Got A Bee Problem?
If there is anything we tend to exaggerate or overemphasize it's probably that of having a bee problem. To some, a swarm of honeybees in an unwanted place is a problem, to others, a single honeybee buzzing around the flowers in your garden constitutes a bee problem. The real problem is of course our fear of getting stung.
Bee stings are a little like watching the news on television, where the emphasis is often on the bad stuff, and not the good things that are happening. Good things often have trouble making the news, and feel-good stores don't sell newspapers. Given the number of bees out there, and the number of people, bee stings are almost a rarity.
If you are allergic to bee venom that's one thing of course. A single bee can be a threat. More than likely however, unless we're talking about African killer bees, most of the problems we run into and call bee stings, are actually wasp stings, and most of those are from yellow jackets, which resemble bees.
Most Bees Don't Sting - Most of the several thousand species of bees that are around we usually barely notice, either because of their small size, or because they sometimes just don't look like honeybees. Very few bee species sting humans, and those who do often do either out of self defense or when defending their hive. A honeybee foraging in the flower garden is much more interested in pollen than in you, and would much prefer to deliver the goods to the hive than to leave a stinger in you before flying off to die. If bothered, honeybees will sting, as will bumblebees, yet you rarely hear of anyone being stung by a bumblebee.
In fact, unless you step on one with bare feet, or accidentally pinch one when picking a flower, bees will rarely sting when away from their nest. It's when you get too close to a nest that you may have a bee problem. The same applies to wasps and hornets. When they are away from their nest, they have nothing to defend, and would just as soon you mind your own business and not theirs.
Swarms – More Scary Than Dangerous - Occasionally you may have the opportunity to witness a swarm of bees, which can be scary if it's too close. A swarm is looking for a place to make a home, and until that place is found, the bees are generally quite docile. If they have no home, they have nothing to defend, and will not be aggressive. That doesn't mean you can poke at the swarm with a stick. That could change the mechanics of the equation. Once they've settled in however the equation has indeed changed, and they will defend their new home, literally to the death. A swarm landing temporarily on a tree branch on your property is usually not a bee problem. They are looking for a cavity or protected area to settle in. If they settle someplace on or near your house, permanently, they you probably have a bee problem on your hands.
While we don't mind too much getting rid of wasps, especially yellow jackets, which are the most aggressive, we're usually reluctant to kill off honeybees unless they are of the killer bee variety. Honey bees for that matter, are protected by law. You can kill them if they've taken up residence in your house or in a building on your property that you need to have use of, but it's illegal to kill them when they are foraging in the flower garden, or to kill a swarm or hive that's out of harm's way.
Squatter's Rights - If you should find a colony of honeybees in your house, often inside a wall, it's best not to try to remove them yourself. Your home has become their home and they will defend what they think is theirs. Some pest control operators do live removals, or there may be a beekeeper in the area willing to adopt a colony, or at least attempt to. Sometimes however, the only real alternative is to kill the colony, even if you don't like the idea.
If you do have a bee problem of this nature, and the colony has been well established, whether the bees are killed or removed, any honeycomb left needs to be removed too. A few pounds of honeycomb left alone can eventually make a mess, and will attract other insects or small critters as well.
In summary, if you have a real bee problem, calling in a professional is usually the best, and sometimes least painful way to handle the situation.