WHY DO BEEKEEPERS CHARGE FOR LIVE BEE REMOVAL?

Posted January 9, 2020
by Hilary
Why Do Beekeepers Charge for Bee Removal?

While it’s true that some hobbyist beekeepers will gleefully remove a colony of bees for free, many beekeepers charge for live bee removal. This inconsistency among beekeepers can create some confusing expectations for homeowners. Unfortunately, it may also result in some unpleasant interactions between the beekeeper and members of the public. So, why do some beekeepers charge while others do not? What should you expect from your local community of beekeepers? Let’s look at some of the misconceptions and unseen costs of rescuing bees.

Misconceptions

People who expect free live bee removal often assume the beekeeper wants the bees, that the task is easy and that those bees will make them honey. Some believe their bees have a value that outweighs the value of the beekeeper’s time and efforts. The truth is that wild bees may have some value, but that it’s difficult to judge right away. Some bee removals are simple, while others can take hours. Some removals will result in a honey harvest, but many will not. A beekeeper who rescues a colony of bees for free is therefore taking a gamble.

Honey

Just because you have a colony of bees, does not mean you have honey. Bee colonies typically need to mature for a full year before honey can be harvested. Even if the colony you want to have removed is mature, the amount of honey they have stored depends on the time of year and their health.

Difficulty Level

Bee removals can be divided into two categories: swarm removal and established colony removal. If the group of bees has just arrived, they are most likely a swarm.

A swarm is only a ball of bees with no comb. If the swarm is easy to get to, then it should be a simple and quick removal. Most beekeepers are capable of swarm removal and many even enjoy the process. It’s fairly common for beekeepers to remove swarms for free.

If the bees have been in the same place for more than a week, you can assume the they are established. The longer the bees have been there, the more comb they will have built and the bigger the colony will be. These kinds of removals require extra skill and knowledge. Especially if the bees have ensconced themselves inside a structure. The process can be messy, exhausting and time consuming with a greater risk of stings. Most beekeepers are not willing to do these types of removal for free.

Why do beekeepers charge for live bee removal?

The Value of the Bees

Judging the value of a wild colony isn’t as straightforward as you would think. Some try to base the value on the going rate of new colonies. Beekeepers typically pay $125-250 for a new colony of bees (and that’s just the bees, not the equipment). Yet, these bees have been bred to have desirable traits like docility, disease resistance and honey production. They should also be guaranteed to be in good health and have a queen.

Wild rescue colonies make no such promises. They may be ill-tempered (a trait that will not reveal itself until the colony is established), unhealthy and/or queenless. Resolving these problems often costs the beekeeper money and time. Additionally, if the colony is in poor health, they put the beekeeper’s apiary at risk. The rescued colony could easily spread disease to the beekeeper’s other hives. On the other hand, a healthy wild colony may have rare genetic traits perfected by nature that are essentially priceless to the beekeeper. The problem is, only time will tell the difference.

A good analogy for wild rescue bees is that they are like cultivating a fruit tree from a wild seed. The grower must invest time and money into caring for this tree while it reaches maturity without any assurance that it will pay off. The tree may produce only small, flavorless fruit or none at all. On the other hand, it could yield a unique variety of fruit not available in stores.

The Unseen Costs of Bee Removal

Equipment

One of the most concrete expenses in live bee removal is the equipment required to house the bees. A basic setup will cost the beekeeper at least $150 for every new colony and often times more.

Time & Gas

When a beekeepers comes to your home to remove bees, they are in the very least, spending their time and gas to get there. The more complex the bee removal, the more time it requires. Large, sticky removals often result in the an additional time expense of clean up.

Why Do Beekeepers Charge for Bee Removal?

Skill

Beekeeping is a skill that takes years to learn. Depending on how much time they have to devote to it, most beekeepers take about 2 years to really understand the craft. Bee removal is a separate skill set that can also take years to perfect, although most beekeepers are capable of simple swarm removals.

Health & Safety

Some bee removal works poses a risk to the beekeeper’s safety. Often removals involve heights and power tools. Combine that with stinging insects and it’s not to hard to imagine how an accident might happen. This is especially true in areas with Africanized bees, where the sting radius expands considerably, threatening not only the beekeeper, but any bystanders. Additionally, cutting into older structures to remove bees could expose the beekeeper to lead paint, asbestos or other harmful materials.

