I have a hive and not sure what to do

AuGres, MI(Zone 5b)

I need some advice. I live on a small farm and we have 7 apple trees. Yesterday I looked up and saw a huge beehive. It's about a foot long. I'm not sure if I should cut it down and get rid of it or be glad I have it. It is in an apple tree and not far from my vegetable garden.

I know nothing about bees. I did hear somewhere earlier this year that the bee population is dwindling. Because of this I am reluctant to destroy the hive and am seeking advice.

I live in mid Michigan zone 5 near a lake. This is wetland area also. We have 20 acres of our property in woods.

Do bees make new hives each year? Do they live in those hives in the winter? Please help me decide what to do about this hive. It is kind of cool looking. Also, how can I be sure it's a bee hive and not some kind of wasp dwelling? Are there pictures somewhere I can look at?


Rose Lodge, OR(Zone 8b)

Sounds like a wasp nest, Brenda, but that's still no reason to get rid of it. Wasps are very beneficial insects to have around, and my position on them is that it's a GREAT thing to know where they are, especially if they've nested where they're not really any trouble. I'd really hate to eradicate a nest in a known location only to find that they then decided to relocated under my deck or something!

Bees tend to nest in cavities, where they build combs. Wasps make nests of "paper" they chew from wood products.

AuGres, MI(Zone 5b)

Thanks for responding. Where do these wasps get the wood? Do you think they are damaging the apple trees to make a nest? Will they use the same nest next year if I don't destroy it? It's far from the house so I don't really care if it stays out there in the apple tree. Do wasps do any pollinating or do they eat bad bugs or what?

Rose Lodge, OR(Zone 8b)

They get the wood from everywhere! They are quite fascinating. If you have an old wood deck, for instance, sometimes you can actually hear them scraping minuscule bits off the planks! Or they chew up fallen trees or whatever.

They can be pollinators as they investigate plants looking for prey but they are VICIOUS hunters of things like cabbage worms & cucumber beetles. I watched one eat an entire cricket one day; it was shocking.

I'm not a wasp expert, however, so let's hope someone else chimes in. The wasp varieties represent a huge array of insects. This spring I had holes dug in my lawn that were so large I suspected moles. Turns out that it was a type of wasp that ONLY hunts cicadas, and ONE wasp was kicking out a 6" mound of dirt every day. One of the wasps, lumbering around with a cicada in its grip, got caught in my hair one evening. So it stuffs the cicada in the hole, paralyzes it & lays its eggs there.

I always have mud daubers too, who grab mouthfuls of mud and, like potters, lay up layer after layer (usually on my door jambs, not very convenient for ME) of mud, then stuff the tube with paralyzed spiders for its young to feed on. Then they seal it all up. Believe it or not, there is ANOTHER type of wasp that sometimes comes along & rips open the tube & stuffs it with its OWN eggs. Little squatters.

Bees are fascinating too (I have just one hive) but people act as if wasps are our enemies, when they're not.

AuGres, MI(Zone 5b)

Thanks for all the information on wasps. I will leave the hive alone then if they can reuse it next year. It isn't far from where my vegetable garden is and I'd love it if they'd kill insects like cabbage worms and beetles. I planted a lot of cabbage this year and all the heads were perfect with no insect damage at all. I don't use any chemicals at all in the garden. I try to let the bugs take care of each other or the birds.

I am not happy when bugs or spiders get up by the house. We do live in the woods though so we do get bugs. We had a big problem with those Japanese beetles that look like ladybugs but they must be dying out or something. I haven't seen any this year. We have a lot of ash trees and I just wish somebody would start eating all the Emerald Ash Borer bugs that threaten to dissemate our ash trees.

I don't have any old wood decks but my woods are full of fallen rotting trees so there is no shortage of old wood around here. Maybe that is why the wasps like it here. :) We have lots of bumble bees too. They really love my catmint plants. I had good pollination on my fruit trees and in my gardens so we must have a good mix of pollinators out there.

Thanks for the help.


Rose Lodge, OR(Zone 8b)

Yep, sounds like a perfect organic paradise. This is the first and ONLY year i haven't had one cucumber beetle. they are the bane of my existence. i was so thrilled not to have to resort to rotenone for the beetles that i was afraid to touch ANYTHING. didn't even use Bt on the cabbage loopers, just handpicked or else ignored them. i DO think japanese beetles (the real ones, not the ladybug kinds) killed a red shrub next to my house but oh well.

you'd hate my house! spiders everywhere! i'm claustrophobic & leave my doors wide open whenever possible. once in awhile, i use my garden "scissors" (kind of a hinged plastic trap with handles) to snag one & carry it outside. or the shark hand vacuum works well too because I can vacuum up a whole generation & empty the whole filter outside. they seem to survive that treatment.

because, once again, spiders are one of our best friends!

New Madrid, MO

What you are describing sounds like a bald face hornets nest. Their nests are usually roundish, mottled grey and about 10 feet above the ground, usually in a tree, but occasionally on a structure. They can be quite territorial, so give the nest a wide berth. Sometimes blue jays will attack the nest and eat them but otherwise they will die out this winter and the nest is not used again.

