Dealing with a bee infestation can be tricky and even dangerous at times. However, unlike the popular honey bee or the often feared killer bee, the bee that is actually the most common on almost every continent (except Australia) is the sweat bee. Named because they are often attracted to the salt in human sweat, sweaty bees are not as aggressive or dangerous as other stinging bees and are relatively easy to kill.
Sweaty bees are small insects in the family Halictidae, which are 3 to 10 mm in size. Despite being very common, it is often overlooked or misidentified because they do not have the yellow color associated with bees. While some sweaty bees may be yellowish, many are black or metallic green. Due to the different colors and the fact that they are more likely to get close and personal, especially when you sweat outside, many people mistake them for common flies or other insects.
Although not as prevalent as the honey bee, entomologists have identified that sweat bees play a role in plant pollination. As such, your first instinct should be to seek the services of a local beekeeper. In this way, bees can be relocated, thus solving their problem without killing them and negatively impacting the ecosystem. However, if extermination is your only option or preferred method, follow these additional instructions.
Once you’ve confirmed that you really do have a sweaty bee problem, you need to locate your nesting sites. Unlike other bees, sweat bees do not have a common hive and they have to build multiple smaller nests close to each other that may or may not affect. Sweaty honeybee nests are often found underground, in tree or wood cavities, or in bush roots.
Again, this variety of bees is not aggressive and will only sting if hit or provoked directly. Therefore, you should have enough time and peace to observe these pests’ habits and follow them back to their homes.
The best time to kill the maximum number of bees is at night when they are all gathered in their nests to sleep.
Because your children are so young and often covered, you should use small garden markers, such as flags or sticks, to indicate where each nest gate is located in your yard while there is still little light. This will make things much faster when you move around in the dark afternoon hours.
Now that you know where to attack and decide your method. Popular commercial insecticides include carbaryl, sold as a powder.
Carbaryl is highly effective, but it is also toxic to humans and has been shown to cause cancer. Branded poisons are very low in human toxicity but are lethal to aquatic and amphibian life. This is something to consider if your yard has ponds or fish. Crustaceans are especially vulnerable to this pesticide.
WARNING: Other sources may suggest using a third insecticide, diazinon, but be aware that this information is likely outdated. Some poison has been illegal for residential use in the United States since 2004 and can only be purchased with agricultural fines. This means that it is still on the market. If someone sells it to you and uses it in your home, you’re still the one who breaks the law.
Although softer than other bees, these insects are still bees and have stingers. This extermination method requires you to approach their nests and apply a physical insecticide that can shake enough to swarm.
Wear long pants inside your socks, long-sleeved shirts, and eye protection. Cover as much of the exposed skin as possible to reduce the chances of being bitten.
Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for residential use, and mix your insecticide in the proper amount and transfer it to a suitable delivery container.
Approach the nest entrances and spray or spray the area generously. If you are using good poison and have chosen to dilute it in a mostly water solution, you may need to make multiple applications over several days to see the results.
Ideally, your application will cause sweaty bees leaving the nest to collect nectar or pollen to track the venom back to the nest when they return, killing the entire colony.
Over the next week, keep track of whether the number of sweaty bees you see drops. If you observe continued sweat bee activity, you should wait for nightfall and repeat your application process. Depending on what insecticide you are using and how large your infestation is, you may need to reapply the poison three to five times.
If you feel confident that the sweaty bees in question were one-time invasive, you’re done. However, if you are concerned about more sweaty bees coming back in the future, add large amounts of compost or peat in areas where nesting sites are ever found.
Additionally, planting a ground cover like ivy will also make the area less desirable for sweaty bees looking for a nesting spot.
The people most frequently affected by sweaty bees are outdoor workers, such as gardeners, construction workers, and road workers, due to their exposed, breathable skin. These are insects attracted to sweat.
Because their job sites often run from day to day and these workers are unlikely to have time or the ability to stalk at night in search of nests, the options for true relief here are limited.
However, assuming that we are working in an area away from aquatic life and that your employer and co-workers are not available, it may be helpful to spray a diluted water solution in the area. Just be aware that while some poison has very low toxicity, it is dangerous if swallowed or inhaled directly. If you want to try this solution, be sure to spray the ground or objects around your job site. Do not apply it topically to the skin or in a way that promotes inhalation of the chemical.