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Bee Swarms

Within the hive it is necessary for the worker bees to communicate with the queen bee. When the hive becomes too large and the worker bees can no longer communicate with the queen, they will instinctively feed egg cells with royal jelly and these cells become the cells for new queens to be hatched. When the queen cells hatch, the dominant queen takes over half of the existing hive. Swarming is the action of one of the queens leaving the existing hive with half of the colony. This colony can consist of anywhere from 1,000 bees to 10-20,000 or more bees. Therefore, a swarm is a colony of bees on their way to a new destination to set up housekeeping so they can continue their species. On their way to the new destination, the queen and the colony will stop at a tree, a bush, on a building, or on a fence, etc. When a swarm is arriving or leaving, it is a frightening sight! It is a very large, black, noisy, cloud with bees flying everywhere. They will eventually land and become calm and docile. A visible ball of bees in an unprotected area is almost always a true swarm and consists only of bees - no hive! While the swarm is resting in the tree, bush, etc., the bees are generally docile and stay in their "ball" or "beard-like" formation. If someone throws something at them, sprays them, or tries to hose them down, they will fly everywhere until they settle back down in the same area. If left alone, this swarm of bees will fly off in 1-3 days.

From this resting place, scout bees will fly off to look for a safe controlled environment, which instinctively meets their criteria. Any enclosed structure that has at least 1/4 - 1/8 inch opening will give access to the bees. Generally, the cracks between the stucco and an eave, the openings in wood siding, chimneys, and the flashing around chimneys, etc. will provide access for insects. Once the scout bees find a location, they return to the swarm and lead them to the new location. Within a half hour to an hour after arriving, the swarm will be inside that new location. At that point the activity on the outside is limited to the field workers coming and going and bringing pollen and nectar back to the new hive. The bees will start building their hive (putting up their wax structure) within 26 to 30 hours of their arrival.

Any beeswax inside an enclosed structure will have a honey odor. Even if bees are treated, and the honeycomb is left in the wall, it will continue to attract bees into the area. Also, any hive left in a wall unattended will attract ants and rats. An unattended hive may leak honey and emit a sweet, pungent odor. Unlike bees that are resting, bees that are hiving are territorial and will defend their space. All hives and honeycomb should be removed from structures and should be done by a professional company.

European Honey Bee

Bee behavior in general throughout the United States is the same, but we will be addressing bee behavior in Orange County specifically. Originally, Orange County was essentially an agricultural community and bees were an important part of the agricultural industry. As Orange County slowly turned into a residential and business community, bees adapted and started building their hives inside structures. Their favorite place to hive is in the framing between the interior and exterior walls of structures. Other places where they build hives include: under eaves of enclosed fascias, under Spanish roof tiles, in water control boxes and any type of utility enclosed box, in any equipment or vehicles that have been left stationary and unused for long periods of time, underneath standing construction trailers, in the trunks of trees and in the base of olive trees, etc. However, the most common place for bees to build their hive is inside the structure of buildings. Once the honeybee builds a hive and establishes its territory, it generally will not abandon that hive.

Africanized Bee

The Africanized honeybee, a.k.a. "the killer bee" as dubbed by the media, is in fact a honeybee with a highly disturbed personality! Due to its origins and environment in Africa, the Africanized bee is much more aggressive, hostile, and will attack in large numbers when defending its hive or territory. Nevertheless, it is still a honeybee. Even a European bee will defend its territory and its hive, if threatened, by chasing and stinging the intruder. However, the Africanized bee will defend its hive in larger numbers, chasing you farther with less provocation and more aggression. Orange County has been officially declared as being colonized by the Africanized honeybees; therefore, all bees and bee colonies should be treated as if they are Africanized honeybees. The Africanized bee will have the same behavior, only in a much more hostile and aggressive manner. They also tend to swarm more often.

The most common misconception about the Africanized bee is that it is somehow larger or different looking then the European bee. To the naked eye, the Africanized bee looks just like the European bee. The minute differences between the two are only visible through a microscope.

Bumble Bees

Bumblebees are the large, fuzzy, black and yellow bees that fly slowly, drifting from flower to flower. Many people have even had bumblebees land on them and just shooed them away without being stung. However, bumblebees are very defensive of their territory and their nest. They will come out to chase you and they do not lose their stinger and can sting you more than once. Bumblebees build their nest undergound and in structures.

Wasps

There are many different species of wasps. The most common are the paper wasp, the mud wasp, or mud dauber, and the black wasp. The paper wasps build their nests under the eaves of structures. They also build their nests in attics and behind fascia boards. Their nests are generally visible, shaped like an umbrella with a handle coming off the top and attaching to the eaves or the structure. The bottom of the nest has holes in it. The holes of the nest that are filled with white are eggs. The dominant female is ready to mate when hatched, and will ge by herself to start her nest. Many dominant females are hatched out of each nest (this is another reason for the recent high infestation). Wasps like to build their nests on the south or southeast side of a structure. They will continue to build year after year in the same spot(s). Once wasps have established their territory, it could take 2-3 years to break the cycle. The wasp nests need to be treated and removed. The mud dauber has much the same behavior as all wasps; however, its nest is like a clump of mud on the side of your building or structure. The black wasps are generally found along rooflines. They lay their eggs in or along the tiles or shingles of roofs.

The food source for wasps is the smaller bugs and insects, living on the plants and bushes in our yards and landscaped areas. White flies, aphids, ants are all favorites of the wasp. In the ecological system, they are a benefit because they eat the insects that destroy our plants, bushes, and landscapes. The problem is that they are a stinging insect and do no co-habit will with humans!

Yellow Jackets

California yellow jackets are very often mistaken for bees. Even the TV news media has reported on yellow jackets as honeybees. The length of the yellow jacket and honeybee is the same. However, the wings of the yellow jacket are longer, the body is thinner and the tail is more pointed than that of the honeybee. Many people call them sweat bees and/or meat bees. The yellow jacket is a protein eater; it eats bugs, and it is the yellow and black insect that is the uninvited guest at your picnics and bar-b-ques, when you eat outside. The yellow jacket has a queen and a colony and builds a very complicated nest with whatever materials it can find. This can include insulation and sheet rock (dry wall). Because of this, if the insect is nesting in your wall or your attic, it will yse the dry wall or sheet rock (you might even hear a scratching noise that many people mistake for mice), eventually there will be nothing there but paint or sprayed acoustics materials. This creates a soft spot in the wall or ceiling. Also, small holes appear in the soft spot and instinctively the yellow jacket perceives these holes as another way to come and go from their nesting area. This is why yellow jackets break through your wall or ceiling and end up inside your house or structure. The solution is to call a professional and have the nest or the colony removed. Yellow jackets like to build their nest under things. They will build their nest in the ground, in your attic under your insulation, behind trees that lean against buildings or structures, etc. Yellow jackets are very defensive of their territory and if you disturb their nest, they will come at you in large numbers. They do no lose their stingers and can sting you more than one time.

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Orange County, CA

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