European Honey Bees

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Identification

  • Colour Reddish brown in colour, with black and yellow striped patterns on the abdomen
  • Size 15 - 20 mm in length
  • Also known as Apis mellifera Linnaeus
  • Description The European honey bee, is not native to Canada but was introduced to North America by European settlers and is now established throughout the Canadian provinces. Typically unaggressive, the bee will sting if threatened, leading to problems when nests are too close to human habitations. In recent years, beekeepers across the country have also imported various subspecies of the European honey bee, including the Italian honey bee (Apis mellifera ligustica) and the Caucasian honey bee (Apis mellifera caucasica). Both subspecies are considered more docile than other species of the European honey bee.

How to identify European honey bees

Honey bees, Apis mellifera, are one of the most recognizable species of bees and are found in every province of Canada. Like most bee species, honey bees normally cannot withstand extremely cold temperatures. The social insects live in a structured caste system with a dominant queen, female workers, and male drones. Nesting in hives made up of wax cells, the insects are important pollinators and producers of honey. Though not an overly aggressive animal, the honey bee will sting to defend the hive. Honey bees are known for performing specialized dances that communicate the presence of nearby flowers and help the rest of the hive locate the food source.

Signs of an infestation

Finding an active nest is the most common sign of a honey bee infestation. Other possible signs of infestation include the sighting of a swarm of bees, the audible sound of bees buzzing, and experiencing multiple stings. Honey bees may nest in wall voids, allowing for a gradual build-up of audible buzzing sounds. If the nest remains out of sight, witnessing bees coming and going to the same area over time may nonetheless signal the presence of a large infestation.

European honey bees Removal

The only real way to prevent the continuation of a honey bee infestation is to remove the nest entirely. Full removal may involve the demolition and rebuilding of walls, depending on the location of the nest. To keep repeat infestations from occurring, fill in voids with expanding insulation. Trapping the bees may become necessary but usually requires multiple months of surveillance. Contacting a pest control specialist typically offers the best course of action, as professionals possess the knowledge, training, and experience to handle large honey bee infestations and safely remove these important pollinators.

How to prevent honey bees from invading

Avoiding bees can prevent problems from occurring in the first place. Unlike wasps, most bee species, are not naturally aggressive and become hostile only when provoked or nesting areas become disturbed. For specific species of bees, different preventative tips may also help. With leaf cutter bees, protecting plants with cheesecloth or some other sort of barrier may shield the vegetation from damage. Along the same lines, painting or staining and weather-treating wood structures often dissuades carpenter bees from attempting to nest, as the insects tend to only attack weathered and untreated wood. While bees typically display nonaggressive behaviour, large infestations may still lead to attacks and stings on humans and pets alike. For the proper removal and prevention of bee infestations, contacting a trained pest control specialist is typically the most serviceable solution.

Habitat, Diet, and Life Cycle

Habitat

Honey bees live in nests called hives. With a need for an abundant supply of flowering plants, the pollinating insects regularly inhabit meadows, open woods, and gardens, though any area with sufficient food, water, and shelter may also accommodate honey bees. Honey bees tend to nest in hollow cavities, such as trees, rock crevices, and even near human habitations in wall voids and under slab foundations. A honey bee hive is typically made up of hexagonal wax cells, where worker bees produce honey from the collected pollen.

Diet

Herbivores by nature, honey bees feed only on the pollen and nectar they collect from blooming flowers. Honey bees use long, tubular tongues called probosces to gather the nectar and pollen, take the food back to the colony for the other members, and turn the rest into honey. In the hive, some bees may feed on stored honey, while immature bee larvae consume secretions called “royal jelly” or “worker jelly.” The amount and type of jelly determines whether the larvae will become workers or future queens.

Life Cycle / Reproduction

Unlike the colonies of other bee species, a honey bee nest is truly perennial and typically remains in use for more than a year. Overwintering bees survive by clustering together, with queens laying eggs late in the season in order to prepare for the spring. Queens are known to live up to three years and often leave with as many as half the workers to go build new hives, while leaving a new queen in charge of the original nest.

Worker bees are sterile females which represent the largest caste in the nest and take charge of foraging, feeding, building, repairing, and protecting the hive. Workers may live from a few weeks to a few months at most. Male bees, or drones, typically only survive long enough to mate with queens. Like other insects, developing honey bees go through the life cycle stages of egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The entire life cycle usually takes around 21 days to complete.

Commonly Asked Questions

Why do I have European honey bees?

The European honey bee nests in hollow trees and similar types of cavities. At times, these insects construct nests near human habitations, such as alcoves, under beams, and in wall voids.

How worried should I be about European honey bees?

Because these insects use stinging as a defence mechanism, humans and domesticated animals alike could be at risk when nests are established close to manmade structures. Generally harmless in most cases, the venom from a European honey bee sting may prove fatal to people with serious bee allergies. Removal of the nest remains imperative and may require the services of a pest control professional.

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