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Keeping bees out of nest boxes

Hi this might be an unusual question.

I want to build a native bird nest box to hang up in a tree. I want to discourage bees moving in. Someone suggested using insecticide but I don’t want to do that.

Are there any tips and tricks to keep nest boxes free from bees?
Can I line the roof from the inside with something the bees don’t like to build comb on?

It is a question I’ve started to think about but not done any research. There are products like honey b gone that the bees don’t like. There are also some essential oils as well which may work. You probably only need them active when the birds you are attracting may use it or during swarm season.

As to materials they prefer not to build comb on, I’d like to know that too.


A really good question and like Adam I simply haven’t got an answer for you. I have had bee hives away from my apiary where there has been bird boxes and they are like a magnet to attract bees no matter how high off the ground they are.
I hate the idea of using insecticide for any purpose…
If the birds aren’t migratory then once the bird box is in use the bees might not be a big problem.

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A group of us have built (powerful) owl boxes and installed them in trees in the area. This large reclusive species of owl is endangered as a result of a lack of tree hollows large enough to accommodate them - Australia’s largest owl. When we built the boxes, we used a material for the ceiling of the boxes that was intentionally very smooth/shiny and therefore (hopefully) difficult for bees to attach comb to. So far so good and none have been taken over by bees, not that there’s any guarantees, but it’s worked so far.


Just a thought from what you have said Beck, it might be a help by @Ruttneri painting the bird box to help make it smooth on the outside then using a silicone spray on the outside so that any investigating bees can’t get a good foot hold. Just a thought.


Thanks Outbeck. I have Southern Boobooks nesting here and sometimes I see and hear the young at night in the streetlight catching prey with the parents. They give me so much pleasure and if I get them in a nest box I’ll be thrilled. Most likely I’ll get a Galah though.

I was also thinking of a very smooth surface under the roof but may not stay smooth for long. It will be hard to maintain up in the tree.

There is a product called Neverwet which is ultra hydrophobic and insects can’t get a grip on it. It is a 2-pack spray system. Am worried about any potential VOC’s inside that small box though.

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I’ve tried Neverwet for ants and while it works well it needs constant reapplying, not worth the cost.

Did you try it on your hive stand legs Peter? I think exposed on a vertical surface it won’t last long but was hoping that maybe in a nest box under the lid and out of the weather, it may last a while.

We used all manner of materials for the planet’s most fussy bird. The material used on the ceiling of the owl box to guard against bee takeover was either plastic like on advertising signage (not sure of the word for it) or a polished laminate. Both were recycled (ie. found lying around). The exterior was painted marine ply with ironbark screwed around the entrance. The perch was dowel with linseed oil. I could go on!

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Would love to see some photos

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Any taken over by the owls?

I don’t mind! I’m a keen birder too.

Here’s one photo. I’ll do more tomorrow but this is one of the boxes being installed. Like I said, they’re big birds!


Yeah I saw some articles recently. I’d forgotten we had such big owls.

The boxes have only been in one season. They were closed off over summer and reopened in February. This is to deter cockatoos and possums. The cockatoos and bees are the biggest problem as the owls wont turf out the cockatoos. We put door chimes inside each box in case cockatoos moved in. They can be operated from the ground and the cockatoos wont tolerate the racket (pretty loud inside the box).
The boxes are positioned in areas where they have been spotted and where they prefer to nest - along gullies and where roosting trees are nearby, so the male can guard his family. I am reasonably confident the owls will take up residence but they have to find them - it’s a bit of a needle in a haystack type scenario but worth it anyway.
Last season, one box was occupied by a ringtail possum (evicted) before it was closed for the summer. Another had signs of bird life with juvenile feathers and eggshell remnants. We think it might have been a southern boobook looking at the feathers.

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Yes, I saw an article too. It was about further loss of habitat after the bush fires as well as new artificial hollows designed for 3D printers. Fingers crossed they work! The boxes have had limited success in the past. We’ve made a whole raft of design modifications to try and appeal to them, but we won’t know until / if they find them.

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Going up!

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Yes, I used it on the stand legs but I regard it as a fail because it didn’t last long in the elements and coating the legs was cheaper and lasted longer.

You are right Peter. I read some reviews on the product and it is not very long lasting. I might still give it ago as a last resort - being out of the elements and being on the roof it shouldn’t get much abrasion, it might last a while.

That is a great idea Outbeck. I wonder if some sort of siren works on bees too. Great looking nest boxes you have there, a lot of effort was put in to them. I wish you luck with the Powerful Owls.

If I get a possum in mine, I’ll be happy too, it won’t get evicted.

I should think a siren might upset the bees more than anything, but I don’t think it’ll get them out.

Better to evict the possum than have them become dinner for the Powerful Owl (their main diet) :laughing:

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