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How to Kill Bees With Soapy Water (Step-by-Step Guide)

To kill bees with soapy water, mix one part soap with four parts water, and put it in a spray bottle. Spray the solution on all of the bees in the hive, and they should shortly die.

While bees are important to our ecosystem, we don’t always welcome them. They tend to barge in at bad times.

Bees can also be considered pests, invading our homes and building nests on our property.

If you’re looking to get rid of bees, here’s how to do it with soapy water.

Before you kill any bees, especially before killing a hive, call your local animal control or beekeeper. They may be able to remove the bees, without killing them.

How to Use Soapy Water to Kill Bees?

If you’ve ever tried to kill a bee, you know how difficult it can be to kill a single one much less an entire hive in the walls of the home.

What many people don’t know, is that soap is great at killing bees.

In short, soap can make water penetrate the exoskeleton of bees, causing them to drown. This is because soap is a surfactant.

1. Make Soapy Water (High Concentration)

The first step is to make soapy water. You want to make it with a high concentration of soap, in order to make sure it kills the bees.

The following has been recommended by experts:

Mix one part soap with four parts water. Make sure there’s no debris in the water, as this can mess with the spray bottle.

spray bottle with soapy water

2. Fill Up a Spray Bottle

Use a funnel to pour the soap water into a spray bottle. If you don’t have enough to fill an entire bottle, you should make more. Bees will be agitated by your efforts to kill them, hence it’s best to get rid of them all in one go.

spray bottle with soapy water

3. Put On Protective Gear or Clothing

It’s highly advisable to always wear protective clothing when dealing with bees. Doing so ensures that you won’t get hurt while in the process of getting rid of them.

If you have access to a beekeeper suit, this would be the best option. If not, put on pants that cover your entire legs, as well as a long shirt. You should also wear gloves, as well as something that covers your face.

beekeeper protective suit

4. Spray It on the Bees

Spray the solution directly to the bees and ensure that the entire hive gets soaked in the solution. The mixture should kill the bees and prevent them from attacking.

spraying ants

5. Spray It on the Nest

You also need to make sure that the entire nest gets covered in the soapy solution. It includes the entire hive and everything that surrounds it. Doing so greatly reduces the chances of the queen or any worker bees escaping.

bee spray

6. Run if They Get Agitated

If you notice that the bees are starting to get agitated, you should run and escape a possible attack. 

If the situation is getting out of control, you should stop spraying the bees, and call pest control.

bee swarming anf flying out of the hive

Why Does Soapy Water Kill Bees?

Soap works on bees for two reasons:

  1. It’s a surfactant, making water “wetter”
  2. Soap allows water to penetrate the exoskeleton of bees.

Soap essentially drowns bees from the inside.

Soap Is a Surfactant

Soap is a surfactant. It makes water flow more freely and allows it to enter the bees’ bodies.

A surfactant is defined as follows:

“Surfactant, also called surface-active agent, a substance such as a detergent that, when added to a liquid, reduces its surface tension, thereby increasing its spreading and wetting properties.” [1]

In other words, a surfactant makes water wetter by reducing the space between molecules as well as surface tension.

By decreasing this surface tension between two liquids, it allows them to mix with one another, breaking the inherent barrier that separates the two. It is this property that allows the soap to separate dirt and other pollutants from our hands, dishes, and fabrics like clothing.

This is also why you can mix water and oil by adding dish soap.

Surfactants can be harmful to bees because they’re capable of removing the natural oils found on bees’ bodies. Without these oils, bees lose their waterproof coating.

bee on water

Soap Allows Water to Penetrate the Bee

The surfactant properties in soap allow the water mixed with soap to penetrate their body.

Bees breathe from spiracles, which are small breathing holes in their exoskeleton. These work as bees’ “lungs”.

When water enters a bee’s body, much like when our lungs fill up with water, they die from drowning. They won’t be able to pull air in from their spiracles.

