Where Do Honey Bees Build Their Nests? The Process of Nest Finding

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One of the initial steps in getting rid of honey bees is to know where they’re hiding. Of course, you can’t remove their hive if you can’t find it in the first place. So where do honey bees build their nests? To answer that, let’s get inside the ‘mind’ of a common honey bee, and learn about their process of nesting.

Where Do Honey Bees Build Their Nests? The Process of Nest Finding

The process of finding a nesting location is actually more complicated than we think.

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How Honey Bees Find Nesting Sites

Before finding out where honey bees build their hives, it’s important to note that these insects don’t just choose them out of sheer whim. They do it through a sophisticated process that proves how complex they really are.

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According to The Scientist, a 2012 study on how honey bees hunt for housing has observed a unique behaviour on collective decision-making for bees.

Honey bee nests naturally divide to form new swarms after winter. Two-thirds or about 60% of the old colony, along with the old queen, forms into a separate group that will look for a new nest of their own.

Hundreds of those bees are then sent to scout for the best nesting spots while the remaining thousands temporarily stay in a tree branch. Each scout visits one site and then heads back to the branch to report about it. It climbs on its peers’ backs and “describes” the place it has visited through what’s called a “waggle dance”.

It vigorously shakes and dances in a specific pattern. And since all bees know by instinct what an appropriate nesting site is, they know that the scouts with the longer and more energetic dances describe the best places.

While dancing, each scout tries to accumulate enough recruits to its side. The scout that recruits the most bees wins the dance-off and leads the colony to their new home.

But if two of them dance into a stalemate and tell about equally great nesting sites, they exhibit inhibitory signals like head-butting and making high-pitch noises to throw off each other’s dancing and tip the recruitment into their favor.

The peculiar waggle dance isn’t just for locating new nesting spots. It’s also used for food finding. If you want to see it in action, here’s a video from the Smithsonian Channel.

So where do honey bees build their nests?

Generally, bees will occupy just about any place that can offer the right amount of protection from the elements. However, their selection of nesting sites can also be influenced by factors like how suitable the place is and the climate of the area they live in. Tropical honey bees, for example, live in exposed tree branches while their European cousins like to position themselves in more closed-off and secure sites.

But for you to get started on checking your house if any bees are around, here’s a list of the most common places that they use to build their nests.

  • hollowed-out trees
  • sheds and shacks
  • rock crevices
  • caves
  • under ledges
  • inside walls
  • attics
  • roofs
  • high-ceiling barns
  • wooden beams

So there you have it. We hope this post not only answers the question Where do honey bees build their nests? It also gave you some insight on how these sophisticated insects do it.