Bees and wasps are beneficial insects that should be welcoming guests of every healthy garden. Having stingers make them not-so welcome to humans. Our family’s foremost solution to coexist tolerably with these helpful insects is PREVENTION – prevent them from building nests/hives in and around your home. It’s just now warming up in Austin and we can see them flying around and looking for new spots to build a home. For wasps, my husband goes out and knocks down any nests he sees, especially under the roof eaves, with a long stick or broom and then runs away. When they’re just getting started, the nests are small enough that he can do this easily. Key is to not let the nests get too big and out of hand. Also keep the garage door shut while they’re scouting and fix holes on the outside of your house, especially around plug outlets and fixtures. Inspect regularly. With these simple preventative steps, we have never had to seek the help of a professional. We want these insects around, just not so close to our dwellings!
Years ago, we discovered a bee colony that has settled in one of our trees. Every year around Spring time, we’ve had the privilege of witnessing a bee swarm. Half the colony of bees leave and rest on another tree for a day or so, then move on to find a permanent home. It is quite a sight to see! While the bees are scouting for a new home is when we’re most attentive to keeping our structures beeproof, keeping all doors and windows closed at all times and maintaining a clutter-free patio. See Beeproof Your Property for more info.
There is a lot of media hype and dramatic stories on the ‘killer bees’. (Conversely, there’s also a lot of media coverage on the shortage of bees). Naturally, I was very concerned when we first discovered the hive. But the more I learned about bees, the better I felt about having them around. Knowing where our hive is located is better than being surprised. Next to preventing bees from taking residence in our structures in the first place is to have a getaway plan. Drill into your family members to keep doors shut and if swarmed, run! Cover your eyes and face as much as possible. Get indoors and shut the door if you can. If away from home, just keep running but watch out for cars! Eventually, the bees will stop following when they get too far from their hive. Run first, then call for help or to report; local beekeepers can safely remove/displace bees and most local fire departments are already equipped to handle bee extermination. Finally, have a healthy respect for bees; don’t bother them and they won’t generally bother you. They’re everywhere and there’s no getting rid of them in your area so learn to coexist. Here are a few good and entertaining online references:
- Columbia U’s summary on Africanized honey bees – did you know that ALL honey bees are non-native in the Western Hemisphere?
- TAMU honey bee information and guide
- Silence of the Bees
- Tales from the Hive – transcript
Because of these beneficial insects, we’ve always enjoyed a floriferous garden. Here are a few pics of some of our wildflowers, our first Spring colors. I love this time of year and I can’t wait until the garden takes off!