Bees in the Worm Bin! Now What?

Bee swarm hanging from fern frond.

Yes,  I have had swarms of bees here in my gardens and they have actually gone into one or two of the bins here.  It was scary, but at the same time I was able to marvel at the bees in action.  They have really been here in the garden five times in  swarms.  They were looking for a queen, so they could settle down and have a hive.  Twice they attached themselves to a drooping frond of a giant Australian tree  fern.  Another time they liked the bottle brush trees.  I have a line of five of them in a row and hang the bird feeders from the lower branches.  Since there is so much nectar in the flowers of this tree, it was simple to see why they choose them as place to gather and then go to hunt for their queen.  Twice they have found their way into two different worm bins.  In both cases they had help in the form of a rodent ( I think it may have been a Norway rat) who chewed through the topmost rim under the lid of a bin for entry.  Once a few were in and went back to the swarm, the whole swarm was on high alert and ended up in the bin.  They were after the worm’s food of course.  Nothing like decomposing food high in sugar content to attract the bees!

Because of the outside chance they could have been the Africianized Honey Bees, I called professional help in for each swarm.  Every time one of the pros came out I learned a little more about how NOT to attract another swarm in the garden or worm bin area.  The second time they gathered on the fronds of the tall fern tree I had it removed on the advice of the pros.  After they were on the bottle-brush trees I took down the largest of the open style bird houses, which a friend had made me and had to dispose of it.  To feed on that feeder, I cut citrus in half  for the Orelio’s and other fruit eating birds here.  That action was an open invitation to the bees for a good meal and a half!

The first invasion into a worm bin was one that didn’t have it’s own top. It was flat across and level, so I put a piece of plywood on it and two bricks to hold it down in case of winds.  The rodents bit their way into the bin, leaving a prime opening for the bees to enter and they did en-mass.  The hole at the very top of the bin’s rim was about two inches wide.  That was all the bees needed.  By the time I noticed them in that remote area behind the garage, there were far too many of them for me to deal with on my own.  Not that I would have ever dreamed of tackling them alone.  The pros who came out always dressed in full haz-mat suits before they removed to bees to another location!  This time there was nothing he could do,  but to kill them with a spray into the bin.  A few days after that I lifted the lid.  The white powder was totally covering the contents of the bin.  With gloves on I began to poke around int the bin.  Under the powder were live worms.  They were at the very bottom of where all the casts were and they worms were all small juveniles. I added some food and totally covered the worms with soaked paper bedding.  I took steel wool and adhered it to the hole the rodent had made, totally covering the hole it had made. I used a foam insulation spray to glue the steel wool in place.  This was on the advice of the bee professional who had seen the bin and by now knew what I was up against.  It worked!

The next and last encounter I had with a swarm was in a muck bucket bin.  It is the type with two handles. It is round and has many uses in the garden until the handles wear out, as they are fiberglass or rope and rot after a few rainy seasons.  In this case I had inverted a trash can lid on it and placed a full bag of soaked paper on the top to keep intruders and bees out.  Those bees found the tiny openings in the sides where the handles had been.  Once the bee man had come and gone I used the steel wool trick with the spray foam to plug the holes and the bees have not been back for at least a year now.

I need to explain that I live on a sloping hillside, which was once an avocado grove.  Many of the trees are still alive and this is another huge attraction for the bees when they are all in bloom.  The human population density is high, as it is a residential neighborhood.

To Recap:

> I have removed ot tried to all the bee attractions I can

> I still have the all the organic food wastes rotting in covered pails with bricks on them now

> I am very aware of the sound of a bee swarm when I am in the garden

Bee comb in a worm bin

>  It is possible to bring a worm bin back to life after it has been sprayed with a bee killing substance.

I hope sharing this with you will help ease your concerns about attracting bees to your worm bin area.

It will also help you should this happen to you and now know that all is not lost and you can save your worm population.

I trust you continue to enjoy your worms and their casts in your gardens!

~Shel