Pest Advice Blog

Honey Bees: Pest or Necessity?

Honey Bee
It is no secret that bees play a vital role in our ecosystem and that their contribution to our way of life is invaluable. Over 400 different types of agricultural plants, as well as nearly one sixth of the flowering plant species found all over the world can be attributed to the hard working pollination efforts of bees.

With over 25,000 species of bees worldwide approximately 4,000 of them call the United States home. One of the most well-known species of bees is the Honey Bee, famous for its production of several important items such as pollen, beeswax, royal jelly, and perhaps the most economically important one, honey. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agriculture Statistics Service, honey bees made 149 million pounds of honey in 2013. With the cost of honey at a record high at about $2.12 per pound, that’s a value of over $315 million. In addition to honey, beeswax is the second most popular by-product of the honey bee with the United States claiming one of the top spots as a major producer of raw beeswax, as well as a global supplier of refined beeswax.

Although the value of the hive products is important, from a consumer perspective, as well as economically, the biggest contribution from honey bees is their ability to pollinate trees, flowers, fruits and crops. In fact, the USDA estimates that the agricultural benefit of honey bees is estimated to be between 10 and 20 times the total value of honey and beeswax with bee pollination accounting for about $15 billion in added crop value.

At Truly Nolen, West Metro, we understand the value and impact that these insects have on the environment and ecological makeup of our world. When bees or beehives are in close proximity to highly populated areas however, we also understand the health and safety concerns that potential bee stings can have, which lends itself to the question, are bees a necessary pest?

The Importance of Bees for Bee-utiful Landscapes

To appreciate just how important bees are when it comes to vegetation and landscape, Truly Nolen West Metro takes a closer look at how these pollinators strongly impact the stability and variation in the plant world.

So what exactly is pollination?

The transfer of pollen from the anther (male part of the flower) to the stigma (female part of the flower) is called pollination. While some plants are self-pollinating (transfer of pollen from the anther to the stigma of the same flower), most other plants require an external factor for the transfer of pollen from one flower or plant to the other. This is where the amazing abilities of bees come in. Their biological makeup (stiff hair on their outer bodies as well as small ‘pockets’ on their legs) give them the ability to collect pollen and easily transfer it between plants.

This is especially important for various ecosystems and landscapes as the pollination of these enables the survival of all manner of vegetation including:

  • Temperate , deciduous forests
  • Tropical forests
  • Woodlands
  • Farmed areas with cultivated crops.
  • Flowering plants, shrubs and trees
  • Trees and plants that bear nuts, seeds and fruits.

Common species found in Atlanta

Carpenter Bees
Carpenter Bee
Carpenter bees (more specifically, Eastern Carpenter Bees) are one of the most commonly seen bees in Atlanta. Similar in appearance to Bumble Bees, homeowners will often see these bees hovering near to the home, decking, underneath roofs and any other structure primarily made of wood. Carpenter bees derive their name (as do Carpenter Ants!) because of their wood excavating abilities. Large, with black and yellow coloring, these bees have powerful jaws that are used to tunnel their way into wooden structures in order to store their pollen, build nests and lay their eggs, in the case of female carpenter bees. Although male carpenter ants are more aggressive, they do not have a stinger, unlike the female who is equipped with one, but will seldom sting.

Honey Bees
Honey bees are generally mild mannered, social insects. Measuring about ¾” long, most honey bees are a light brown color, though some can be very dark. Almost all honeybees however, have distinguishable yellow and brown bands around their body that are meant to warn predators. The most significant role that honeybees play is that of producing and storing honey and they will often build large nests to accomplish this. Though honey bees do not generally sting unless provoked, Truly Nolen recommends that residents in Atlanta exhibit caution if there is a hive in close proximity to your home and seek professional pest control right away.

Africanized Honey Bees
Africanized honey bees have existed in Georgia for several years now. A hybrid of an African and European honeybee, Africanized honey bees are very aggressive and defensive of their territory. They are known to actively pursue a perceived threat without provocation and will attack swiftly, often in numbers. Since they are very similar in appearance to European honey bees, it is best to avoid being in close contact since the sting from an Africanized honey bee can be potentially dangerous.

Pros and cons of bees in Atlanta

With approximately 2,000 honey beekeepers in Atlanta, the statistic is enough to incite opposing viewpoints on the advantages and disadvantages of having that many beekeepers and how this affects homeowners in nearby areas.

The purpose of establishing oneself as an Atlanta beekeeper, whether on a small scale or large, is to support Apiculture (beekeeping) and reap the rewards of being able to contribute to 80 million dollar industry in Georgia. With over $700 million in fruit and vegetable agriculture in the state, bees are responsible for their pollination skills that make these crops possible.

Both the Georgia General Assembly and the Georgia Department of Agriculture provide guidelines for beekeepers to practice safe beekeeping including:

  • Promoting a positive image of beekeeping
  • Providing adequate water sources for bees so that they are not likely to seek water elsewhere
  • Placement of hives in areas that will lessen the likelihood of a neighbor getting stung.
  • Responding in a timely manner to neighbor’s concerns
  • Maintaining only the number of hives that your land can support.

The Georgia General Assembly recognizes the importance of honey bees – even in the urban and suburban environment – and has adopted several statutes to protect beekeepers.  These statutes are:

  • O.C.G.A. §1-3-3, apiary products are included in the definition of “agriculture”,
  • O.C.G.A. §2-1-6, relates to local ordinances and production of agricultural farm products,
  • O.C.G.A. §2-14-41.1, local governments cannot prohibit beekeeping, and
  • O.C.G.A. §41-1-7, commonly called the Georgia “Right To Farm Law”.

One of the biggest benefits of Georgia beekeepers is that they provide a wealth of knowledge and resources that can aid in being able to monitor and detect changes in bee activity. This is especially helpful if there are any significant problems with bee infestations or instances where bees are out of control.

Although many beekeepers reside in suburban areas, many homeowners also feel that engaging in beekeeping on a personal scale, can contribute to increased bee activity that may extend a little too close for comfort.

In these cases, homeowners can protect their homes by :

  • Removing outdoor clutter to avoid giving bees a place to lay their eggs
  • Reduce water sources to discourage bees from coming nearby
  • Repair window and door screens to prevent bees from entering the home
  • Caulk cracks in windows, doors, roofs and foundations

To ensure that you and your family are always safe, Truly Nolen West Metro recommends scheduling an inspection to determine if there are any potential bee hives or nests nearby that will need to be professionally removed. Contact us today at (404) 939-7277 to learn more about our bee removal services and how we can help keep your home safe and free from bees.

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