Why is Orkin, the pest control company, still killing bees? UPDATED

In this day and age when there is enormous discussion internationally about the plight of bees, it’s astonishing that there are still pest control companies that consider apis mellifera a pest.

Most right-thinking people, when faced with a swarm of bees, call the local municipality or beekeeper to help them. I don’t normally run into people who think the answer is to spray them with pesticides and wipe them out. Most people are pretty tuned into how valuable bees are.

John WIlson, president and CEO of Rollins Inc. the parent company of Orkin, the pest control company. He recently appeared on the CBS show Undercover Boss, which included a segment on the killing of a honey bee colony.

John WIlson, president and CEO of Rollins Inc. the parent company of Orkin, the pest control company. He recently appeared on the CBS show Undercover Boss, which included a segment on the killing of a honey bee colony. Credit: CBS

So it’s actually very surprising to discover that Orkin, the pest control company, considers bees pests and apparently doesn’t work with local beekeepers to help solve problems when there is an “infestation”.

What has brought this position into sharp relief is the appearance of  John Wilson, the CEO  and president of Rollins Inc., the parent company of Orkin, on a segment of the CBS show Undercover Boss, in which Orkin nukes a bee colony.

The scene immediately drew criticism from the beekeeping community on the Beesource website. Offers have been made by beekeepers to educate Orkin about how to work towards the safe removal of bees. They have apparently gone without response.

Orkin, to its credit, has a relatively deep website of information on honey bees, including information about how hives work, who populates them and the fact they are a pollinating insect beneficial to gardens. But it doesn’t offer any advice that I can find about how to live with bees, and refers to them as “stinging pests” and “infestations”. It simply offers the solution of “bee extermination.”

It would seem to me there is a tremendous positive communications opportunity for  Orkin by working with beekeepers to safely remove bees, adding back to the community. Think of it: a pest control company working to save the world’s pollinators.


It seems that Orkin is receiving a lot of criticism for killing the bees on the Undercover Boss segment. The following was posted on Beesource by a member who received a note back from Orkin explaining what happened, and that it is participating in a pollinator protection campaign.

Thank you for expressing your views regarding Orkin’s recent Undercover Boss episode that included a bee treatment.
Given the very short Undercover Boss segment that aired, it’s understandable that people are upset that we treated the bee hive, but there’s more to the story than just the few minutes that everyone saw. This property is a rental, and the tenant, who has been there for about a year, told us that addressing the bee hive was her responsibility. The landlord had looked into relocating the hive in the past, but it had been too costly. Full disclosure – Orkin was not part of this conversation, so we don’t know who quoted the removal or how much it was – just that it wasn’t an option for the landlord or the tenant because of cost. The tenant has a two-year-old daughter, who could not play outside because of the bees, so she called us. I hope you noticed the employee’s remarks that having to treat the hive was unfortunate, but it was the tenant’s only affordable option. We were interested to see the note in at least one post that some apiarists will remove hives at no cost. We’re not sure if the landlord or the tenant knew of this option, or if such an option was available in that area of the country.
Orkin realizes how important bees are to the environment, and we treat them only when they pose a danger to families or pets, and removal options are not possible or economically feasible. We already work with the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign on bee educational programs, and we will commit to working with the NAPPC to be sure that all Orkin branches have lists of local apiarists to refer customers before we proceed with a treatment. This practice is already in place in most branches, but we will formalize it and communicate it, so that all branches are aware of the options in their areas to relocate bees.

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