10 Ways How to Get Rid of Bees Without Killing Them

Although people are often afraid of bees because they’re known to sting every once in a while, most gardeners are aware of their importance. Bees are, in fact, the most important pollinators in the world, and killing a bee is a small crime against nature.

A bee won’t sting someone unless they step on it or squeeze it, which is something that children and pets often do. Because of this, you might be looking at how to get rid of bees without killing them.

Read on for a breakdown of methods!

How to Get Rid of Bees Without Killing Them

Bees naturally avoid certain smells (which we’ll get to later), but they can also be deterred by various substances that they sense are dangerous, although they won’t harm them.

1. Smoke Them Out

Smoking bees out of your garden should be an easy enough method of getting rid of them. Bees are naturally afraid of smoke for several reasons. It masks their pheromones and they lose contact with other bees.

It also makes them think that there’s a fire, and all animals (including humans) are naturally afraid of fire.

Lastly, their sense of smell (which is incredibly powerful) is rendered almost completely useless – they get lost in the smoke.

Before you learn this method, it’s important that you know these two things: you’ll need fire to create smoke. Not a massive blaze, but still fire – this can be dangerous, so make sure there’s a bucket of water near you to extinguish it. If you don’t think you can go through with this, don’t even attempt it.

Secondly, do not, under any circumstances, try this or any other method with bee nests. In case you have a bee nest, the only thing you can do is call a professional.

Bear in mind that as an amateur you’re more likely to get fatally stung by bees when trying to get rid of nests compared to calling in the professionals.

bee smoker

The easiest way to smoke bees away from your garden is by wrapping a piece of cloth you don’t need (say, a towel) around a stick and lighting it up. Bring it up to the plants occupied by bees and watch them scatter away!

Once the bees are away, put the flame out and throw it away.

This method has one major flaw, though – the bees will most likely return once the smoke has dissipated. In fact, bees that are smoked out of nests often return once the smoke clears.

You would have to light up something every few hours to keep bees away on a permanent basis, which is why this method isn’t viable for the long term. Or you could try a bee smoker and perform the process in a more controlled way.

2. Mix Garlic and Water Spray

Garlic is a great bee deterrent and an insect deterrent in general. It’s possible that they don’t mind the scent itself, but how strong it is – it can completely mask all other smells, and bees are disoriented by it.

There are two options for spreading garlic to get rid of bees. You can spread open garlic cloves near your flowers, and that should be enough to keep bees away. Two things, though – it’s likely that another animal will come by (a bird, for example) and eat the garlic, while the garlic will also dry with time.

The other option is mixing squished garlic and its juice with water. You don’t need a lot of garlic to spice up a half-liter bottle of water – bees have a much stronger sense of smell than people and they’ll definitely be able to smell it once you spray it on your plants.

You’ll have to respray it, though, as it will evaporate after a few days and bees will once again congregate on your flowers. Keep in mind that, if you do this, you’re basically ensuring that no insects pollinate your flowers, which isn’t good for your plants.

Personally, I’d recommend leaving the bees alone and simply avoiding them – even if you’re gardening, they won’t hurt you unless you try to hurt them first.

3. Use a Vinegar Solution

Similar to garlic, vinegar is very potent and its pungent smell can be detected by bees even in the smallest of amounts. Mix it with water in a 1:4 ratio and spray it on the flowers frequented by bees.

They will definitely move on to other gardens, but once the solution evaporates, they’ll return. You will have to reapply this solution every time this happens.

4. Make or Buy a Bee Trap

The easiest bee trap you can make is the classic bottle trap. Take a large bottle and cut the top off at the point of spreading. Invert it, so the neck of the bottle is inside of it, pointing towards the bottom.

Use a stapler to connect the two parts – you just made a funnel that bees will use to get in the bottle, but they won’t be able to find a way out.

Now you need to attract them with something – many people use honey, but you can kill a bee that way, as it’s sticky and they can drown in it. Using sugar water or beer is much better, as bees are usually attracted to sweet substances.

You don’t need more than a glass of beer or sugar water in the bottle to attract them.

This won’t kill the bees as they can’t drown in it (and the beer won’t get drunk either), and you can simply let them out after about a week.

This method is very effective as bees can’t say no to drinks with sugar in them, but you might need to hold them in the bottle for weeks before they lose interest in your flowers.

5. Call In the Professionals

If you still can’t figure out how to get rid of bees without killing them despite these home methods, the only thing you can do is call in the professionals.

Not only are they better equipped, but they also know things about bees from experience, and chances are that they already saw a similar problem. Exterminators often use industry-grade solutions and dust to keep bees away, which is usually effective.

The bad news is, these often have to be reapplied, which is why exterminators often have long-term plans to visit you, for example, every 50 days.

The only way to really keep bees away forever is to remove all pollinating plants from your yard or by eliminating all nests of bees that invade your garden. 

This is near impossible, however, as those bees likely nest miles away and most probably don’t live anywhere near your home.

A pro will also give you tips on how to prevent bees from coming to your flowers (unfortunately, the most effective advice would be to remove all your flowering plants from your garden).

What Smells Naturally Make Bees Go Away?

1. Citronella Candles

citronella candle

Citronella candles are often marketed as the most effective method of deterring all bugs, including bees, while it’s also the most enjoyable method for us since it smells nice.

This is only partly true. Citronella candles really do deter insects, and that includes bees – they won’t fly anywhere near them. The smell is not enjoyable for them, to say the least, and it disorients them as they can’t smell anything else. However, citronella candles don’t release a strong scent and they can’t cover a large area.

This means that they’re completely useless if you want to remove bees from your garden as you’d need to light anything from a dozen to a thousand citronella candles (depending on the size of your garden). You would also need to keep them lit at all times.

