Often we get questions, particularly at the start of swarming season, from people who see scout bees flying in and out of a hole, crack or vent on their house. They believe that they have a bee hive in their roof or wall, but this is not necessarily the case.
When bees swarm, they leave the original hive to look for a new location. This is much the same as a human having a child, it’s a way of procreating the species. A hive of bees should really be considered as one individual and the bees are analogous to the cells which make up our body.
Once the swarm leave the hive, they usually hang in a tree or some other convenient place. This is like a ‘mustering’ point. While they’re there they send out scout bees to look for a new home. These scouts investigate any likely cavity, such as the inside of a house wall, a sprinkler valve box or perhaps the roof of a house. You will see a few bees flying in and out of a hole, which can be as small as ½” inch diameter. The behavior of these bees is significant. If you see some bees flying up to the hole, landing, walking inside, coming out, looking around and then flying away again, these are likely to be scout bees. They have a definite ‘relaxed’ air about them.
If on the other hand you see a constant stream of bees flying to the hole and going straight inside, and another stream of bees flying off into the distance this probably means the bee swarm has already moved in and is working hard to build a new hive.
I always liken it to the difference between people house-hunting, and new residents of a house renovating. There is a huge difference. The new honeybee occupants are bringing in supplies of nectar and pollen just in the same way a new house owner might bring in belongings and decorating supplies.
These callers will usually say they have found bees inside the house which they take to indicate that there is a hive of bees in their roof. Paradoxically this is actually unlikely. Scout bees are not familiar with the territory and often go into a space, but are unable to remember how they got in. The end up inside the house, being attracted by the light from windows or light fittings.
Once a colony of bees has taken up residence in a cavity in a wall or roof, it very quickly orients itself to the locality and very few bees will ‘get lost’ in this way.
If you ever see bees entering your house in this casual way you can conclude that they’re most likely scout bees and I suggest you block up the hole, by pushing foam rubber or a wadded-up plastic grocery bag, at least temporarily, to stop the bees entering.
If you stop the scout bees accessing such a space the swarm will choose one of the other places the scouts are assessing, and will not take up residence in the roof of your house. If you are in any doubt I recommend you call a bee removal expert about these scout bees. They will understand what is going on and will advise you what to do. I strongly recommend you steer clear of pest control companies who claim to do ‘live removal’ as an alternative. These occurrences often do not turn out well for the bees, or your pocket.