Bees started hive in my compost bin! Can they be removed?

Lunenburg, MA(Zone 5b)

Hi, I'm new to Dave's Garden. I live in central Massachusetts where we have had an unusually mild winter.

It's up in the 60's the past couple of days and bees are swarming all over my compost bin. Not that I dislike the bees, I'd love to move them to a new hive spot more convenient for me. Can they be moved safely? Does anyone have experience with this?

Was there something I put in my bin that may have attracted them? I just do the usual, kitchen waste of veggies, fruits, coffee grounds, brown paper, and the yard waste -- grass, leaves, wood chips.

Would love any advice. Thanks! Barbara

Thumbnail by BrrrAnn Thumbnail by BrrrAnn
Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

Barbara - I used to be a "bee keeper" so perhaps I can help...

It's unlikely that these bees are looking to take up residents in your compost bin, unless there is a gap inside that looks "inviting" to them.

Most likely you have placed something "sweet" into the bin such as honey, sugar, or molasses.

If you have very recently pulled plants loaded with flowers, this could attract them. As soon as the flowers dry (die) the bees will lose interest.

Have I covered all the possibilities? If not, let me know what "other" stuff is in the bin.

Lunenburg, MA(Zone 5b)

Hmmm. I hope that's the answer. I do put cut flowers in there, but I haven't for a while. I don't generally put sugar, honey or molasses, although I do put in fruit rinds. I put in some moldy strawberries and blueberries the other day.

I've seen the bees before, on another day in the 60's last month, then they seemed to go away. I thought maybe they were hibernating? I've turned the pile in the bin as recently as three weeks ago and there were no bees then. Someone else suggested that maybe they were looking for water or minerals.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

BrrrAnn - if there is a creek, stream, bird bath, swimming pool, etc., nearby they will get water from those sources.

Something else has come to mind... They might be collecting something from your pile to use as propolis

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propolis

I don't ever remember anything about honeybees collecting minerals.

Honeybees only fly on warm days (above 60) so that is possibly why you haven't seen them for awhile.

Honeybees are not dangerous unless you go near their hive.

IF and I say again IF they have started to use your compost as a hive - please call a professional to remove them!

Lunenburg, MA(Zone 5b)

Thanks so much for your feedback. I sure hope they're just visiting!

I live right next to a stream, so they can't be looking for water. In the last two days, temps have dipped back down again and no bees flying around the bin. I added more material to the compost bin and didn't see any bees at all. I'll let you know if they turn up again in the warm weather.

Barbara

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

Thanks for the update, Barbara.

Hopefully the honeybees will not return once the weather warms again. Let me know if they come back.

Port St Lucie (+ Wk , FL(Zone 9b)

Is it possible that the insects are another kind of bee - not honeybees? When I was reading up on blue mason bees, I believe I it said there were well over a thousand species of bees. Most are solitary (no hive) like the blue mason bee.

Also, if these are yellow jackets, figure out some way to get them out (other than poisoning, of course) because their sting is very painful (first hand info).

Good luck,

Paul

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

Those don't look like yellow jackets to me. I have also had some type of bees in my Earth Machine (same type of bin) once.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

pbyrley - The bees in Barbara's photo are definitely honeybees.

(I used to keep honeybees)

Lunenburg, MA(Zone 5b)

Well, whatever kind of bees they are, they stopped coming once I dumped a lot of shredded leaves in the bin.

Port St Lucie (+ Wk , FL(Zone 9b)

HoneybeeNC,
Yeah, I looked at the photo again and I thought they were honeybees too. I know you had hives and know much more than I do about bees. BTW I am having a lot of honeybees visit my blueberry flowers this year, possibly because of the early bloom. I'm glad to see them back, last year it was mostly bumblebee types.

In Huntersville, I had some kind of in-the-ground bees (def. not yellow jackets) every year. They never attacked me or my dog, but I didn't push my luck. The came out every morning and "went to work" I never saw them coming home.

I'm very glad BrrrAnn's bees stopped coming.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

pbyrley - honeybees, bumble bees, native bees - they're all good for pollination.

Honeybees NEVER nest in the ground. I don't know enough about native bees to say whether or not they nest in the ground, but I think bumble bees nest in, or close, to the ground.

We've had severl bumble bees come and go through our house this past week. Most people would be scared to death, but we just collect them in a jar and return them to the garden.

I'm glad you are having honeybees visiting your garden. There must be a hive close by. I'd love to have a hive or two, but I'm too old/frail to lift the hive boxes (called supers.)

Lunenburg, MA(Zone 5b)

Now I have yellow jackets trying to nest in my garage! :)

Yoiks.

This message was edited Mar 24, 2012 8:15 PM

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

BrrrAnn - although yellow jackets are beneficial insects, you do not need them too near where you come and go.

I think there is a hornet spray that will kill them. Don't let their numbers get too large, they have nasty tempers and, unlike honeybees that can only sting once, yellow jackets can sting repeatedly.

Port St Lucie (+ Wk , FL(Zone 9b)

BrrrAnn,
Yes, as HoneybeeNC said, there is a specific spray that is more of a stream - ask for help at the garden store in finding the right one. The other trick is to go to the hole AT NIGHT. They will all be home, resting. Spray "as directed" I think I used about half the can. None were able to come out that night, maybe I killed them in their sleep. (I had a young Labrador Retriever at that time and she was very curious - I was really afraid that she would sniff around and get badly stung).

The spraying was 100% effective. None ever came or went into the hole again.

Paul

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

Yes, Paul, that's a great idea!

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

I too cannot tolerate yellow jackets near the house or people. I feel bad, but not as bad as when my kid gets stung!. We've had to spray holes several times, right around our sidewalk or foundation. (One good dose of spray, different holes in different years) If you ever notice one yellow jacket near the ground, step back and watch carefully, and you will probably see a stream of them going in and out at active times of day. Then see the hole.

Lunenburg, MA(Zone 5b)

Now that we have a cold snap, I can spray fearlessly!

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