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Keep Bees Away From Your Porch with These Chemical-Free, DIY Repellents

Those little stingers are welcome to stay in the garden, though!

<p>Johnrob/Getty Images</p>

Johnrob/Getty Images

Although bees can be helpful for gardens, if they nest and reproduce too close to your house, they can definitely pose a problem as the humans and pets in your home are at risk of getting stung. Stings can even be fatal to those who are allergic to them, so understanding bees can help you keep your family and pets safe from them. We asked experts to explain how they work and what the best methods are for keeping bees away for good.

Related: Wasp Control Methods: How To Get Rid of Wasps



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Understanding Bees

There are different types of bees, and identifying them in your yard will help you combat them. Ground bees nest in the ground and are some of the least harmful bees. Male ground bees do not have stingers. Females lay eggs and then die, so they have a short lifespan. To prevent ground bees, water your yard regularly, because they like dry conditions.

European honey bees are some of the most common bees in the U.S. and usually are only a nuisance if they nest in or by your home. Africanized honey bees (AHB), which are found throughout the Southern U.S., are the most aggressive and congregate in the biggest swarms. If they nest near your home, they may defensively attack in large numbers.



“For the majority, a bee sting is a temporary pain followed by slight swelling and discomfort,” says John Target, owner and founder of Target Pest Control. “However, for a small percentage of the population, bee stings can trigger allergic reactions that range from mild to potentially life-threatening anaphylaxis. Another risk is the structural damage bees can cause if they decide to make your home theirs. Certain species, like carpenter bees, can burrow into wood, compromising the structural integrity of your property.”



Bee Behavior

“Bees are drawn to areas that fulfill their needs for nectar, pollen, water, and shelter,” Target says. “Gardens blooming with a variety of flowers, especially those that are bright and rich in nectar, are like bee magnets. Poorly managed waste, like open soda cans, sweet foodstuffs, and overripe fruit, can also attract bees.”

Bees are attracted to flowers because they feed on nectar, which is sweet. Bright flowers are particularly enticing for bees as they are a plentiful nectar source. Bees are also attracted to sugar, so they often fly around areas with food, such as picnics and trash cans.

In addition to seeking sweet substances, bees are also drawn to water, especially in hot and dry conditions. Birdbaths, ponds, and pet water bowls can be congregating places for bees. Bees also seek shelter and can burrow in areas of homes. “Unprotected structures that offer ideal nesting sites—like hollow trees, wall cavities, or abandoned burrows—are attractive to bees looking for a new home,” Target says.



Bees are drawn to sweet-smelling flowers since they feed on nectar. They’re also attracted to fruit smells as another food source, ripening fruits. Bees are also enticed by sweet scents like vanilla, sugary drinks, citrus, and floral perfumes. Bright colors draw bees, especially blues, yellows, and violet hues. These colors are commonly found in flowers that bees feed on, so they instinctively associate them with food.



Natural Bee Repellents

“By making your home less attractive to bees, you are less likely to have them move in,” says Bob Gilbert, a board-certified entomologist at Blue Sky Pest Control. Here are natural solutions you can try to repel bees.

Vinegar

To repel bees, use pungent scents and neutral colors. Vinegar repels bees and is easy to spray around outdoor areas of your home that are close to bees. Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle to make a vinegar repellent. Spritz the solution around areas you want to ward off bees, such as around doorways and outdoor areas of your home where bees gather. Reapply the solution any time after it rains.

Plants and Herbs

Certain plants also repel bees with their scents. Bees are adverse to plants with bitter scents, including the following:

  • Basil has a strong herbal smell that repels bees. Plant basil in a pot or soil in sunny areas. A basil plant in the kitchen is an excellent way to stave off bees while getting fresh herbs for cooking.

  • Lemongrass has a citrus scent that deters bees. It grows well in warm climates with full sun. Plant lemongrass along walkways or near doorways to repel bees.

  • Peppermint’s minty scent deters bees. It grows quickly and can thrive in containers or moist, well-draining outdoor soil. To keep bees away, plant peppermint in an herb garden or along outdoor patios or decks.

  • Citronella plants have a lemony scent that repels bees. Plant citronella in containers or well-draining soil near doorways, patios, or decks to ward off bees.

  • Marigolds contain pyrethrum, a natural insecticide that deters bees and other insects. They are low-maintenance plants that can be planted in containers or flower beds next to outdoor walkways or patios. 

Related: 16 Plants That Repel Bugs and Mosquitoes Naturally

Cloves

Bees also hate the scent of cloves, making it an excellent natural deterrent. You can make a clove repellent using lemons and cloves. Slice a lemon in half and insert whole cloves into the lemon flesh. Place the lemon in areas where bees congregate. You can also sprinkle whole cloves in outdoor areas to deter bees.

Physical Barriers

You can ward off bees and prevent them from nesting in your home by creating physical barriers. Ensure all holes and entryways of your home are sealed so bees cannot enter, use screens on all windows and doors, and secure all trash in sealed, lidded bins.

“Seal up any holes in the stucco that lead to void areas,” Gilbert says. "Check for damage under eaves and elsewhere around the home and get it repaired. Search from ground to roof and fix all entry points large enough for a bee to enter. These damaged areas are prime locations for bees to move in and create a hive.”

Professional Bee Control Options

Sometimes, preventative and natural methods are not enough to deter bees. If you have a bee’s nest in your home or a family member who is allergic to bees, consult a professional for removal help. If you suspect you have Africanized honey bees or carpenter bees nesting in or around your home, call the professionals.

“If you notice an unusually large number of bees in or around your property, it could indicate a hive nearby,” says Target. “Any sign of structural damage, such as holes in woodwork accompanied by bees, suggests a carpenter bee infestation. If you find a hive on your property, it’s crucial not to disturb it and call a pest control expert immediately. A professional can assess whether the bees can be relocated and handle the removal safely, ensuring the safety of both the bees and your family.”

Contact your local cooperative extension service to learn more about the bees in your area and get referrals for professional removal.

Related: How to Turn Your Garden Into a Wildlife Habitat (It's Easier Than You Think)

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