Why Does Soapy Water Kill Bees? The Mystery of Why It Works

Have you ever seen a bee gleefully bouncing around in a puddle of soapy water? I certainly haven’t. In fact, just the opposite is true – contact with soapy water will quickly kill bees. But why is this?

Soapy water kills bees because soap is a surfactant. A surfactant is a substance that lowers the surface tension of water. Bees have holes inside their body that they use to breathe, and when these holes become filled with water – as can happen when the bee is submerged in soapy water – the bee effectively drowns.

close up of bee behind a white background

Bees are not the only creatures that can be killed by soapy water – other insects are also susceptible. Their respiratory system is different from ours. When water enters their trachea, it balloons out and pushes against the sides of their body, causing them to suffocate.

Scientific Explanation Why Soapy Water Can Kill Bees

Bees are covered in tiny hairs that help them collect pollen from flowers. These same hairs also help to repel water, which is why bees can often be seen taking a dust bath. However, when bees come into contact with soapy water, the soap molecules attach to their hairs and disrupt this natural waterproofing.

This means that water can penetrate the bee’s exoskeleton, causing the bee to swell up and eventually leading to its death. Soapy water is particularly deadly to bees because it not only disrupts their waterproofing but also dissolves the wax that covers their bodies.

These holes, called spiracles, are used by bees to breathe. Once the wax is gone, water can enter the bee’s trachea and fill its lungs, leading to death by drowning.

There’s a difference, though when bees simply touch the soapy water. It poses minimal risk to them if they don’t stay in too long and get it on their wings.

Once it’s on their wings, the soap can prevent bees from flying, which makes it harder for them to escape danger, which eventually exposes them to more risk,

How to Kill Bees with Soapy Water: A Step-by-Step Guide

The bee population is in decline, and that’s bad news for everyone. These hardworking insects are responsible for pollinating crops, and their disappearance could have a devastating effect on the food supply.

While experts rarely recommend killing bees, there are times when it may be necessary to protect your property or safety. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to kill bees, soapy water is an effective method:

Here’s how to do it:

Fill a Spray Bottle with Water and a Squirt of Dish Soap

You’ll need a spray bottle filled with water and a squirt of dish soap. The dish soap breaks the surface tension of the water, which allows it to penetrate the bee’s exoskeleton.

Depending on the size of your spray bottle, you may need to add more soap. A good rule of thumb is to add approximately one teaspoon of soap for every cup of water.

Look for the Bee Nest

Bees will often build their nests in trees, shrubs, or other sheltered areas. If you can’t find the nest, watch where the bees are flying in and out of. This will give you a general idea of where to look. This can be tricky, as bees are often secretive about their nests. However, there are a few telltale signs that will help you locate it:

bees outside of their nest
  • Bees that are flying in a straight line are likely going to or coming from the nest.
  • If you see a lot of bees flying around in circles, they may be scout bees looking for a new nesting site.
  • If you see bees flying in and out of cracks or small holes, this is likely their nest.

Once you’ve located the nest, move to a safe distance away. You should be at least 20 feet away from the nest to avoid being stung.

Spray the Nest with Soapy Water

Now that you’re in a safe position, it’s time to take action. Use your spray bottle to drench the nest with soapy water. Be sure to saturate the nest so that all of the bees are covered. You may have to spray the nest multiple times to kill all of the bees.

Monitor the Nest and Repeat as Necessary

The bees will start to die within minutes, but it may take a few hours for all of them to succumb to the soapy water. Once they’re dead, you can remove the nest and dispose of it. Be sure to monitor the area for any new activity. If necessary, repeat the process until all of the bees are gone.

You’ll notice that once the bees are soaked, they tend to fly erratically. This is because the soap disrupts their flying ability. They’ll fall once they are drenched with the mixture, and they won’t be able to get back up. The soap also breaks down the bees’ exoskeletons, causing them to swell up and eventually die.

While it’s not pleasant to kill bees, soapy water is an effective way to do it. Just be sure to take precautions to avoid being stung, and monitor the area for any new activity.

Things You Should Do Before Using Soapy Water to Kill Bees

While soapy water is an effective way to kill bees, there are a few things you should do before doing this method:

Wear Protective Clothing

Before you approach the nest, be sure to put on some protective clothing. This includes long sleeves, long pants, gloves, and a veil or other face covering. Bees can sting through clothing, so it’s important to have as much coverage as possible.

two beekeepers in protective gear

Your safety is the most important thing, so take the necessary precautions to protect yourself.

Choose the Right Time of Day

Bees are most active during the day, so it’s best to do this method in the evening or early morning when they’re less likely to be out and about. This will reduce the risk of being stung.

Monitor the Weather

Wind can cause the soapy water to drift away from the nest, so it’s important to monitor the weather. Choose a day with little to no wind so that the mixture will stay focused on the nest.

Benefits of Using Soapy Water to Kill Bees

There are a few benefits of using soapy water to kill bees:

It’s an Effective Method

Soapy water is an effective way to kill bees. When used correctly, it will quickly kill the bees, allowing you to easily get rid of the nest.

It’s Safe for the Environment

Unlike some pesticides, soapy water is safe for the environment. It won’t harm other animals or plants, and it won’t pollute the ground or water.

It’s Inexpensive

Soapy water is a cheap and easy way to get rid of bees. All you need is some dish soap and a spray bottle, and you’re good to go.

Final Thoughts

Soapy water has a high concentration of surfactants, which are molecules that decrease the surface tension of water. When sprayed on bees, these surfactants quickly degrade the waxy substance that covers their bodies.

Water will then be able to enter the holes on the bee’s body, causing them to become bloated and eventually die. Essentially, soapy water will drown the bees.