Aussie Bee > Advice about Bees in Houses

The first step is to work out what kind of bees you have!

Australia has 1,700 species of native bees.

However, the most common type of bee found in houses is the introduced European Commercial Honeybee.

Honey Bees
Size of bees About
12 to 15 mm
4 mm Usually 8 to 12 mm
Colour of bees Yellow brown to dark brown to black Black Various See below
Able to sting Y   Y
Hund­reds of bees cling to one another in a dense swarm hanging down from a branch Y    
Builds exposed nest of white wax combs Y    
Builds nest inside a wall cavity or tree hollow Y Y  
Digs many individual nest burrows in the ground     Y
Dozens of bees fly in and out of a single entrance hole Y Y  
Just one or a few bees live in each nest burrow     Y
More info & photos Euro­pean Honey Bees Social Native Bees Solitary Native Bees

What to do if you have:

-- a swarm or nest of Commercial European Honeybees
-- a nest of social native Stingless Bees
-- some solitary native bee nests

European Commercial Honeybees

Swarms of the introduced Commercial European Honeybee (Apis mellifera) sometimes escape from the white hive boxes used by beekeepers. These bees may fly off and build feral nests in the bushland or in urban areas.

yellow commercial honey bee

The introduced Honeybee, Apis mellifera, is about 12 mm long and may be yellow-brown (such as the one below), or dark brown to black in colour (such as the one above), depending on the variety of the bee and its age.

dark commercial honey bee

Above: introduced European Honeybees have broad plates on their hind legs (arrow) for carrying balls of pollen. These structures are called Pollen Baskets.

commercial honey bee hairy eye

Above: introduced European Honey Bees also have hairy eyes but you will need a good hand lens to see this feature.

Commercial Honeybee swarm

Above: you may find a swarm of European Honeybees clinging together in a large ball underneath a tree branch or other support. Photo: Sarah Swenty, USFWS.

Some swarms of Commercial European Honey Bees build feral nests in exposed locations such as under a branch or the eaves of a house.

Feral nest of European honey bees

Above left: this swarm of European Honeybees built an exposed feral nest under a tree branch. Above right: the large wax combs making up this nest can be seen after the bees were removed. Photographs kindly contributed by David Ritchie of Bellevue Hill.

Other swarms of European Commercial Honeybees build nests in enclosed cavities, such as inside a wall, a chimney, a compost bin or a tree hollow. In this case you will see dozens of Honeybees flying in and out of a single entrance hole leading to the cavity.

What To Do If You Have a Swarm or Nest of Feral European Honeybees

Feral European Honey Bees compete with native bees and native birds for food and nest sites.

Feral Honeybees may also carry bee diseases that could threaten Australia's managed Honeybee hives kept for crop pollination and honey production.

We recommend that you call a pest controller to have the nest removed. Look up the Yellow Pages telephone directory under 'Bee & Wasp Removals'.

Don't forget that Honeybees can sting. It is best to stay away from them and seek professional assistance.

Social Native Bees

Australia also has some native species of social bees (Tetragonula - previously called Trigona -- and Austroplebeia). However, our Australian social native bees are black and only 4 mm long. These are our social native Stingless Bees.

Stingless native bee and commercial honey bee

Above: the social native Stingless Bee (red arrow) is much smaller than the Commercial Honeybee (on the right).

stingless native bee

Above: a Tetragonula carbonaria social native Stingless Bee. More Stingless Bee photos.

Our social native Stingless Bees are found in warm areas in Queensland, the Northern Territory, northern parts of Western Australia, and in northern and eastern parts of New South Wales.

They sometimes build nests inside house walls or in cavities under footpaths.

native bee nest entrance

Above: two Stingless Bees peek out of their elaborate resinous entrance tunnel in North Queensland. Their nest is inside the wall cavity of the house.

What To Do If You Have a Nest of Social Native Stingless Bees

These bees are harmless and many home owners enjoy these miniature house guests. They make a great conversation piece and a safe natural history lesson for the children.

Nests of these bees can be boxed. Our ebook, Boxing and Splitting Hives, presents a complete do-it-yourself guide.

The Stingless Bees can sometimes also be coaxed to build a new nest in a box mounted in front of their nest entrance. Read our free Aussie Bee Online article: Natural Hive Duplication.

Solitary Native Bees

There are hundreds of species of solitary native bees in Australia in a wide range of colours and sizes. Many nest in burrows in the ground. Others nest in pre-existing crevices or holes in timber.

In solitary native bee species, the adult bees generally only fly during the warm months and die before the winter. Immature bees remain sealed in their cells inside the nests during the winter. They develop into adults and emerge when the warm weather returns.

Common types of solitary native bees seen around houses include:

Blue Banded Bees
These beautiful native bees have red brown fur on their thorax and a black abdomen with blue to whitish stripes. They are about 11 mm long.

bluebanded bee

More Blue Banded Bee photos.

Blue Banded Bees nest in shallow burrows in the soil underneath houses, or in mudbricks or soft mortar.

More information on Blue Banded Bees nesting in mudbricks or mortar.

natural nests of bluebanded bees

Above: three Blue Banded Bees search for their nest entances in this bank of clay soil underneath a house. There are many Blue Banded Bee nest burrows in this bank, some freshly dug but most disused.

Teddy Bear Bees
These fat native bees are covered with golden brown fur except for one or two dark stripes across their abdomen. They are about 12 mm long.

native teddy bear bee

More Teddy Bear Bee photos.

Teddy Bear Bees may nest in shallow burrows in clay soils underneath houses.

native teddy bear bees

Above: a row of Teddy Bear Bee nest entrances in the soil, along the edge of an old roll of lino lying under a house.

Although Teddy Bear Bees fly with a loud buzz and may fly around you as if they are curious, they are not aggressive and just want to get on with their nest building. They can sting but in our experience only do this if you grab one or step on it.

Burrowing Bees
Some other varieties of solitary native bees may build nests in deeper burrows in the ground in urban areas. Loose earth excavated from the burrow may surround the entrance hole in a small mound.

Each nest burrow may be occupied by just one bee or in other species, a number of bees may share a burrow. Sometimes quite a few nest burrows may be found close together in the one area.

Examples include: Leioproctus, Homalictus, Lasioglossum.

lasioglossum native bee nesting in the ground

Above: a Lasioglossum bee exits from her nest burrow.

A Leioproctus native bee nest

Above: a Leioproctus bee heads down her nest burrow carrying bright yellow pollen on her hind legs

Resin Bees and Leafcutters
Other varieties of Australian native bees may build their nests inside pre-existing crevices or narrow cavities. Resin Bees and Leafcutters are examples of bees that may do this.

Resin Bees build tiny resinous cells for their eggs inside the cavity then seal the entrance with a resin plug.

Leafcutter Bees cut regular circular or oval shaped pieces of leaf and use them to build tiny cradles for their eggs inside the cavity.

Leaf Cutter Bee nest

Above: a Leafcutter Bee putting the final leafy layers on her nest seal in a narrow hole in a mudbrick building. More Leafcutter Bee photos.

What To Do If You Have Some Solitary Native Bee Nests

Urban development has destroyed countless solitary native bee nests. Our Australian native bees are a precious resource for the future pollination of our bushland and crops.

Adult solitary bees generally only fly for a few months in the warm weather and solitary bees can be great garden pollinators.

If at all possible, please protect your solitary native bee nests.

Find out which native bees live in your area.

To learn more about our solitary native bees, read our native bee field guide.

The Australian Native Bee Research Centre accepts no liability for any loss or damage arising from the use of the information on this webpage.

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