Poisoning Honey bees
Updated 2022: upon carrying out an internet search to identify what could legally be used to poison honey bees I was unable to find anything available for use by members of the public in the UK, not even on Amazon.
Sure I found some ignorant know all’s replying to questions about whether a poison labelled for wasps is suitable for use on ground bees, or honey bees or bumble bees or any other bee, suggesting that it was but the answer is NO, its not.
There’s a reason for this – there are no insecticides labelled for use on honey bees or honey bee colonies, nor are there any labelled for use on Solitary Bees, Bumblebees, Solitary wasps, Hover Flies or otherwise.
If the pest is not listed on the label then its not legal to use the pesticide on that pest for good reason.
Furthermore if a label reads “for indoor use only” then that’s where its meant to be used, not outdoors, again for good reason.
These same insecticides do not suddenly become suitable for use just because a local beekeeper knows no different.
In fact the local beekeeper is not usually in any way qualified to even use an insecticide on anybody’s property other than his own, despite the fact they believe themselves to be different to the rest of us for some reason.
Poisons suitable for killing honey bees
Poisoning honey bees is often surprisingly tricky, but given sufficient insecticide of the right type, applied correctly it can be used to successful eliminate a honey bee colony, but not easily. All too often we attend a live bee removal to find that someone (either the property owner or a pest controller) has unsuccessfully attempted to kill the honey bee nest.
It’s surprising how difficult killing a honey bee nest can be, many professional pest controllers are unsuccessful in doing it correctly.
In instances where the poisoning of the honey bees has been successful the property owner often wishes that they had been made aware of the possible consequences of poisoning honey bees.
These consequences can be be both expensive & detrimental to property & possessions.
Its not always easy to successfully apply insecticide to kill of a bee colony. We have attended many honey bee colonies that have had insecticide applied to them year after year without achieving success – one always comes top mind for more reasons than I care to think about.
The bees were in a cavity wall of an old bank, and year after year they would be poisoned and the entrances sealed only for the bees to find new entrance points and survive to the following year.
We successfully removed the bees using a trap-out method many years ago & as far as I’m aware the bees have not returned.
To kill a honey bee nest similar to that above a pest controller needs to add a nasty toxic chemical neural agent to kill of these bees, and will create a horrible toxic mass that really should not be left in situ, not just legally but also simple common sense.
Legally speaking the main concern with the use of an insecticide is that of insufficient proofing of the entrance/exit points. These egress points allow honey bees from other colonies into the poisoned colony for them to rob it out. Because the insecticides by design do not kill immediately, these bees will carry the robbed out contaminated honey back to their own bee nest/hive. This will then kill of large quantities of honey bees in the robber’s colony. Additionally the honey from the poisoned bee nest will be stored alongside that of the previously not poisoned bees, meaning that the insecticide may end up in the food chain in products being described as freshly produced, which in reality are contaminated with toxic chemicals.
This poisoning of the initial colony may end up with multiple colonies with in the local area being killed off as a result of the poisoned honey being robbed and taken back to local hives. This would be cause for an investigation and the possible prosecution and fine for the misuse of an approved insecticide.
When to kill a honey bee colony
If a honey bee colony becomes established in a property and they are a risk to the health of the occupants then one of the options available to get rid of the honey bees is for it to be destroyed using insecticide. Whether this is the most appropriate or viable option will depend upon a multitude of factors, some of which will include,
When poisoning a honey bee colony there is a lot to take in to account (as described above). It is important that you ensure that whoever you employ to carry out this task understands all the risks and possible outcomes prior to the event. There is a Code of Practice: Relating to the Control of Honey Bees, Issue 4: March 2019 that both the BPCA (British Pest Control Association) and NPTA (National Pest Technicians Association) members should abide by.
This is not an extensive document and does not take into account all factors or methods available for the removal of feral honey bees, nor does it properly cover simple awareness of necessary compliance, but it is a starting point and covers some simple points despite missing others.
If you opt for the poisoning of a colony, make sure it is carried out by a technician who abides by this code of practice, as you never know who else is aware of the colony and who they may talk to about it.
Post killing of a honey bee nest
Having killed a colony we would suggest that you still remove it. All those dead honey bees will be a great place for clothes moths and carpet beetle to breed in, down the road these clothes moths and carpet beetle will run out of food and be looking for other food – namely your woollen suits, alpaca jumpers, silk dresses, wool carpets, etc etc. We always find wax moth larvae in feral honey bee nests, once the bees are dead there will be no controlling the wax moth, and the wax moth eat their way thru the wax so releasing the honey which often ends up dripping thru ceilings and other places.
You would be surprised at how many properties we go to to remove previously poisoned honey bee nests, because of the dripping honey or the realisation that the clothes moth infestation is as a result of the dead bees nest. People regularly believe that the poison would be sufficient to kill of these other pests too – but it does not seem to work like that.
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If you are looking for information on removing bees from a chimney check out our article ‘Honey bees in chimney‘, or if you repeatedly have bee swarms take up home in your chimney you may want to look at our page ‘Why honey bees like chimneys‘ & ‘Everything you need to consider when removing bees in a chimney‘ which is a fairly extensive overview.
For examples on removals of honey bees from these and other more unusual places check thru our blog page Honey Bee Removal Blog and investigate our Tag cloud too.
Don’t forget a general overview on honey bee removals which can be found at ‘Live honey bee removal‘.