Space

Every new colony takes up a space in the apiary. Some beekeepers have limited space and can only house so many bees. They may even be paying rent or honey for access to the land.

Ongoing Care

Once a beekeeper has acquired a new colony, they must care for it for the rest of its lifespan. That might be years. Not only is this time and effort, but there will be ongoing expenses. The bees may need a new queen, feed and/or medicine.

Insurance & Business Expenses

If the beekeeper is running a business, they will have additional expenses associated with bee removal work. They are likely paying for liability insurance, workman’s comp, employees, a website, advertising etc.

Resetting Expectations

Every location is different with its own unique mix of beekeepers. When seeking out live bee removal, be conscious of whether you are contacting a business or a hobbyist. If the beekeeper has a website or business name, they probably charge for bee removal. That said, they are also more likely to be reputable, reliable, experienced and insured. Many hobbyists (experienced and not) are willing to do simple bee removals at no charge, but regardless of who you contact, please be respectful of that person’s time and skill. Don’t assume that they will work for free. Even if a beekeeper has agreed to remove your bees for free, it’s a nice gesture to offer them a few dollars for gas, produce from your garden or some other show of appreciation.

40 Comments

  1. Rio

    We often have people contact us expecting free hive removal. We stopped doing them for free a long time ago. Once people see how much work goes into it as you’ve covered above, no one complains about the cost!

    Reply
    • Edward H Heivilin

      My wife and I only do free or want they can afford. But they have to be in there Eightys or older or and handicap. Or if children are living with a big wild hive. I’m NOT putting a child in danger over Money! We live in mid Texas and we have Africanized wild bee’s. Other wase to have to pay. Thank you for your article, it was great.

      Reply
      • Hilary

        I’ve done a free removals for similar reasons myself. The last free one I did was for a 90 year old woman who could no longer go in her backyard because the bee colony under her shed had grown so big. I figured, at 90, she’s earned it! I ended up turning that removal into a class and charged some of my beekeeping students to come learn how it’s done. Everyone got stung and it was a massive, Africanized hive, but we still had lots of fun and in the end she was very appreciative and got her yard back.

        Reply
        • Kelly carpenter

          Bee keeping is apart of my heritage. I grew up with a boom truck in the back yard .Removing feral honey bees has become apart of modern life .Knowing the bees and the honey bee disease is a part of it all too.! So the compitant bee remover should know about AFB .Many honey bee removers are just scabs that did not go though bee keeping training .and have no Idea what they are looking at .! So I think that is is important to hire the most qualified bee keeper not an exterminator of little or now knowledge about ower most pressios commodity The honey bees
          Thank you Kelly Carpenter 3rd generation honey bee keeper
          Kel

          Reply
      • Donna J Roberts

        Do you guys know anybody in Indiana that does it for free I am disabled so I don’t have much money

        Reply
      • Annie Ramaglia

        I have a neighbor in there late 80s have a big hive on there shed they surly need help, would u help them?

        Reply
        • Hilary

          Hi, Are you in San Diego?

          Reply
      • Jill Archer

        Hi a swarm of bees just moved into my garden thus morning. We are in our 70s retired and I am allergic to bees. Can you suggest someone who can remove the bees thank you

        Reply
        • Hilary

          I would start by contacting your local beekeeping club to see if any hobbyist can com get them.

          Reply
    • Steven clark

      How much do you charge for bee removal. I’m tearing down a building and come across bees living behind the metal tin on the building at Windsor junction

      Reply
      • Hilary

        It depends on the situation, but usually between $150-400

        Reply
    • Jenny boone

      We have tons of bees in front yard backyard and our next door neighbors have tons.the deck I’d literally gutted ,there’s a huge hole through it you can fit a few people inside.they had to putt the end of the gutter right THROUGH it! They were inside of our siding and relocated to various power boxes and don’t know currently where they reside.i can’t imagine trying to find out where their nests or hives when they fly in all directions. I would feel bad to have them do this for free. Oh yea and they started a hive in my barbeque grill lol…ive been living here for 8 years and that’s the only hive I’ve found.

      Reply
  2. ERIC SOLES

    Because most time they have to damage the house or garage to get the bees out . And some bee keepers will have to pay Money to fix it . And their insurance they have to pay for to do that work bee keepers handman insurance

    Reply
  3. B

    I have had many homeowners threaten to exterminate colonies if I do not remove them for free or for the cost that they are willing to pay.
    Some removals take just an hour or two, and I have had established colonies take 10-12 hours to remove all bees and traces of comb, not including travel, set up of hive and clean up.

