Last Updated: June 26, 2021

How to Keep Bees and Wasps Away From Your Pool

Written By: Pool Care Guide

Bee stings are painful, and that annoying buzzing can feel like nails on a chalkboard. It makes the skin crawl just thinking about it. We mustn’t react too hastily. Bees and wasps are alive just like us, and each of them perform vital life-preserving functions that must be respected. Killing them, while an effective solution, should be used as a last resort. Bees are dying in massive numbers. If we lose the bees, we lose the planet.

Beekeepers and Exterminators

Cost: $0 to $1,500 

Effectiveness: 5 out of 5

Description: There are ways to discourage bees from buzzing around your pool. However, let’s start with the ultimate solution before moving to the weaker remedies. If the nest is on your property, then a beekeeper or exterminator could be your best albeit most expensive solution. As you can see, the cost can vary greatly depending upon the service purchased, how difficult the bees and wasps are to remove, and whether it is a swarm or a hive. In some very rare cases, a beekeeper might be willing to remove the bees for free. Beekeepers need honeybees to make money, so it could turn out to be a win-win scenario. However, don’t expect free. They are performing a service regardless if they benefit from collecting the bees. Most of the time, the cost will land somewhere between the $100 to $1,000 range. You won’t know until you give them a call, but you can form a rough estimation. To form your guesstimate, you will need to determine if you have a swarm problem or a hive problem.

Hives vs Swarms

If you haven’t been taught the difference, you might just assume that they are the same thing. While you might know the difference, your wallet certainly will. To the untrained eye, a swarm of bees can take on the appearance of a hive because they will collect into a compact cluster. You might assume that there is a hive within the collection, but that isn’t always the case. Sometimes, swarms split off hives to form their own separate colony. Other times, the original hive might have been destroyed. Either way, a swarm is much smaller, easier to manage, and cheaper to remove.

SwarmHive
How many bees? Highly VariableHow many bees? 20,000 to 80,000
How to identify: Swarms are generally small, tight, dark, oblong clusters. They are new; generally less than two weeks old. How to identify: Hives are larger than swarms, and they are usually rounder. Below the bees, you should be able to spot the white and yellow coloring of the beehive.
Bee behavior: Less aggressiveBee behavior: Aggressively defends the hive

Most of the time, removals and exterminations will need to take place when the bees are back in the hive. That means the appointment will often be set for late into the night or early in the morning. If you’re dealing with a swarm, it probably won’t take more than a couple of hours. If it’s a hive, expect it to take less than five. Nests are often located in hard-to-reach locations (inside walls, sheds, roofs, and under decks) and often require some minor demolition to remove.

Move Potted Plants and Flowers Away From the Pool

If honey bees are your primary issue, it is likely due to the flora and fauna around the pool. If you have potted plants and flowers around the deck of the pool, consider moving them away. The nectar will be a constant siren call to the honey bees, and the plants require pollination. The plants and bees require each other due to their symbiotic relationship. If you successfully prevent the bees, your decorative plants will die.

Note on Fake Flowers - Bees are also attracted to the colors of the flowers, so fake flowers should also be removed from the pool area. 

Decoy Nests

Cost: $10 to $30

Effectiveness: 4 out of 5

If you do a google search, you’ll be told that decoy nests are ineffective. If you read the consumer reviews, they often claim positive results. Most middle ground reviews share positive results but complain that decoy nests are made of paper. Paper is not durable, and any durability it has disappears upon contact with water. One bad bout of rain and that $10 to $30 nest needs to be replaced.

Cheap Alternative - The results aren’t as consistent, but many have successfully used crumpled-up brown paper bags and achieved great effects.

Raw Meat Traps and Decoys

Effectiveness: 

Cost: $1 to $3

Decoy Description: Meat traps and decoys can be a great way to keep wasps, hornets, and carpenter bees away from the pool. If you don’t want to hurt them, just put a bit of uncooked meat on a plate or multiple plates. Set the meat far away from the pool, and many of the surrounding wasps will head straight to it. If you have ever had a barbecue outside on a hot summer day, you will have experienced this. Meat is an excellent decoy. It will buy you a few hours of peace, so you can enjoy your fun in the sun and temporarily push your wasp problems to another day.

Trap Description: If you want to use meat for a trap, it should be very easy. Here’s what you’ll need and what you’ll need to do.

Items RequiredSteps
Plastic Bottle: Size can vary, but a 2-liter works great
Scissors or Knife: Scissors are the safest
Meat
Step 1: Remove the bottle’s cap.
Step 2: Bisect the bottle by making a horizontal cut with the scissors across the bottle. The top half of the bisected bottle should be roughly ⅓ to ¼ of the whole bottle’s total length. If it makes it easy, you can make the cut at top edge of the bottle’s label.
Step 3: With the top of the bottle removed, place the meat inside the bottom half of the bottle.
Step 4: Rotate the top half of the bottle to be positioned upside down and place it into the bottom half of the bottle

Soda Pop Alternative -  If you would rather not use meat, soda pop can be used in its place. Conveniently, soda pop comes in the very bottles that you’ll need for this trap.