Other Natural Remedies to Get Rid of Bees

If you don’t want to use soapy water to kill bees, there are many other natural remedies. These can both be used to kill or simply repel the bees.

The two most popular are vinegar and mothballs.

Read more about how to use the two when getting rid of bees.

Related: How to get rid of bees

Vinegar

Vinegar can be fatal for bees if they are exposed to too much of it. You can apply vinegar in two ways: directly or indirectly.

Direct interaction means that the bees are in direct contact with it, such as climbing into a container of vinegar, or if they’re sprayed with it. Indirect interaction includes eating food that has been mixed with vinegar.

Vinegar contains acetic acid which causes a breakdown of bees’ digestive systems and can even eventually kill them if they ingest enough of it.

Related: How to get rid of bees with vinegar

different kinds of vinegar

Mothballs

Mothballs contain either naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene as their active ingredient. 

Both of these chemicals irritate the respiratory system, although paradichlorobenzene’s irritating effects are more severe and longer-lasting (Purdue).

Mothballs can be used both for killing or repelling bees. Simply hang a couple of mothballs around their hive for repelling, or put them directly into the hive if you intend to kill them.

The bee’s respiratory system is quite different from a human’s due to its specialization for dealing with the collection of pollen and nectar.

Naphthalene and paradichlorobenzene contain chemicals that irritate the bee’s respiratory system in a way that pollen does not. This results in a reaction similar to pneumonia in humans.

Naphthalene balls

Other Options to Get Rid of Bees

There are many alternatives to killing bees. Some are bee-friendly, while others are made for killing them.

The best course of action is always to find a way to let the bees live. They’re important for our ecosystem, and their population is declining.

Call Your Local Beekeeper

If you’re dealing with a honeybee infestation, you should reach out to a local beekeeper. They may be able to take them off your hands.

Beekeepers remove honeybees that have established hives in buildings, trees, or any other parts of homes. They will also remove live swarms that are hanging in-between objects or on the ground.

Beekeepers are experts at handling bees. They know how to act around them, without triggering any aggressive behavior.

bee attacks

Call Pest Control

Another option is to call pest control. Also called exterminators, these are experts at dealing with pests, such as bees, ants, or others.

At times, pest control may also contact beekeepers for you.

Some pest control businesses have beekeepers on retainer for such events, and your pest control company may be able to connect you with them if they can not help themselves.

Pesticide Plants Spraying

Use Bee Spray

Bee spray is an effective way to kill bees. These are sprays designed to kill bees.

Bee sprays are considered contact products, meaning you have to spray them directly on the bees. A contact spray will hit the bees directly and the effect will happen quickly, usually within 15 minutes or less.

Before using bee spray, here’s EPA’s warning on using insecticides:

“Before you buy a product, read the label! Compare product labels, and learn as much as you can about the pesticide. Contact your County Cooperative Extension Service (listed in the telephone book), local pesticide dealers, the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) at 1.800.858.7378, or your state pesticide agency for assistance.”

Conclusion

Soapy water kills bees by allowing water to enter their bodies, causing them to drown. By mixing one part soap with four parts water, you can make your own bee spray.

Soap is a surfactant, meaning it decreases the surface tension of liquids. This essentially makes water “wetter”, allowing it to penetrate bees’ bodies.

FAQs

Does Soapy Water Keep Bees Away?

Soapy water can be used to kill bees, which indirectly will keep them away. When the hive dies, there are no more bees to infest your home. This will not keep other bees from establishing a colony in the future.

Does Dish Soap Kill Bees?

Yes, dish soap will kill bees, if used in combination with water. Using dish soap directly on bees can kill them, but it’s not very effective.

About Teodoro Pittman

Teodoro is a nature and animal lover. He specifically focuses on insects, such as ants, bees, and the like. In his free time, he takes care of his own ant farm, where he analyzes their behavior. Teodoro has spent the last 7 years studying the intricate behavior of these small creatures.