    Reply
    • Jenny boone

      I’d feel bad if it was free in my situation

      Reply
  4. Rob Wokaty

    Great article! There is so, so much more involved in cutouts. I’ve been doing them over a decade and a half, but in Virginia, it’s seasonal, not year round. I do charge – what it’s worth for me to do it right, and safe, and the genetics are just a bonus. So so much easier for me to just hang swarm traps if I want more bees.

    I’ve seen the after affects of beeks that didn’t know what they were doing – gallons of honey left in adjoining truss bays, structural beams cut, electrical cut, plumbing cut. Most heart breaking was when a beekeeper did a rough cut through the almost 200 year old copper roof of a porch on a home on the national register to remove a hive.

    Reply
  5. Sonny Krout

    We also run into alot of killer bees here in San Antonio Texas. Not many bee keepers I know want them. Some bee carry mites and need to be medicated to. Just more to think about. Great artical

    Reply
  6. apisbiologic

    You didn’t mention the 300 dollars it costs you put them in a hive. The risk you take bringing an unknown entity into your apiary. They could be sick or African crosses. Mostly it is a hobbyist thing as more experienced bee people make their bees to fill their needs. If I get a call from local PD I’ll do it but I give that hive away to kids or people who don’t have money.
    Btw queen spotting was a lot of fun.
    Cheers

    Reply
  7. ALEX

    I have had a few balk at paying for removal, but this article is 100% accurate, unless the colony is only a couple weeks old (and they almost never are) it is going to take 4 hours at a minimum to get the cavity open and safely remove the bees and comb, and even longer if an abatement is required after the fact to ensure more bees don’t move back in afterwards.

    Reply
  8. Jonathan Adam Hargus

    Well done and well said! Thank you. I feel that this article is the authority on this subject.

    Reply
  9. SEO Affiliate

    Awesome post! Keep up the great work! 🙂

    Reply
  10. Wesley Fetters

    Heavenly Honey and Bee Removal llc. Customers call all the time asking for free work. I don’t think they have any idea how much it cost for just the equipment we have got to keep on hand for different jobs. Plus gas and so on . But we do our best to educate the customers on this issue. God bless you all and happy Bee Keeping

    Reply
  11. Mike Northcutt

    I asked a local bee keeper to remove some bees that had been established over a year under a remote trailer office floor. There had been multiple past attempts to remove without success. He said he would but because they had been established for awhile he would charge $850.
    He would show up around noon and work under the trailer removing the fabric , insulation and honeycomb. He showed up several days , maybe 7 but only worked 2-3 hours per day. I estimated he worked a total of 14 hours , had no more than 14 travel time and $150 in gas max.

    He mentioned there were 8 bee hives removed. He never said anything about charging more. I am perfectly ok with paying more considering the task and he seemed to do a decent job. He did not cleanup or repair the floor and I wouldn’t expect him to. However I was surprised when he sent me an invoice for $7,900

    I have not been able to find any documentation that tells me this is anywhere near a fair price. He kept mentioning that bee boxes alone were $150 each. I’m not in the bee business and I don’t need bee boxes.
    Previously he mentioned he was trying to get in the bee business and get out of the removal business.
    Sounds like he wants me to put him in the bee business

    What’s your opinion ?

    Reply
    • Hilary

      That sounds like a pretty outrageous sum to me. I think it’s unethical that he would charge so much more than the original quote without discussing it with you first. When I begin a removal, if I discover the scope of work is greater than anticipated, I always stop to discuss this with the client. Is he licensed and insured? There may be some rule about what he can charge if he is not licensed.

      Reply
    • Mohsen

      It sounds like a dis-honest person. There should not have been a penny added to the quote. Once he/she found there was more than one hive, it should have been discussed with the owner and a new price agreed upon.

      This is what gives other beekeepers a bad reputation. It is unacceptable.

      Reply
    • ALEX KING

      I’ve had one instance where there was multiple hives in a structure, they were 2 hives spaced about 20 feet apart along the wall of a large shed.

      8 colonies under a single trailer floor is highly suspect for honeybees.