Wasp and Hornet Sprays

Cost: $10 to $20

Effectiveness: 4.5 out of 5

Description: Do you want to destroy a nest, but you do not want to pay 100s to 1000s to hire a professional? In that case, wasp and hornet sprays can be amazing. If you use this option, you will need to be careful. The wasps or hornets will be on the lookout for an enemy. If you need to make a quick get-away, you will need whatever advantage you can get. Wasps and hornets can generally fly about 25 miles per hour, so have a plan in place and dress to protect yourself. Thankfully, these sprays do have a good range, so you will have at least a small head start if everything goes south.

Do You Have a Colorful Patio?

Cost: Free

Description: Pool gear, pool decorations, umbrellas, and other water-related accessories tend to have bright summery colors. Do you know what else has bright summery colors? That’s right, it’s flowers. While there probably won’t be any nectar in your belongings, curious little honey bees might fly in to check out those eye-catching colors.

Bees have five eyes. With all those eyes, they can see most of the colors that we can and some that we can’t. According to studies, bees are most attracted to the colors purple, violet, and blue. Supposedly, they can’t see red. However, we’ve seen enough reports to suggest that they are highly reactive to it.

Offensive Odors

The effectiveness of using smells to deter bees is questionable. We do not recommend this method because there are more consistently successful solutions on this page. However, we will say that bees and wasps likely couldn’t survive without their sense of smell. Unlike humans and many animals, honey bees communicate through their sense of smell. They also use it to seek out sources of nectar, and wasps use their similarly impressive sense of smell to find rotting meat. With such a well-developed sense, it stands to reason that bees and hornets will heavily rely upon their senses of smell for more than communication and finding single food sources. There must be smells that trigger other behaviors. Whether our origins are from creation or evolution, it isn’t common for nature to let such a well-developed sense be underutilized.

In this line of thought, we compiled a small list of scents that people claim work as repellents.. There are many conflicting reports, and. You can try whatever you have on hand and see what sticks. It’s possible that the conflicting reports are due to differences in species. Maybe what works in Florida won’t work in Washington.

  • Almond Oil, Imitation Almond Oil
  • Catnip
  • Crushed Garlic or Garlic Spray
  • Cucumber peel
  • Eucalyptus
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Sage
  • Vanilla

There are a few other scents that we haven’t included in this list because there is a bit more to say about them. We have doubts regarding a few of these scents because bees actively pollinate some of these plants. Still, some say that it works, so are reporting it.

Vanilla + Water = Skin Ointment

If you find that the bees just aren’t leaving you alone, it might be time to try out this easy remedy. Head over to your kitchen cupboard and grab a bottle of vanilla extract. Mix some of the vanilla extract with some water and apply it to your skin. We don’t have a specific amount to recommend. However, if you use more vanilla extract, the scent will be stronger.

We do not know if this will work with imitation vanilla, but we suspect that it will. The scent of almond oil and its imitation in the list above both work because they both contain the same repelling scent from the chemical called Benzaldehyde. If the same thing is happening with the real vanilla extract and its imitation, it might be a cheaper alternative to vanilla extract.

Start a Campfire

Bees know on an instinctual level that where smoke means fire. If there is fire, there is danger. If you are allowed to start a campfire where you live, that can be a great way to keep the bees at bay. It’s a temporary measure, but it is enough to buy you a few hours of peace and fun around the pool. Bring some S'mores supplies, and it brings your pool time fun to another level.

Mothballs

Mothballs are regulated in certain states so check your local ordinances. Mothballs contain insecticides, naphthalene, and paradichlorobenzene, so they are great for moths, bees, wasps, and many other insects. However, they are not designed for outdoor use, so they might not be too effective in the outdoor air.

Mothballs can also be dangerous to wildlife. If you use them, be careful not to leave them outside at the end of your pool time. Mothballs can be dangerous to humans too. Since they are laced with insecticides, you should limit physical exposure and you shouldn’t breathe in the fumes...If you use the campfire method above, don’t toss the mothballs into that fire.

Benzaldehyde Products - Almond Oil and Imitation Almond Oil

Benzaldehyde smells and tastes like almonds. Since it comes from almonds, that makes a lot of sense. However, it also comes from many other organic sources. Wherever it comes from, it’s the key ingredient to almond oil and imitation almond oil. That benzaldehyde is repulsive to bees, so it can be used as a repellent.

The common recommendation is to put a bit of almond oil into a rag and place the rag onto a table or some other open space. If you have a fan, it might be worth putting the almond-scented cloth in front of it to get that wonderful almond scent into the other.

One more thing; benzaldehyde is commonly used in many beauty products. We haven’t studied this, but it isn't far-fetched to presume that almond-scented shampoos and lotions with benzaldehyde extract could repel any bees that happen to be buzzing around your neighborhood. Definitely worth a try.

Limit Access to Clean Water

Like all living things, bees and wasps require water to survive. In addition to that sweet-tasting nectar, bees forage for water. If they find a clean source, they’ll tell the hive and return to it again and again. 

Cover Your Pool

It’s pretty straightforward. When you are not using the pool, cover it up. That limits a significant source of water.

