summer BBQ

If there is one thing that honeybees love more than nectar and pollen, it’s your summer BBQ. Ok, while that might not be exactly true, it sure does seem like it! San Diego residents want to get outside and enjoy the weather while they share a meal with family and friends. And with the pandemic still running rampant throughout the state, backyard BBQs and eating al fresco is more common than in previous years. 

While nothing beats a delicious meal eaten outside, honeybees have been known to put a damper on the experience. The buzzing around our food and the potential of an unpleasant bee sting can make it hard to relax and enjoy the meal. Is there anything that can be done to keep the bees at bay? 

We can’t completely eliminate bees from our BBQs, and why would we want to? Bees play such a vital role in our ecosystem and contribute to so much of our agricultural systems. In fact, if bees didn’t perform their valuable work as pollinators, our backyards BBQs and picnics would look very different. So many of the foods we eat on a regular basis can be directly contributed to the pollination efforts of honeybees and other pollinators. 

How to Keep Bees Away from Your Summer BBQ and Picnic

Before we share some ways to keep bees at bay this summer, keep in mind that bees are not out to sting you. Most of the bees you encounter are worker bees whose job it is to collect nectar and pollen to bring back to the hive. They don’t want to mess with you, unless you represent a threat to them or the hive as a whole. That is why it is always best to leave bees alone until they go their own way, rather than swat or shoo them away. Once they realize that you aren’t a delicious flower, they will move along and leave you and your food alone. 

Choose the right location. 

When you know a little about honey bee behavior, you can choose the best spot to host your picnic or BBQ. Although you won’t ever be able to completely remove these uninvited guests, you can do your homework and pick a location that won’t attract hordes of bees to the area. 

  • Avoid a location nearby trash cans which can give off sweet smells that attract bees. 
  • Explore your potential party site in search of signs of a hive. Bees like to build their nests in hidden, unused places, including underneath your picnic table! A hive in the vicinity may mean trouble for your BBQ. 
  • Remove flowerpots or plants from your deck, patio or picnic area that attract bees for pollination. 

Make yourself unattractive to bees. 

Bees are attracted to plants and flowers, but they can also be attracted to things that look and smell like plants and flowers. Here are a few things you can do to look less like a tasty flower: 

  • Avoid wearing floral-patterned or other brightly-colored clothing that can give the appearance of a flower to a bee. 
  • Skip the floral-scented lotions, perfumes and skincare products. 
  • Shiny jewelry can grab the attention of bees, so consider leaving your baubles at home. 

Make your eating space unattractive to bees. 

The less inviting you make your eating space, the fewer bees you will attract to the area. Consider these tips when preparing your food and dining area: 

  • Set up a buffet area apart from where you and your guests will eat. If bees do arrive on the scene, at least they won’t be attracted to where everyone is gathered. 
  • Bring out the food just before you are ready to eat. The longer it sits out, the more time there is for bees and other critters to sense it. 
  • Keep your food containers tightly-sealed. This will reduce the food odor and attract fewer bees to the area. 
  • Do not leave soda cans or bottles of sweet beverages open. Bees often enter the can, leaving your thirsty guest with an unexpected mouthful of bee.  
  • Bees aren’t big fans of the scent of marigolds. Consider placing bouquets throughout your outdoor dining area. 

We hope you find these tips helpful as you prepare for your next outdoor dining experience. Remember, bees are a natural and necessary part of our environment, so avoid the temptation to swat at them. Instead, do your part to deter bees in the first place and keep them safe and thriving!