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FGUA offers locals tips on identifying, preventing bee hives

November 12, 2014
By DONNA LIZOTTE , Lehigh Acres Citizen

A utility meter reader will visit an average of 350-400 service addresses per day. They work outdoors and understand that they need to be mindful of their surroundings at all times.

Meter readers are instructed to inspect an area before entering; especially areas which may not see frequent human traffic. Although it is not a daily occurrence, it is not uncommon for a meter reader to find that bees have colonized a water meter box since they last visited a property.

Honey bees will nest above or below ground, in natural or manmade crevices, in urban or rural areas. In slightly wooded areas nests can generally be found in ground cavities near the base of trees or suspended from a tree branch or inside a hollow void on a branch/in the trunk.

However honey bees will also nest in the ground, including in burrows, meter boxes, irrigation valve boxes, electrical boxes, et cetra. Bees can be stirred by any loud noise or heavy vibration, particularly to their nest. Anyone approaching a potential nesting site should do so with caution.

Homeowners can take the following precautions to reduce the chances of people-bee encounters.

- Fill any holes under or around the base of trees. This can be accomplished simply by collapsing the hole or filling it with dirt from the surrounding area. This precaution limits access to the area around the base of a tree and bees are less likely to nest there.

- Fill or cover holes larger than one-eighth of an inch located in potential nesting sites. This can be done by stapling or nailing screen mesh around the hole or filling the hole with expandable foam or other filler materials. This includes holes in tree trunks or at the base of trees.

- Patrol wooded areas regularly, especially during swarm season in the spring and fall. Look for bees flying into and out of any hole; such activity may be a sign that a bee colony is in the area - bees on flowers are not a threat or a sign of a nearby colony.

There are many different types of products available to eradicate a bee's nest colony. However, live bee removal and relocation helps the environment. A bee keeper will remove an established colony and relocate the colony to a suitable location, by carefully removing the hive by hand, and thoroughly cleaning the area to ensure that no honey residue or hive structure is left behind.

He will then relocate the bees to give them a place to live where they can thrive. By doing so not only will the bees not return to the same location, the colony is preserved and the bees are able to continue their work.

Recognizing the importance of honey bees to the production of honey and their role in pollination, the FGUA in the Lehigh Acres system has secured assistance from Bill Smith, a fourth-generation beekeeper. Smith has provided aid to the utility with the removal of bees from water utility meter boxes.

Smith lives in Labelle, where he has approximately 60 hives on his property and hopes to grow this number to 200 hives. He receives calls from around the area and travels to Lehigh Acres, Moore Haven and Clewiston but has gone as far as Palm Beach to rescue a beehive.

Most hives can be removed in approximately 45 minutes. Smith provides this service free of charge and is available in the late afternoon and on weekends. If you would like to contact Bill Smith directly with questions or assistance with removal of a hive, he can be reached at (239) 222-3468.

If you suspect a colony is forming in or around the water meter or meter box on your property, please contact the FGUA business office in your area. In Lehigh Acres, contact (239) 368-1615. The utility will dispatch a field technician to perform an onsite evaluation.

You may also contact a registered beekeeper if you have reason to believe that bees are nesting in or around a tree on your property. In Lee County, contact the University of Florida/IFS Extension office, at 3406 Palm Beach Blvd., Fort Myers, at (239) 533-4327 or email

A list of trained professionals is available from the AFBEE Program and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Donna Lizotte is a community service representative with the Florida Governmental Utility Authority.



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