      Not sure what the weather is like around your area, but I usually start at 8am or earlier when the temps are cool, so that all the bees are home and not out flying around. I usually finish up around noon on most basic removals.

      And if he had a thermal camera, he should have been able to tell up front just how big the colony is. A good phone based model runs less than half what his original quote to you was. I would consider them a necessary piece of equipment for anyone doing removals with any regularity.

      Reply
    • Roderick Yates

      You are being “had”! ” Conned” This is quite unreasonable. When you direct him to begin the work you are making a verbal contract. A clear agreement on the reasonable value of the work is implicit in such a contract, and the work is fundamentally Pest Control. You should be clear that you expect there to be a charge that is reasonable, and should have in mind a range that will be charged. It is wise to equate that with the work of a comparable trades person, such as a Pest Controller, who comes to provide a service of predictable value. It is fair that you are given progress cost information.
      On the other hand, if the person has only removed the bees and not treated the surfaces with the appropriate chemicals to work as a repellent, there will be bees returning almost for sure, in the following season, or in order to scavenge traces of honey. You have conversely the right to charge the contractor if he has not explained that prospect. Bear in mind, to use the appropriate chemical, the person should be Licensed as a Pest Controller, and that indicates an appropriate fee for service. You could point out that working as an-licensed PC is illegal and could be reported, incurring a substantial fine. Seek Consumer Affairs Help.

      Reply
  12. Bill Freeman

    Live bee removal is not easy to do, Bees are stinging insects and it’s not to hard to imagine how an accident might happen. This is a very informative blog and this job is to risky hoping all people will know about this.

    Reply
  13. Save the Bees

    Here in Azores islands only free removals. For me save the bees are the reason, but several times I can’t save the swarm, inside of a tree is a most common case 🙁

    Reply
  14. kilhefner

    Thanks for your information.
    I was searching info for a neighbor who is not 90 years old. She is a CNA and unhappily, … she and the rest of us senior citizens, live in a 4 floor building under a sinister HOA. 😉
    So, my guess is that the beautiful bees will pass to a better life ( as all of us with Covid 19 or else) … as they are left in the hands of Truly Nolen, or Terminix exterminator!
    Very sad to accept. have a great day.

    Reply
  15. Jonathan Young

    Very well said. Doing a cutout especially in the summers here in Arizona can be rough. I never really get any complaints over a removal cost after a removal is completed and the customer sees what it actually entailed!

    Reply
  16. Lisa

    I have just found a swarm of bees on my fence this morning. I would like to start a beehive. But I have no idea where to begin is there any advise on how to get started.

    Reply
  17. Kate

    I have just done a live colony removal and it took 3 whole days. The colony had been established in the roof and wall of the old brick farm house for 9 years. I have never had a removal take that long before. It was high up and lots of potential dangers

    Reply
  18. Ab Abner

    Go to You tube website and type in how to hive a swarm.

    Reply
  19. John Smith

    Great post! Getting professional bee services specializes in the safe removal and relocating.

    Reply
  20. John Smith

    Nice Post! It’s necessary to connect with professionals for bee or wasp removal.

    Reply
  21. Linda

    I had a bee hive under the concrete staircase attached to my house. When I spoke with a bee removal guy over the phone, the quote was $1200. He thought the bees were living in a basement drywall and he thought he would need to cut drywall to get them. he ended up using a trap out cone with a box for bees to relocate. He changed two boxes. One was pretty empty. Was at my location twice, a total of maybe 3 hours in the 4 weeks period. the hive was pretty small. Then he sealed the area. Did not treat it with any repellents. did not remove honey or combs. they are still under concrete but I am ok with this. He is charging me $1500. Is this too much?

    Reply
    • Hilary

      Some might say yes, but it sounds like he was fairly upfront with the quote. He has done the trapout as others would do. There is no lasting repellant that works on bees. Sealing it up is often what is done.

      Reply
  22. Dave

    No other beeks charge in my area so it would be difficult for me to charge. However I did 2 trapouts from trees this summer and it was exhausting and wish I would have! Time, fuel, materials, Swarm Commander, queens, brood…it all ads up!!

    Reply

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My name is Hilary Kearney. I’m the author of the book, “Queenspotting” and founder of the urban beekeeping business Girl Next Door Honey in San Diego, California. I’m an artist turned beekeeper on a mission to help new beekeepers succeed and educate the public about the magic of bees!

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