Iowa Insect Information Notes

Honey Bee Nests in Walls

Honey Bee Nests in Walls

Honey bees may establish a nest inside the wall of the house or other building causing a nuisance, a health hazard and a serious threat to the structure.  However, not all “bees” that nest in the wall are honey bees.  It is much more likely that the insects that look and behave like honey bees and are nesting inside the house wall or foundation are yellowjacket wasps.  It is easy to confuse the two insects so careful examination rather than assumption based on distant observation is essential.

Honey bees and yellowjackets are nearly identical in size, shape, general appearance and behavior.  Color is the easiest distinguishing characteristic.  Honey bees are fuzzy and golden brown.  Yellowjackets are shiny and lemon yellow with black markings.  If you are not sure of the pest identification collect several dead specimens and take them to your county extension office or request ISU Extension pamphlet PM- 1671, “Wasp and Bee Control.”

Honey bee colonies in wall or attic voids are a much more serious problem than yellowjacket wasps.  Yellowjacket colonies are annual and the wasps will disappear in the winter with or without treatment.  Honey bee nests may last for many years without treatment and will contain honey stored inside the walls.  The honey can ruin walls and ceilings if it is not removed.

Salvaging honey bee colonies from wall voids is usually not practical, so extermination is recommended.  Wild honey bees are of very little or no value to a professional bee keeper as they are often heavily infested with parasites and diseases.

Treat nests in walls by injecting an insecticide dust (e.g., Sevin or permethrin garden dust) in the nest entrance during the night.  Wear protective clothing and approach the nest with caution.  Do not shine your flashlight directly into the nest opening.  Dispense several puffs of dust into the nest opening by using a hand duster or an empty, soft plastic bottle.  Place no more than 2 tablespoons of insecticide dust into a dry, empty liquid detergent bottle.  Shake lightly, hold the bottle to the nest opening and squeeze firmly.  Control will usually be achieved within a few days.  Retreat after 2 or 3 days if necessary.  Do not plug a nest opening in a house wall until you are sure all activity within the nest has stopped.  “Wasp and hornet” aerosol sprays may not provide effective control of honey bee nests inside walls, depending on how far the nest is from the nest opening. 

Remove and discard the comb and honey after the bees are killed. Do not salvage these materials if the colony was treated with insecticide. If the nest is not removed, the wax may melt or be riddled by wax moth larvae and begin to leak honey. If there is much honey it can seep through interior walls, leaving a permanent stain. Bees from other colonies and scavenger insects may be nuisances as long as the honey remains.
Updated 08/05/2005 - 12:55pm