An owl nesting box infested with honeybees.
Photo: Pat Watkins.
A pair of beekeepers removing an owl nesting box infested with honeybees.
Photo: Pat Wilkins.
A nest box with brood and honeycomb by honeybees.
Photo: Pat Wilkins.
Homeowners and other property owners frequently contact the AgCenter about finding beekeepers to remove bees. Pat had a similar problem except she found bees in an owl nesting box, “Who can I talk to about bees invading owl nesting boxes?”
Wildlife biologists and duck hunters complain about honeybees in woodduck boxes, but bees in an owl box is a first for AHA. The University of Missouri Extension website presents the benefits of attracting owls, “Whether you live in an agriculture area or in suburban or urban community, owls are a valuable species to have on your property. Barn owls are among the most effective predators of all birds of prey, yet their value to agriculture is often underestimated. They eat large numbers of rodents such as voles, rats and mice that cause damage to agricultural crops, livestock feeds and farm buildings.”
AHA suggested the use of honeybee repellents which are used by beekeepers to harvest honey. These repellents are readily available online for purchase.
A little later, Pat sent a follow up email with some solutions, “Thanks for your help concerning my owl box and bees. Yes, it seems that if you have an owl box you have bees.
The real problem is that an owl box is at least fifteen to twenty feet up in a tree. It became very labor intensive and expensive to replace a box yearly. We have had nesting owls on our property for five years. Urbanization and lack of habitat are an issue for barred owls.
Right now, we are working on a couple of possible solutions. Both involve modification of the box design itself.
1) Cut out the box and soak the individual pieces in linseed oil for an extended period, 2 weeks. Assemble the box and hope the smell will keep the bees out and not bother the owls.
2) Make a collapsible box that will fold flat against the tree once the owlets fledge. No open space for bees. Uncollapse in November ready for January Owls.
3) Make an owl box that has a hinged lid and bottom. Once the owlets fledge. Unhinge the lid and bottom. No welcoming space for bees.
4) Find a particular wood that repels bees. Make the box out of that material.
Once owls establish a nesting area, they will continue to use that area for years. Passing in on to their own offspring.
I don’t know which if any of these will solve the problem. But I do know that we are not the only ones trying to solve it. I don’t want to kill the bees. That is why we had them removed by an amateur beekeeper. I will send you the pics in a subsequent email.”
A couple of beekeepers lowered the nesting box and found a well-established colony of honeybees with brood and honeycomb. They removed the colony to put into honey production in an apiary or beeyard.
If you are interested in attracting owls to your landscape, an online search will provide many websites about owl conservation, owl habitat, and nest box designs.
Please send your questions and pictures to Keith Hawkins, Area Horticulture Agent (AHA), 318.264.2448 or firstname.lastname@example.org . Also, you can be on the “beemail” email list by emailing your request to the address above.
“This work has been supported, in part, by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Renewable Resources Extension Act Award, Accession Number 1011417.”
“Mention of trade names or commercial products and services in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute endorsement by Louisiana State University AgCenter.”