It’s not all bad news, though! Citronella candles can be extremely effective in confined spaces. Say you’re sitting on a terrace and there are a few bees and other insects because of the flower arrangements right next to the table.

Lighting a large citronella candle will quickly clear the air (figuratively speaking – from the bees’ perspective, the air is getting dirty). So, if you’re wondering how to get rid of bees without killing them in closed or partly-opened spaces, citronella candles are definitely a great way to do it.

2. Moth Balls

moth balls

These handy deterrents are capable of scaring bees away just as well as scaring away moths. They might actually be the most effective solution out of all methods on this list.

Simply hang them near your flowers and watch bees leave your garden to avoid them. A great thing about mothballs is that they’re much longer-lasting than other solutions, such as vinegar and garlic, so you won’t have to change them very often.

Mothballs are usually used in closed spaces – such as a closet. There, the vapors build up and they kill the moths inside. It’s highly unlikely that vapors will build up if you hang the mothballs in your garden, so the bees will most likely stay alive, but they’ll avoid the balls to survive.

Depending on the manufacturer, they might even last you through the entire flowering season.

One thing to be wary about with mothballs is that they’re dangerous – make sure that pets and children can’t find them and eat them as they could end up in grave danger.

To suffer poisoning from breathing the mothballs in, a person would have to breathe the toxins in for longer periods of time. This usually happens when the mothballs are left exposed in closed areas, such as a living room or a bedroom.

The chances of this happening in a garden are much lower, but they still exist, so make sure to be careful about it.

The National Pesticide Information Center also warns that using moth balls outside isn’t viable and that it can harm pets (because they might eat a mothball), while they can also contaminate soil, plants, and water (probably by dissolving when they come in contact with water).

3. Cinnamon Powder

cinnamon powder

Two things to keep in mind with cinnamon – firstly, it does deter bees, and secondly, it deters bees because they hate it. It’s quite possible for this to irritate bees to an incredible degree.

Beekeepers online report that leaving cinnamon near their hives got the bees so riled up that they ended up stinging the beekeeper. Bees are generally less defensive when they’re not near their hives, though, so spreading cinnamon around the garden is probably safer.

Spreading cinnamon sticks instead of cinnamon powder might work even better as the wind won’t spread it around. The scent of cinnamon is too strong for bees to handle, which is why they leave when they smell it.

4. Peppermint Oil

peppermint oil

Peppermint oil is one of many essential oils that repel bees. They’re recommended for tight crevices where bees build hives, but they can also be used with flowers.

Just like with cinnamon, bees can’t stand the strong scent of peppermint and they naturally avoid it. Don’t spray actual essential oil on your flowers, as you’d just be wasting good oil, but instead mix it with a bit of water and spray it.

Even the diluted scent will be strong enough to keep bees away as their sense of smell is so good.

5. Almond Oil

almond oil

Oils with pungent smells are a great answer to the ‘how to get rid of bees without killing them’ question, and almond oil is another entry on that list. Just like with peppermint oil, it’s best to dilute it with water and spray it on your flowers.

To answer the question that you might immediately think of – no, an almond tree won’t deter bees. In fact, they’re very important pollinators of almond trees, even though almond nectar is actually harmful to them because it contains a toxin called amygdalin.

If you plant an almond tree near your flowers to deter bees, you’ll do just the opposite – end up with more bees and indirectly hurt a lot of them.

How to Prevent Bees from Coming Back

Getting bees away from your house on a permanent basis can be tricky. You’re going to need to patch up any crevice they could use for nesting. This is where hiring a professional exterminator comes in handy, as they can pinpoint all of these spots.

Some bees are known as diggers because they nest in soil, while certain species are capable of nesting in wood. Protecting your home from these bees is almost impossible – you can try similar methods to what was explained in this article, but bees find usually find a way.

When it comes to the bees nesting in your garden, I’m sorry to say that there’s almost no way to keep them away from your garden. Bees are naturally attracted to flowering plants as they feed on the nectar and they pollinate the plants.

When they’re doing that, bees travel miles upon miles – so the bees you see in your garden most likely live far away. The only way to truly ensure there are no bees in the garden is to not plant flowering plants.

All of the methods described in this article are temporary, some can keep them at bay for hours, and others will scare them off for days. Eventually, though, the substance you’re using will evaporate or lose its effects and the bees will return.

Next year, you’ll once again have to apply these methods to keep them away as it’s an endless fight.

Should I Get Rid of the Bees in My Garden?

The answer to the question most people forget to ask is no – you shouldn’t get rid of the bees in your garden. These insects are immensely useful and people are often so afraid of getting stung (which is a minor, medically insignificant incident you’ll forget about the next day) that we forget how much we need these animals.

Most gardeners actually implement ways of attracting bees, often using chemical products to get bees to come to their gardens and pollinate their plants.

Remember that bees only sting if provoked – they die after stinging, and bees would rather continue feeding on the nectar of your plants than sacrifice themselves for no good reason.

So, instead of learning how to get rid of bees without killing them, maybe we should all do a bit more research about them.

All three parties will benefit if you leave the bees in your garden. The bees will feed, the flowers will get their pollen spread, and you’ll get a beautiful garden (not to mention that you will have done a good deed).

How to Get Rid of Bees Without Harming Them FAQ

Final Thoughts How to Get Rid of Bees Without Hurting Them

Bees are incredibly important animals on both the global and the local scales. They can, sometimes, be unnecessary in the garden or they could pose a threat (if someone in the family is allergic), in which case you might need to get rid of them.

Unfortunately, there is no long-term method of getting rid of bees – they’ll always return when they smell flowers. However, you can get them away for a short period of time by using smoke, smells they don’t like, and bee traps.