Bees are the bane of pool parties, backyard barbecues and summertime soirees outdoors. Even though they're beneficial and necessary for the environment, they can be a major annoyance to just about any outdoor activity. Instead of killing them, get rid of them by using natural repellents or, in worst-case scenarios, calling for professional help.

Essential oil of peppermint in a small brown bottle
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What Essential Oils Repel Bees

Bee Basics

Virtually any type of bee can be an annoyance if it keeps returning to an area where people congregate, such as the pool or patio. Carpenter bees, bumble bees and various types of honey bees can all be problematic, especially when masses of them swarm nearby.

Female carpenter bees sting, but only when feeling threatened. Males don't. Carpenter bees bore into wood, especially if it's unpainted weathered. Paint wood and replace rotten wood to help get rid of carpenter bees.

Bumblebees can be over 1 inch long and are fuzzy, compared to the smooth, shiny abdomens found on carpenter bees. Bumblebees often nest in other animal burrows in the ground and aren't aggressive unless their nest is disturbed. Only the female has a stinger. Seal off holes in outdoor structures or in the ground to help get rid of bumblebees.

Honey bees are generally striped brown and yellow, although color variations occur in different breeds. They live mostly in holes within trees and between rocks and may sometimes be aggressive, especially if their hive is disturbed.

Essential-Oil Repellents

Some essential oils, available from natural foods markets, repel all sorts of bees and wasps. Peppermint oil is also good at repelling mosquitoes. Make a refreshing spray for skin or clothing by mixing 5 drops of peppermint oil with 1/2 cup water in a spray bottle. Spritz exposed areas, such as arms and legs. This spray can also be used on patio furniture to help keep bees away for a while. The effects wear off once the peppermint scent fades. Test the spray in an inconspicuous area to ensure it doesn't stain.

When making essential oil-based repellents, don't use them on your face or on sensitive skin or open wounds. Don't spray them on infants, either, as they're more sensitive to such things than adults and older children. If allergic to any of the oils or their associated plants, don't use that particular oil. Choose another instead.

Clove oil also repels bees and wasps thanks to its active component, eugenol. Keep bees away from your patio or porch by pouring 5 or more drops of clove oil each on a number of cotton balls, placing the cotton near outdoor seating areas. The oil will repel bees until the scent fades.

Geranium essential oil is another great wasp and bee repellent, especially when used in conjunction with other essential oils. Make your own repellent spray by adding 15 drops each of geranium, clove and rosemary essential oils to an 8-ounce spray bottle that contains 4 ounces of water. Fill most of the way with witch hazel. Replace the lid and shake the bottle to blend ingredients. Spray the repellent around outdoor seating areas or swimming pool decks, away from the water, to keep bees away. You may also spray it on cotton balls or scrap pieces of fabric, or even on exposed skin, such as arms or legs.

Getting Rid of Hives

Getting rid of a beehive or bee colony can result in getting lots of stings, too. It's best to call a professional who's trained to identify the type of bee. A local beekeeper can also help identify the bee variety and even relocate the hive elsewhere, especially if the bees are honeybees.

Professional help is especially important if bees have taken up residence in a wall. Call local beekeepers before calling an exterminator, as a beekeeper may be able to do the job without killing the bees. Some exterminators kill bees without removing the hive, which could mean more bees may take up residence in the same location at a later date.