Bees in the Compost Bin Bees in the Compost Bin

There is little to stop the shock you may have when you check your compost bin and find that bees have made it their home. While some bees are helpful to your gardening there are others that you simply do not want to be there.

Benefits of Keeping Bees

We are not talking about you keeping cases of bees in your backyard or even little bee kennels, but when bees move in to your compost bin you may not want to hastily dispatch them. If you're growing flowers, vegetables or other plant life, or you have a tiny insect problem, then bees may be just what you need. Many bees are good pollinators, can aid your garden's growth and eat smaller insects that may otherwise harm your plants.

There are many resources that can help you identify the bees you're up against but what follows is a simple guide to the good bees:

  • Honey Bees: Averaging 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch, they are yellow with black stripes on the stinger and are found in groups of 20 to 30, But have hives with up to 60,000 bees.
  • Bumble Bees: They nest low to the ground, are plump, are yellow and black with the majority of black on the head. They are pollinators and seasonal--dying in the colder months only leaving the queen. They swarm in groups from 10 to 100.
  • Carpenter Bees: Often confused with bumble bees, the carpenter bee is shinier with less hair. Males are all black and cannot sting. Females look like bumble bees. They are also solitary in nature and average an inch in size.

Moving the Bee Hive

  • Do not attempt to move an established hive.
  • Call a professional who will have the required safety equipment to move the bees safely to a new home.

Preventing Bees from Moving In

If you don't want bees around your compost bin then use the following tips to limit them to "just visiting":

  • Bees can fit in spaces as small as 3/16-inch so cover and/or fill all holes and cracks in trees and garden accents that are 1/8-inch round or larger.
  • Dispose of garbage such as car parts, overturned pots, appliances, and tires.
  • Check for animal burrows and fill or cover them.
  • Add several ounces of pine-scented cleanser to water treatments.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of vinegar per gallon of water to birdbaths and wells.
  • Drain small pools when not in use.
  • Check for and seal leaks in hoses and pump tubing.

TIP: Karen Thurber, our gardening expert, states that you should confirm what kind of insect has taken over your compost bin: "Although bees can take up residency in your compost bin, it is more likely that you have yellow jackets. Yellow jackets are wasps and can be very aggressive if disturbed. Before taking any action, get a positive ID of the insect you are dealing with."

Waiting them Out

If you don't want to move or harm them then you can wait them out. Bees are very particular to weather conditions and the slightest temperature change can cause them to hibernate or die. If you have a nest in your compost bin you can wait for cool weather to move them out.

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