. You cannot know where they came from, what they have been through that caused them to swarm, if they are ill, or if they are feeling very threatened.
Beekeepers normally buy whole colonies that have specifically been bred to be docile, healthy, and already have a queen.
One of the reasons bees swarm is because the queen has died or is missing in action. A wild colony comes with no guarantees:
They may be healthy; they may be ill. They may be docile; they may be aggressive. They may be good honey producers; they may produce a very small quantity of honey that is barely enough to feed the colony let alone bring in a profit for you.
Size of the Colony
A larger swarm will mean more equipment and more time will be needed to remove the bees successfully.
Age of the Hive
If you are wanting to have an established hive moved, the process can be much easier – if they are in a constructed hive, or it can be much harder – if they have built their own hive high up in a tree, in a chimney, or inside a wall. If they are inside a structure, moving a whole colony can be very difficult.
Typically, an established hive can be moved as a unit under the right circumstances that a beekeeper will be well versed in.
Beekeepers are called to remove a swarm, which is just a ball of bees without an established hive or colony, or to remove an established colony, which is a fully established colony with a hive that can cause structural damage if left too long.
A swarm often will remove itself without the need of intervention. They will stay for anywhere from a few minutes to a day or two. To help evict them, a simple smoking will do the job.
A colony will not want to leave. If your visitors have been there for a week, they think they have found their forever home. It is a lot harder to remove a colony because it is often harder to get to them and therefore smoking is not a possibility.
Location and Height Off the Ground
The degree of difficulty to reach the bees is also a factor in the charge of removing a colony. If the beekeeper has to dig down, climb very high, or open walls to get equipment in and bees out, the price of removal will be higher.
Cost of Accessing and Repairing the Access Point
Most homeowners like their homes the way they are. We do not want holes in the walls, ceiling, or attic. As such, they expect the home to be put back into a state of repair to how it looked before the demolition derby went in search of the bees.
Most beekeepers will not repair damage to your home. Their business is bees not buildings.
They may refer you to a builder who can repair your home, or you can try to find a company who will remove the bees and clean up after themselves. However, this will cost you more.
Setting up a trap hive would be the least damaging, but it may take a bit longer.
License and Guarante Costs
As the issue of extinction and endangerment of bees is becoming more and more widely known, many states require beekeepers or removal companies to be licensed to ensure the protection of the bees.
If bee removal is required, it should always be done humanely and preferably without injury to the bees.
The whole hive should be removed, and no bee should be left behind.
Method of Removal
There are two ways to remove bees permanently.
The first involves capturing every bee and relocating them hive and all to a safe space.
Bees setting up home inside walls can lead to major structural damage due to their weight and because of the fluids from wax and honey seeping into the wood.
But honeybees have great benefits to the environment and also for the use of honey in many medicinal ways. It is always worth trying to save honeybees rather than exterminate them.
The second involves spraying pesticide into the swarm to kill all the bees and then vacuuming the bodies out of the affected area. This may seem cruel, especially taking the endangerment of bees into account.
But sadly, there are instances where this is the best or even the only option. For example, Africanized bees can be very dangerous to people and animals as they are extremely aggressive.
If a beekeeper removes a colony and takes them into his or her care, he or she is committing him or herself to caring for the colony’s physical and medical needs permanently.
This means providing a sound hive, shelter from weather, frames, protection and treatment for varroa mites, and any other incidentals along the way.
These are expenses that, but for your request to remove the bees from your property, they would not be facing.
If the bees are not honeybees, the beekeeper will have to travel some distance to a safe environment to release the bees where they will be able to thrive without putting anyone in danger.
What To Do If You Find A Swarm
- Safety first: remove all people and pets from the area, preferably locked up indoors with all doors and windows closed
- Do not try to kill the bees with insecticide: as bees begin to die, they give off pheromones that mark you as an assassin, causing the rest of the colony to attack you
- Call a local beekeeper to come and help you: you will need to know the species and the danger involved before you can even think about moving the bees – google beekeepers in your area
- Keep your movements slow and calm: you do not want the bees to see you as a threat
- Once you know what species you are dealing with, check with local beekeepers if they would like to remove the bees: most beekeepers who keep honeybees will want the bees if they have the hives and space for another hive
Become A Beekeeper
The best way to save the cost of bee removal is to become a beekeeper yourself. The cost of becoming a honeybee beekeeper is minimal and the benefits are exponential.
You will need a box, frames, a smoker, and protective gear.
The benefits to you are:
- A beautiful flowering garden
- A well pollinated vegetable garden
- Delicious honey
A swarm on your property can be a terrifying thing to deal with. I have written about my very old friend, a lady in her 80s, who was killed by a swarm that came into her yard in previous articles about beekeeping. She was not allergic. At 80 she was not a fast mover who looked in any way aggressive.
She was enjoying a gorgeous, balmy South African summer day tending to her roses when the swarm blustered in. All it took was 1 bee to sting and the rest all attacked her. I cannot even begin to tell you how devastating a loss that was.
She was a bee friendly gardener all her life. Unfortunately, the bees were not old lady friendly bees all their lives.
Watching a swarm can be fascinating – from a distance! But unless you know exactly what you are doing, you need to get indoors as soon as possible, close your windows and doors, and immediately call the professionals.
Once you have someone on alert that you may have an issue, give the bees half an hour to an hour to vacate on their own. If they are not moving, call your beekeeper back and ask him or her to come try to smoke them out or remove them.
Never move a hive on your own. This is something every beekeeper will tell you. They know the best time of day to move bees, and they have the necessary safety gear to prevent accidents.
They also have spotters to warn them about hazards on the ground that they may not be able to see because they are focused on the hive.
Once you have observed the bees in action, you may well want to keep the bees yourself. If you do, I applaud you. Speak to the local beekeepers for guidance and advice as you trap and care for your very own hive.
I hope you understand the intricacies of removing a swarm or colony a little bit better and I really hope you have learned enough to stay safe and perhaps even take up beekeeping yourself.
Di-Anne Devenish Seebregts was raised in an environment where daily life consisted of hiking, environmental conservation, growing fruit and vegetables, and raising poultry for meat and eggs.
She combined her passion for the writing word with her love of the pride that comes with not relying on others. She raised three children (who are now adults) to value the environment, and understand the value of being self-sufficient.