The first thing you’ll need to figure out is – what kind of critter do you have? We have 321 native species and 5 introduced species of bees in Alberta including a dozen or so kinds of bumblebees. We are not wasp experts, but there are also many species of wasps and flies that look like bees (just to confuse things even more!). This guide can help you to identify the types of bees you might see.

Most likely, your flying guests fall into one of four categorizes:

Honey Bees

Honey bees have huge populations in their colonies. They are not very big and they are fuzzy. You will see a lot of activity if you have a honey bee colony on your property.

Although the Lethbridge Swarm Hotline is not able to look after the removal of established colonies, there are beekeepers who would be willing to do this work (usually for a fee, because there is often a lot of work involved). Please be advised that some wall removal and repair is usually needed to remove a bee colony from a building.

What happens if I don’t remove a colony living in the wall? Your wall will become full of honeycomb which can attract many undesirable creatures. Moreover, water vapor from respiring bees and nectar that is being turned into honey can build up and create mold and rot. Overall, it is just not a situation that you want! If possible, we do highly recommend that you have them removed.

Wasps, Hornets, and Yellow Jackets

Although there are many kinds of wasps, the ones that we normally confront live either in paper nests above ground, in home siding, or trees, or in the ground.

Wasps get a bad reputation because they can be quite aggressive, but they have their part in our ecosystem too. They aren’t being jerks on purpose to be mean, they are just out there trying survive like every other creature!

We are not wasp experts, so we have pulled this information from the City of Calgary website:

Removing Wasp Nests:

If you’re taking steps to remove a wasp nest, wear layers of protective clothing that cover the entire body. Even a small expose area could become a target for wasps. It’s also recommended that you wait until dusk or dark since wasps are more docile and slower to react at cooler temperatures.

Do not attempt to destroy a wasp nest by burning or flooding, as wasps will respond with aggression. Also, do not use gasoline to control ground-nesting. The City recommends the following procedures for removing wasp nests:

Ground nests can be destroyed by covering the entrances with a large, clear bowl. A second alternative is to pour soap and water solution into the nest entrance. The nest entrance can also be covered and packed with soil so that the wasps become entombed.

Concealed nests are often located in difficult-to-reach spots like walls, along foundations or in attics of houses, so contact a pest control company is recommended.

Exposed nests can be destroyed using wasp or hornet aerosol sprays that are applied to the nest entrance. Nests can also be placed in cloth or plastic bags and submerged in water, put in the freezer or expose to direct sunlight.

Wasps never re-use an old nest, so if a nest is found in winter or spring, you will not encounter live wasps and the nest can be safely removed.

Preventing Wasps:

Keep screens for doors and windows in good repair. Seal any potential entry points such as window cracks, door frames, and vents.

Place garbage into a bin or a can with a lid that is well fitting.

Destroy abandoned animal burrows (e.g. gopher holes) before wasps inhabit them. It is common for ground nesting wasps to use such structures as a nest location.

Cover and/or remove food wastes to reduce wasp encounters. Food sources left outdoors in the form of compost piles, animal food, and leftovers from picnics and barbecues are attractive to wasps in spring and early summer when they seek protein-based foods.

Keep food containers closed and pop/juice drinks covered. IN late summer and early fall when food supplies are dwindling, male and worker wasps scavenge for food and may act aggressively while in pursuit of sweet tasting food.

If you have fruit trees in your yard, remove all over-ripened or rotting fruit lying on the ground or attached to a branch.

Bumble Bees

“If it’s biggish, roundish, and fuzzy, it’s a bumblebee unless otherwise identified.” (Jan Scott, in Nature Alberta)

If you have bumblebees nesting somewhere, lucky you! They are very special bees, excellent pollinators and typically very docile (although they can sting). We have at least 20 species of bumblebees in Southern Alberta.

Bumblebees are a bit trickier to relocate than honey bees, and we don’t currently have any volunteers in our area to move them. The good news is that these bees do not overwinter as a colony (in other words, they won’t be living in your wall all winter). If you disrupt or rip apart a nest during the season, there is a good chance you will kill those bees (and hamper next year’s population since this year’s bees raise next year’s queens).

Your three options are:

Monitor them this year and learn where they might be getting in, any holes, etc. In the fall, they will all have died or, in the case of the new queens they raised, they will have found leaf mulch or small cavities to over winter. In mid to late fall, seal it all up! Use caulk, or pave the area, bury screen where the hole are, whatever you need to do. Next year when the queens emerge in the spring, they will nest elsewhere.

Try to relocate them yourself. Please note that bumblebees can sting and are more likely to do so if their nest is disturbed. If you decide to move a nest, it is done at your own risk. Here is some information on how to do this.

You can use a chemical killer (wasp spray will work) or just seal the holes. This will kill the colony and is strong not our preferences, but you know your own priorities and tolerance better than we do! You will still have to seal it up as described above it or else a new Queen will discover it next year.

** If you are a an experience Bumblebee Relocator, please get in touch with the Lethbridge Bee Enthusiasts so they can add you to their contact list for those who might need your expertise.

For more information on bumblebees:

Bumble Bees of Southern Alberta 

Building a Bumblebee Domicile 

Bumblebee Monitoring and Sightings

Solitary Bees

This category includes mason bees, digger bees, and leafcutter bees. They might be nesting in a pile of rocks/firewood, in the ground, or in a brickwork that has crumbling mortar. There might be a couple dozen nesting in the same area, but they are not a colony working together – they are each individually looking after themselves and raising babies for next year! They just happen to like having neighbors.

Usually these kinds of bees have short life cycles, between 2-6 weeks. Although they can sting, they won’t unless they are in immediate danger – just walking past them is usually not enough to elicit a response.

If at all possible, we strongly advise you to leave them alone. These kinds of bees are very, very important to the ecosystem and are not a threat to people. If you can allow them to have their pace for a few weeks, they will die off for a year once they have laid their brood (which will develop over the winter, and start the whole thing over again next year).