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Honey bees are some of the most fascinating and effective insects that the majority of people are likely to encounter in their daily lives. They pollinate our flowers and plants, and provide honey to the breakfast table. Unfortunately, bees are being threatened by diseases like Colony Collapse Disorder -- a mysterious die-off that has been in the news lately.

When they move into unwanted spaces, it's necessary to safely eliminate them intact whenever possible. Let's take a look at the life span of a honey bee colony, and what to do should you encounter honey bees that need to be removed.

Honey bee hives

A bee hive is organized around the life span of the queen bee who is the parent of every bee in the colony. All of the bees in a hive are female, except for drones. Their job is simple -- partner with the queen to ensure the survival of the hive. One bee hive can contain up to 100,000 bees.

Swarms

Contrary to the image portrayed by some Hollywood movies, bee swarming is not an aggressive activity. It's a natural response to population pressures and is how bees ensure their survival. When the time is right, about half of the bees in a colony will exit the hive, together with a new queen. Usually, they will alight as one mass on a branch of a nearby tree or other structure.

Should you encounter such a clump of bees, don't be fearful. If they haven't been there long, they're normally quite peaceful right now. The reason is that before leaving their parent hive, they've gorged themselves on honey. A full bee is a happy bee.

The best thing to do is slowly back away and call your pest control firm. They can either come themselves out to remove the swarm or put you in touch with a local beekeeper who will perform the removal. From time to time, free bee hive removals can be found.

Don't spray the bees or try to remove them yourself. This is only going to make them aggressive. Normally, a swarm is unaggressive because they have no honey or young to defend.

If they're clumped in a swarm, they are normally very easy to remove at this stage. The pest control professional or beekeeper can simply scoop them in a box to be removed. Some structures can present a problem, but swarm removal is normally a fairly easy process.

Established hives

It's when bee colonies move into unwanted structures, particularly homes, the situation can become more tricky. Bees prefer wooden structures that are sheltered from the elements, making houses a common destination. They tend to build under a home's eaves or inside the walls.

This sort of removal is not necessarily a free bee hive removal, because boards might have to be pried loose and substituted, and specialized equipment may be required. However, the result is generally good if the bees can be accessed.

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