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Advice on bees

We receive many requests for help in what to do if bees settle on your property.  The key to all of these requests is correct identification of the type of bee, because the implications of each are different.

 All bees in the UK are under stress due to lack of suitable habitat and available forage so we should be doing all we can to accommodate them unless they are a direct pest.

 The bees gallery page should be used as a basis for positive identification, accompanied by the following information.

  • If the bees are hanging in a cluster on a tree or shrub and have arrived en masse, accompanied by a low droning sound – they are honey bees and we have members who are willing to collect them. –  (see 1 below)
  • If the bees are occupying a cavity in the ground accessed via a single entrance, they are likely to be bumble bees (see 2 below) or wasps.(see 3 below).
  • If the bees are accessing multiple holes in the ground or cavities in an air brick, they are likely to be mining or mason bees (see 4 below)
  • If the bees hairy and occupying a bird box or small cavity in a house or outbuilding they are likely to be a species of bumble bee called Bombus Hypnorum (tree bumble bee). (See 2 below)

What to do:-
1.  Honey bees – Swarm – phone for assistance in collecting the swarm.  If you see a colony occupy a cavity in your house, try to evict it by either lighting a fire (if in a chimney) or burning a sulphur candle in the cavity.  Strong smelling reagent such as Jeyes fluid squirted into the cavity will often drive them out.
Once a colony is established it is rarely possible to remove them humanely.  The process is expensive and destructive, often requiring a builder to repair the damage caused.

If you have a swarm of honey bees that needs removing, please contact our Swarm Coordinator on 01722 711066 or go to the British Bee Keepers Association website at:  https://archive.bbka.org.uk/help/do_you_have_a_swarm.php

2.  Bumble bees rarely cause a nuisance and you should welcome them on your property since they perform essential pollination service.  The colony will die out after about 3 months and not return.  Try to restrict access to small children.

3.  Wasps.  For most of the season, these insects perform a valuable service in the garden by removing caterpillar pests to feed to their developing young.  The adults survive largely on a diet of sugar that they derive from their own larvae in return for being fed masticated meat.  The colony will break down at the end of the season and not return the following year.  When the colony breaks down, the adults often become a nuisance by raiding barbecue and picnic sites in search for sugar that the larvae can no longer provide.  For this reason, most people regard them as pests and the council will often destroy them for you.

4.  Mining and Mason bees.  These insects are solitary but often colonise the same area when suitable conditions exist.  Mining bees excavate a tunnel or cavity whereas mason bees often occupy existing tunnels.  In both cases, the gravid female collects pollen and deposits it in the cavity, lays and egg on it, seals the chamber and repeats the exercise until her supply of eggs is exhausted.  Once she has laid her eggs her parental duties are finished and she will die.  These bees are rarely a nuisance and are very good for the garden.