AuGres, MI(Zone 5b)

Thanks Bootheel. I was wondering how you could tell the difference between a hornet's nest and a wasp nest. I have not seen one bug of any kind going into or out of that nest. I'm leaving it alone though. I don't want to get any surprises unless they are in there sleeping or something. If you don't think it will be used again then I'll cut it out of the tree some time during winter. It is a very cool creation. It's amazing to me they actually spun or made that big thing. That takes a lot of good teamwork I believe. :)

I might save the nest and let my granddaughter take it to school someday for show and tell..........if it lasts that long. She's only 1. :)


AuGres, MI(Zone 5b)

I thought I'd post a picture of my hive. It's really beautiful! Notice how they built an apple right into the hive so they have food to eat without having to go out. :)

Thumbnail by Loon
AuGres, MI(Zone 5b)

Here is a picture of the back of the hive.

Thumbnail by Loon
AuGres, MI(Zone 5b)

I spotted one flying out. It was black and yellow

Thumbnail by Loon
Rose Lodge, OR(Zone 8b)

Yup. I wouldn't get too close. But it sure is a work of art, isn't it?

AuGres, MI(Zone 5b)

I thought I'd leave behind a little information on the bald -faced hornets in case anyone else comes across them.

Bald-faced Hornet Nest
(The following is an article from Down the Garden Path (Issue 86, September 19, 1995), concerning Baldfaced Hornets.)
Bald-faced Hornets -- A menace to society!
Corey Gerber, Insect Diagnostician
Bald-faced hornets, Vespula maculata, are rather large wasps measuring 5/8 to 3/4 inches in length, and are very well known for their painful stings. Also, they have an intricate black and white pattern on their face, thorax, and abdomen. Adults can be found along meadows, forest edges, and around our homes. Diets of the adults consist of nectar, fruit juices, and even small insects.
Overwintered mated females will emerge in the spring and begin to build nests. Baldfaced hornet nests are large, grayish, pear-shaped paper nests. The thick paper material will enclose two or four horizontally arranged combs. These nests are typically suspended in trees, shrubs, or along the side of buildings.
After a female builds a nest, she will lay eggs that will hatch into female workers. The main purpose of these first generation workers is to bring back food for second generation larvae. Larvae diets consist of insects pre-chewed by the adult workers. Once the larvae in the cells have matured, they will seal themselves within these cells for pupation. In late summer, males will emerge from unfertilized eggs and mate with selected females that will overwinter. In late October or early November, males, workers, older queens, and larvae die off.
Often, homeowners will detect baldfaced hornet nests around their yard. Many home insect sprays are not effective against a hornet colony. Before using any pesticide, read and follow label directions. Colonies that are found in the upper canopy of very mature trees (40 to 50 feet high) should be left alone. However, if you are interested in collecting these paper nests, remember that the colony can be active until early November.
Baldfaced hornets are almost always uninvited guests at fall picnics. Hornets are readily attracted to trash cans located around picnic areas. As the hornets sense recently baked apple pie, they will leave the trash cans and become a disturbance near picnic tables. Then, people will begin to swat at the hornets, provoking them to aggressively sting. Ouch, that can hurt! So if you decide to have a fall picnic, try to eat delightful delicacies (apple pie, pumpkin pie, and other savory sensations) away from trash cans and other areas that may be appealing to the hornets. Have a very enjoyable and safe autumn.


Austin, TX

Bald-faced hornets are enemies of honeybees. Honeybees are friends of apple trees.

A bee removal service will usu. also remove hornet nests.

AuGres, MI(Zone 5b)

Thanks for your input beehaven.

Are you suggesting I should remove the hornet nest? I do have a friend and somewhat close neighbor who is a beekeeper. I'll bet he'd help me take it down after the hornets vacate it. I didn't know the hornets would kill the honeybees. I don't want that to happen at all.

Rose Lodge, OR(Zone 8b)

no need to look at it in such a narrow context.
the hornets aren't hurting anything; they'll vacate soon anyway.
i have a nest of hornets not too far from my hive & the honeybees are still 40,000 strong or so.

my dog probably kills more honeybees each summer than any hornets -- it's like a game to her.

AuGres, MI(Zone 5b)

This may seem like a dumb question, but how do you know how many honeybees you have? I mean, how do you count them?

Also, will the hornet's nest survive winter or will the ice and cold wreck it? It looks kind of flimsy. I was thinking of trying to save it maybe for my granddaughter to take to school some day for show and tell. Shes' only one year old though so maybe it wouldn't last that long. What do you think?

If the hornets don't reuse the hives then it's OK to take it down after it's empty. How can you tell when they are all gone?

Rose Lodge, OR(Zone 8b)

well, it's just a guesstimate based on what you observe, comings & goings as well as internal poking around. But a healthy hive should be around 40k, though all the males get kicked out about this time of year to cut down on mouths to feed, bringing the population way down. They also have to maintain enough in the hive to make a ball that will stay warm & connected to the food supply.

very fascinating. you should get some!

i'd wait until cold weather sets in before taking the wasp nest. remember, it's withstood storms all summer. they are cool. i snag them too when possible & keep them with my motley collection of bird nests.

New Madrid, MO

Summerkid gives the correct advice. I have a friend who cut one down a little early, they were just staying in from the cold and hadn't died out yet, and got a heckofa surprise. Let a good killing frost with some below 32 f weather set in before you cut it down, and even then I'd keep it in an outbuilding or barn for a while as a precaution. The nest will last for years if kept indoors, they are a popular cafe' decoration in the south, so your grand daughter can lug it to school for show and tell when the time comes.

Post a Reply to this Thread

Please or sign up to post.