Do you even have bees?
When it comes to removals there are two states that a particular hive can be in. Each requires different methods for removal. These two states of a hive are commonly referred to as a swarm and an established hive.
A swarm is a homeless cluster of bees looking for a suitable cavity in which to make a new home. Swarms, although they appear intimidating, are actually very docile. Most of the time, if they are left alone, a swarm will leave within a few days. As long as the beekeeper can reach them (not up too high), swarms can easily be placed in a hive. This is because the bees are searching for a home; if a suitable one is provided for them, the are happy to take up residence in it. It is always best to call a beekeeper to come and collect a swarm, since the new home that they might find could be inside your neighbors house. Never spray a swarm; it will not kill all (or even most) of the bees. Spraying a swarm can cause severe problems.
Here are a few photos of a typical swarm in a tree:
An established hive is one that has taken up residence in a structure. If you see bees coming and going from a hole in a structure (or tree), it is an established hive, and not a swarm. Once the bees have entered a structure the only way to get them out is by one of the methods detailed on the Bee Removal Information page. During hot weather, an established hive will often do what is called "bearding" by beekeepers. This is where bees will hang in a cluster resembling a swarm outside the entrance of the hive. The difference between a swarm and an established hive that is bearding is that the established hive will still have bees coming and going in and out of the structure, and bees can often be seen and heard fanning, which keeps the hive cool. In simple terms: if you see bees entering a structure, it is an established hive regardless of how many or few bees are outside the hive. Most often when a swarm takes up residence in a structure, it goes unnoticed for the first year (or longer). This is because a new hive is very inconspicuous. It will only have a few bees coming and going every minute and is very easy to overlook, especially considering that bees build no external structure to their hive (as yellowjackets do). As can be seen by the pictures below, hives commonly grow to be quite large (and can hold anywhere from 50-100lbs of honey). This is why standard household insecticides are ineffective against an established hive. This is also why having a pest control company simply kill the bees does not completely solve problem. After a hive is killed there are no longer bees to keep it cool. This causes the wax comb to weaken and fail, letting the honey run out. This will seep through and stain the surrounding area, and attract all types of vermin (here are photos). In addition, if the hive cavity is not properly sealed, it will attract future swarms, creating the same problem over again. If a hive absolutely has to be sprayed, make sure arrangements are made for the immediate and complete removal of the hive and the "bee-proof" sealing of the cavity as well.
Here are a few photos of what typical established hives looked like on the outside:
And what they looked like on the inside:
Other Insects often mistaken for bees:
Southern yellowjacket (Vespula
squamosa): These are the insects most commonly and most easily
mistaken for honeybees. These are not what most people refer to as
yellowjackets (found on the eaves of most houses), which are in fact paper
wasps. True yellowjackets make a large paper nest approximately the size
of a watermelon, which contains up to a few hundred wasps. This nest can
be in a structure or freestanding. It is very difficult to tell the
difference between a yellowjacket and a honeybee while they are in flight.
They are the same size and have similar coloration. A yellow jacket nest
will often have a "flight line" (members coming and going back and forth) the
same as a beehive. One main difference is that yellowjackets are able to
sting repeatedly and leave no stinger behind. When honeybees sting, they
leave behind a stinger which continues to pump venom.
Pictures of the Southern yellowjacket (Vespula squamosa)
Pictures of Paper Wasps (Polistes sp.)