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I love getting outdoors in the summer but the moment that things heat up, I’ve noticed these pesky little insects hovering around. They’re sweat bees and grossly enough, they’re attracted to human sweat which is why they’ll crawl all over you if you break a sweat.
Now, the good news is that this species of bee is pretty much harmless to humans so there’s no fear of being bitten, stung or otherwise envenomated. But even just the mere thought of having insects crawling all over you is enough to make most people run indoors and stay there.
There’s no reason that sweat bees should ruin your summer outdoor fun and there are plenty of viable ways that you can get rid of them. In this guide, I’ll talk you through some effective methods on how to get rid of sweat bees.
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With a name like sweat bees, it certainly can bring a lot of images to mind. I was once asked if sweat bees were so named because they sweat but this is not the case.
This is actually a type of bee from the Halictidae family that’s got a penchant for drinking human sweat.
There are more than 500 species of bees in this family and, compared to many others, are pretty small. Sweat bees can come in all kinds of colors, some are even metallic so they’re often very nice-looking insects; as far as insects go, of course.
Like many other types of bees, sweat bees collect pollen and nectar so you may see them flying around your garden. However, they’re not one of the most common backyard bees and you’re more likely to run into them in the wilds of the woodlands or the calm of a wildflower meadow.
One of the biggest concerns when it comes to any type of bee is whether it poses a risk to humans. They are attracted to humans because they like to feed on the salt in their sweat. This isn’t their primary diet; thank goodness and they are more likely to go for pollen and nectar.
Moreover, sweat bees aren’t aggressive and are very unlikely to sting. They typically only do this when they feel threatened so, if one lands on you, just let it do its thing and it’ll fly away and you can both forget the interaction ever happened.
In the unlikely event that you are stung by a sweat bee, there’s really no need to worry. Their sting is not as painful as that of a bumble bee or honey bee and the side effects are usually much less.
While sweat bees aren’t going to do you much harm, most people don’t want to be irritated by pesky bugs. Fortunately, getting rid of sweat bees isn’t a huge task and you can often achieve this with things you already have and by getting a little creative.
Before you think about anything else, you need to consider the fact that sweat bees are a ground-nesting species. Unlike things like a honey bee that nests in a hive, these bees will dig into the soil to create tunnels where it will lay its eggs and raise its young.
Making it more difficult for sweat bees to nest in your garden is one of the first lines of defense as they’re much more likely to just head somewhere else.
So, how do you make your yard inhospitable? It’s simple; make sure that any flower beds have as dense coverage as possible, leaving no patches of exposed soil. You can also use mulch on your soil as this will make it a lot more of a challenge for the nesting bees.
If you’re happy to have a more natural-looking lawn then this is a brilliant way to keep sweat bees at bay. Allowing your lawn to grow slightly higher also encourages it to grow denser which reduces the amount of available soil for the bees to burrow in.
Earlier, I talked about the fact that sweat bees are attracted to sweat. It, therefore, goes without saying that, if you’re not sweating, you’re less likely to be of interest to these bees. Of course, that’s easier said than done in the height of summer but by using things like fans, you can reduce how much you sweat.
The better the air circulation, the more likely you’ll be able to regulate your body temperature without all that pesky moisture. What’s more, where a strong fan is installed, this can make it more difficult for the bees to fly so they’ll have a hard time getting near you in the first place.
I love to eat outdoors in the summer but this is like an open invitation to bees. That’s why I installed patio fans and it really has made a difference. Of course, when you’re eating outside, it’s always a good idea to take extra precautions such as covering food as this will make the area less attractive to bees.
Nobody can help sweating. It’s our body’s way of cooling us down and it’s completely natural. However, if you’ve just done a summer run, been working in the garden or worked up a sweat playing with the kids then it’s probably best to head indoors and take a shower.
Not only will this make you feel much cleaner and fresher, but it’ll also wash away any sweat that might otherwise attract sweat bees.
On top of this, you might want to consider wearing clothing with long sleeves and legs. While this isn’t always ideal in summer when it’s very hot, lightweight materials like cotton can still make you feel cool. The benefit of this is that your skin won’t be exposed meaning there’s less chance of bees coming for you.
That said, sweat bees have been known to crawl up pant legs so this isn’t a foolproof method but it is something of a deterrent.
Mint is fantastic when it comes to repelling a whole host of insects so if you want your summers to be completely pest free then this is a tip worth reading. Bees of all species cannot stand the scent of mint and sweat bees really hate it. Just by having mint present in your outdoor area can be enough to send those bees packing and give you the peace you’ve been looking for.
What’s great is that there are many different ways to use mint. If you’re green fingered then you might consider growing some mint plants in pots and placing them around your patio or deck or anywhere else where sweat bees are a problem. It’s even possible to pot up some smaller plants and pop these on your al fresco dining table. I’d recommend using peppermint as this seems to be the most effective but spearmint also does a good job.
If you want to take the smell of mint with you wherever you go then it’s possible to make a mint rub which can be directly applied to your skin. It simply involves crushing up some leaves from your mint plant and rubbing the residue onto the skin.
But for those of you that don’t much fancy rubbing a plant all over your body, there is another way; mint spray. These sprays contain natural mint oil and can be used on the skin as well as other surfaces like tables, chairs and other garden furniture.
Bee traps are available all over the place both online and in hardware or garden stores. This is one of the most simple ways to get rid of bees and it’s not limited to sweat bees.
You buy the trap and then pop something sweet inside to attract the bees. Once they’re inside, they cannot get back out.
I’d recommend making a simple solution of water and sugar to place inside the trap but you could also use some sweet fruit or even soda. Whatever you have to hand, as long as it’s sweet, will work well.
I’ve already talked about how well mint works when it comes to getting rid of sweat bees but there are plenty of other essential oils that can be just as effective. These can be used in largely the same way as mint either being grown as plants or applying the oil to the skin. Just keep in mind that, when putting essential oils onto the skin, they should be diluted with a carrier oil to avoid irritation.
There are many oils you can use including lemon, clove, citronella, eucalyptus and rosemary. What’s more, these oils have a whole array of other uses including cleaning, home fragrance, perfume making and aromatherapy, to name a few!
I will always be the first person to stand in defense of bees and urge homeowners not to kill them where possible. This is because they are so important to the ecosystem being pollinators of many different flowers and crops. What’s more, while sweat bees might be annoying, they’re not harmful so there’s really no need to hurt them unless there’s no other choice.
One of the simplest things you can use is a bee spray which is available almost everywhere. These are quick and easy to use and are sprayed directly at the bee. Being an aerosol, this is a treatment I would only recommend for outdoor use.
Sweat bees are ground nesters and spend a lot of time in their burrows. If you have an infestation of sweat bees that you need to get rid of then you might need to use a powder or liquid insecticide. These products are designed to be squirted directly into the nest as well as around the opening. As the bees go in and out, the product clings to them and gets moved further inside. The main benefit of this is that the queen will be attacked so there’s no chance of the colony coming back.
Sweat bees are a common species in the United States and while they’re largely harmless to humans, they can be a pest. They’re attracted to our sweat so will often seek out humans in summer to get some of that salty goodness; yuck!
If you’re plagued by sweat bees then there’s no need to worry as there are lots of things you can do to deter them. Many of the methods I have discussed in this guide are natural and won’t cause any harm to the bees but will prevent them from coming near you.
However, for severe situations, you may need to turn to chemical methods but I’d only recommend this where all else fails.