There seems to be a lot of ambiguity about whether or not it’s legal to kill honey bees.
It should be said, there are plenty of ways to deal with nuisance bees other than killing them. For example, many beekeepers would be overjoyed to collect a swarm and add it to their apiary!
And nowadays, most people understand the importance of bees to the ecology and our economy. But when people or property are endangered, steps need to be taken.
In these circumstances, it’s natural to wonder about the legality of destroying honey bees.
So what’s the story? Do you have the right to exterminate bees?
Is it illegal to kill honey bees?
There is no federal law preventing honey bees from being killed. Some states have laws protecting bees, but this does not strictly prohibit killing honey bees. However, there are strict rules about the methods used to kill them, and in some states, it is illegal to kill managed boxes of honey bees.
Despite honey bees being in decline, no laws yet exist to prevent people from killing these helpful pollinators!
Interestingly, the same goes for other types of bees. Some are on the endangered species list, but it is still not illegal to kill them.
On the other hand, people need to be careful about the method used to destroy bees! This is because federal laws exist against the use of certain pesticides.
Some pesticides used in agriculture have been associated with a decline in honey bee populations. In addition, studies have shown that certain classes of pesticides contribute largely to honey bee death rates because of their toxicity.
The U.S Senate created the Pollinator Protection Act in 2008 as a way to limit the sale and use of neonicotinoid pesticides.
Similar situations exist in the United Kingdom and Canada. There is no law preventing the extermination of honey bees, but pest control chemicals are restricted. Europe has passed broad restrictions on using a wide range of insecticides.
If you can’t avoid killing bees, only use natural methods or EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) approved chemicals.
Whatever the situation, it is unwise to attempt to remove or eliminate bees on your own. For a start, you don’t know what type of bees you’re dealing with!
Some types of bees can be very bad-tempered!
Get help from a local beekeeping association. They always have a group of friendly and knowledgeable folks who will be happy to help out.
List of state beekeeping associations:
And suppose you want to delve deeper into the legality of bee extermination in your region. In that case, it’s a good idea to research local and state laws:
The Apiary Inspectors of America have a list of state rules and laws on this page…
Is it illegal to destroy a bee’s nest?
In many states, it is illegal to kill managed colonies of honey bees without the owner’s permission (Only a certified apiary inspector has the right to do this).
It seems common sense, but you should never destroy or remove beehives or beekeeping equipment from an apiary or agricultural land.
Managed boxes of honey bees are widely used in agriculture. They are a vital part of crop production. Without the bees, crop yields would greatly suffer. For example, the success of the almond industry in California is highly dependent on the collaboration between beekeepers and growers.
And bees are thought to pollinate up to 70% of the world’s food crops!
If you come across a beehive in a poor location, you should first try to contact the beekeeper. Managed beehives are easily recognizable. They have markings that identify the company that owns them.
But wild swarms of honey bees or nests in potentially hazardous locations are considered differently…
When is it legal to exterminate bees? (Africanized bees)
Certain species of bees are considered undesirable. This is especially the case with Africanized honey bees.
Most species of bees used for beekeeping are sub-species of European honey bees (Apis mellifera). Africanized bees (Apis mellifera scutellata) are the result of crossbreeding with European species. They were first imported to South America but progressed further north, creating a hybrid bee that is very difficult to distinguish from European honey bees.
The problem with these African bees is that they are much more challenging to handle because of their undesirable behavior!
Africanized bees tend to be more defensive and hence aggressive against intrusion. They are easily excitable and have an unfortunate tendency to swarm. And they will happily nest in all kinds of places!
It is legal to kill wild swarms and colonies. This is because their origin is difficult to establish. For example, only laboratory analysis shows the difference between European and Africanized honey bees.
So wild beehives are often automatically considered an undesirable species.
An unknown swarm in close proximity to human activity presents a risk.
So the law allows for the Eradication and control of undesirable species and subspecies, including honey bees.
If you discover an unmanaged swarm, contact a licensed bee removal company. Most of the time, a reputable company will do its best to relocate and preserve bees. Still, they also have the right to exterminate bees.
Are honey bees protected by law?
Honey bees are indirectly protected in some states, thanks to the restricted use and sale of harmful chemicals. They are shielded in this way because of their importance as pollinators.
We also now recognize bees’ importance to the ecosystem, and these measures help to limit the effects on honey bees and other beneficial pollinating insects.
Recent legislation such as the “Highways Bettering the Economy and Environment Pollinator Protection Act” was developed to improve the habitat and forage for pollinators such as bees.
And the “Saving America’s Pollinators Act of 2021” restricts the use of neonicotinoid pesticides.
Honey bees should be preserved if at all possible. It is such a shame to destroy these beneficial insects.
If bees were to disappear, we would be in big trouble. Although animals also pollinate plants, insect life is essential to the food chain. Food crops depend on other organisms to produce fruit and seeds through pollination.
Without a healthy bee population, we would have to find new ways to grow food!