“Poison” the Well - Pine, Soap, or Vinegar

While we don’t want to kill any honey bees on a large scale (preferably none at all), killing the occasional bee won’t have a drastic effect on the honey population as a whole. If you put pine, soap, or vinegar into exposed sources of water, it can kill those few bees.

Don’t put soap, vinegar, or pine into your pets’ sources of water. Each of these can cause varying amounts of discomfort and danger to your pets. Typically, it’s not going to be too serious. However, each case will be different because every product is going to be different. Chemical burns, nausea, and diarrhea are some of the more common results of ingesting these substances.

Side note - Because pine can cause gastrointestinal discomfort, you shouldn’t let your pets drink from Christmas tree water. It won’t likely cause any major problems, but there is no reason to let them hurt themselves.

Water Spray Solutions

First, we don’t recommend this option. It’s dangerous to you, and it’s a lethal solution for many of the affected bees. That said, if you are dealing with a nest, you might find your solution in a 1:4 solution of dawn water. Here’s a simple list of what you need.

Dawn Water

  • Empty spray bottle
  • Dawn soap: ¼ cup
  • Water: 1 cup

Vinegar Water

  • Empty spray bottle
  • Water: 1 cup
  • Vinegar: 1 cup

After you mix it all together, you can spray it on the nest. Now, the reason we say it is dangerous is that this will royally piss off the hive. Also, the bees that are hit by the dawn water will not die instantly. It suffocates them which is a crappy and slow way to die. Any bees capable of attacking will find the nearest target, and a spray bottle will be slow to spray and not work as a defensive weapon. This will likely take several sessions to get rid of the bees.

Scented Dryer Sheets

Apparently, bees hate them. Your skin might hate dryer sheets too, so you’ll want to test for a potential allergic reaction before proceeding. To test, simply rub the dryer skin upon a small portion of skin. If you want to be extra careful, your legs will likely be the best place to test. Legs tend to have subdued reactions when compared to other areas of skin.

When you know it’s safe and there are no allergic reactions, put a dryer sheet into each of your pockets. That scent should drive away the bees. However, if you want to add an extra punch, try rubbing the dryer sheet on areas of exposed allergy-free skin. 

Carpenter Bees Solution - Carpenter Bee Dust + Plugs

Insect: Carpenter Bees

Effectiveness: 5 out of 5

Cost: $10 to $80

Description: While carpenter bees don’t make nearly as much honey, they are still beneficial contributors to the pollination process. If killing them can be avoided, please try to avoid it. That said, it’s difficult to get rid of them without killing them since they burrow deep into your house’s wood. Carpenter bee dust is an insecticide, so it is a lethal and effective solution.

It’s an easy application process, but this process can disturb the hive. If you don’t want to get stung, you might want to invest in a beekeeping suit as well. If you don’t mind the risk, you can apply the dust without a suit. However, in that case, we would highly recommend applying the dust at night.

Carpenter bees calm down during the night hours and most of the female carpenter bees will be inside. You will also kill more of them with a single application. After you’ve applied the dust, give it a week or two and fill the holes with some caulking or plug them with wood plugs. It will keep any future bees or bugs from taking up residence in the now-vacant home.

Quick Note - Don’t overwater water the lawn

We’ve seen a few people recommend overwatering lawns to discourage carpenter bees from burrowing into the dry soil. We don’t recommend this for several reasons. Carpenter bees might sometimes choose to be in the soil, but they can just as easily find accommodations in the wood of nearby trees, homes, fence posts, etc. Not only will this not do much to prevent the bees, but it will jack up your water bill. It will also create the conditions for mold to take over your lawn. 

A Few Ways You Might Be Unknowingly Inviting Bees

Choose Hair Products Wisely

Some hair products can attract Bees. If you notice that bees are more interested in you compared to others, look at the ingredients of your hair products. Some of them contain sugar. Those products won’t make your hair look attractive just to humans but to bees as well.

Cover Sugary Drinks

Pay attention, all of you soda drinkers and lemonade lovers. Those sugary drinks quench your thirst, but they also bring in the bees. If you can, bottle those drinks up or put a lid on them. 

Don’t Chew Sugary Gum

We’ve read about this one, but we haven’t tested it ourselves. The logic is sound. A stick of your average sugary gum holds the equivalent of a ½ teaspoon of sugar. Every time you breathe out, you send that enticingly sweet scent out to the bees. 

Avoid Sweet-Smelling Perfumes

If it smells sweet to you, there is a good chance that bees will find your perfume interesting. If you ever make plans to go to a backyard barbecue, consider the potential consequences of your perfume.

Keep Trash Away from the Pool

There are a lot of smells in those trash cans and trash bags. Keep them indoors or away from the pool. Even if your nose can’t pick up the scent, you will probably have some pool party crashers.

In Conclusion

That’s everything we have for now. If you have any tips or would like to tell your experience, we would love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact us. It helps us to provide a better service for all of you. 

Finally, we know that situations differ and that allergies can have lethal consequences. You need to stay safe above all else. However, we ask you to keep in mind that bees need to be protected. If you can avoid hurting them, please try methods that will keep the bees alive.

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