The fire department can help in many situations, but they have gained the reputation for being the go-to people to handle a bee problem outside of a very expensive pest control company. The fire department may be able to “help” for free, but it is not without its own risks and costs.
The fire department’s method, and a commonly used one by homeowners, is to spray bees with water, or if they are feeling bold: soapy water. Water kills bees by drowning them BUT unless they are immediately soaked it is hard to kill them by drowning alone. Even the soap preventing them from breathing requires getting the soap to clog the breathing holes, spiracles, on the abdomen of the bee. Do that 20,000 more times and you might be able to kill the hive. Do not do that immediately and you may hurt somebody.
Spraying bees with water is very ineffective simply because it is hard to soak the whole nest immediately, and that is not counting any water damage or the fact the hive is left in the wall. It is a growing trend that many fire departments will not handle bee calls, even if they are harassing homeowners, due to the damage they can cause with water. Often time dry wall and insulation need to be replaced and the soaked area needs to be dried quickly to prevent mold growth.
We have dealt with the aftermath of the fire department’s’ actions on multiple occasions, and once we even had to move the body of a dead dog out of the way before we could even work with bees. Not too long ago a fire department tried to deal with some bees incorrectly that resulted in several people, including one fire fighter, being rushed to the hospital.
Sometimes bees are too dangerous to handle and making the decision to destroy a hive can prevent people from getting hurt despite the importance of pollinators for our environment. Pest control professionals are also a great option for dealing with feral, potent ally dangerous bees. While not a perfect option on its own, using pesticides directly meant to kill the bees will ensure that the colony will die quickly and will not have the opportunity to attack others nearby.
However, the downside is that the honey, comb, and soon to be decaying bees are left in the wall that have to be removed regardless or either honeybees will move back into the area, or other pests will. There is also the risk of honey and melted comb causing damage to the wood structure of the house and any other material such as dry wall.
Hiring a beekeeper may not be as cheap as a free call to the fire department but they are generally not as expensive as pest control companies. Of the four options one has available, the beekeeper probably will be the most effective option for most property owners.
As beekeepers we feel that our most important service to the public is to provide education on honeybees and promote safety. Conservation is always the ideal, but we also value having a safe community!