I have some bees in my property... What do I do?

Our handy guide will give you more information about the different types of insect that can be nesting at this time of the year.

Bumblebees

These can be found nesting inside bird boxes, in compost heaps, sheds, general waste and behind the soffit/fascia in urban settings. Very common, they are important pollinators. Not aggressive unless the nest is disturbed, they have a yearly lifecycle and the nest will disperse by Autumn.

SIZE: variable. The queens are the largest, the males are smaller and the workers vary in sizes from small to medium.

COLOUR: generally black and yellow with reddish/ginger or white depending on the species.

APPEARANCE: stocky and hairy.

WHAT TO DO: if you can, leave them alone. Relocation is generally not an option, and the nesting location will be empty of bees by Autumn.

Mining Bees

Easily confused with honeybees due to their similar size, mining bees are actually solitary, although you can find a number of them nesting together in the same location. As the name indicates, they nest underground in burrows they dig. Not aggressive and likely to be found nesting where the soil is dry and sandy.

SIZE: small. Approximately the same size as a honeybee or a bit smaller. Males are slightly smaller than females.

COLOUR: distinctive reddish/orange hair all over their body.

APPEARANCE: more hairy than a honeybee and the antennae are much longer.

WHAT TO DO: if possible, leave them alone. Digging up the soil would damage the nest, so relocation is not possible.

Wasps

Most people can identify these quite easily. They build their nests using chewed up wood pulp and making a material similar to cardboard. The nests can be up to a football size and are generally found in protected places like loft spaces, disused sheds, abandoned buildings and sheltered hedges. Very common throughout the UK and have an important role in keeping aphids and other pests under control. In late summer, when the nests are starting to disperse, they develop a taste for all things sweet and become a bit of a nuisance, but they have done an important job earlier in the season,

SIZE: small. A little bit longer than a honeybee but more slender.

COLOUR: distinctive yellow and black pattern.

APPEARANCE: less hairy than a honeybee, slender and almost hairless.

WHAT TO DO: leave them alone if you can, if they are in an inconvenient location, you will need to contact a pest control professional. Do not attempt to remove the nest, there could be a large number of wasps and they might attack to protect the nest.

Mason Bees

This is another one that can be mistaken for a honeybee or for a mining bee due to their similar size. Mason bees are solitary bees, and will normally nest within holes in bricks, wood or cavity wall spaces. They are highly likely to use a ‘bee hotel’ which you might have seen for sale at the garden centres or online. These are made of small tubes (bamboo or other materials) and the bees will build their nests using mud or clay to create a space where they lay their eggs. Very gentle, they make an ideal bee if you have children and want to encourage them to observe and learn from their behaviour.

SIZE: small. Approximately the same size as a honeybee or a bit smaller. Males are smaller than females.

COLOUR: distinctive reddish/blonde hair all over their body.

APPEARANCE: more hairy than a honeybee and with a distinctive hairy ‘face’.

WHAT TO DO: leave them alone. They pose no danger to humans or pets, and will not damage the property.

Honeybees

Our favourite insect, they work hard to produce the honey we love. They overwinter as a colony, and can stay living in a location for many years. The colony can vary in size, but generally is somewhere between 15,000 and 60,000 bees! In Spring and Summer they swarm, which is their way to reproduce and form a new colony. See what to look for on the gallery below. Their preference is for spaces with around 20 litres of volume, and generally high up. If there’s a colony living somewhere, there will be a large number of bees coming in and out when the weather is warm.

SIZE: small. Workers are all the same size, drones (male) are slightly larger, but not many of them around so you are unlikely to see one.

COLOUR: varies from dark brown (almost black) to a distinctive stripey with dark yellow/orange.

APPEARANCE: some hairs, mostly on the thorax.

WHAT TO DO: call one of the beekeepers on the list below. They will ask you a few questions and give the correct advice.

Do I have a honeybee swarm?

To help you know what to look for, here are some examples of honeybee swarms. If you see something like this, call one of the friendly beekeepers from the list for help. They will discuss with you the possibility of coming and taking the bees away. The bees will be grateful!

Do you have a swarm of honeybees like the above pictures?

If what you see is a swarm of honey bees, then we are able to offer help. Look at the postcodes of our swarm collectors in the table below and contact the nearest to you. Be sure to give exact details of your location and where you have seen the swarm. Remember that bees swarm as a matter of course and are more interested in finding a new home than anything else. Do not disturb them and they will leave you alone.

One more thing, there could be 16,000 bees in a swarm so you are well outnumbered! It is best to let the experts deal with them because they know what they are doing.This is a list of people who will come and collect a swarm. There is normally no charge for this service, but please first be sure that the swarm is accessible and consists of honey bees and not wasps or bumble bees.

 

Area/post code Name E-mail address Telephone
YO8 Martin Ainsley j.m.ainsley@btinternet.com 01757 288148 / 07842 278695
YO19, Fulford & York Bruno Hannemann bruno@sanedesign.co.uk 07854 020879
YO41 Jon Greenwood jon.greenwood@york.ac.uk 07813 964541
YO25 and East Yorkshire Paul Denston paul@denstonconstruction.co.uk 07704 540175
Selby and Goole John Hunt helloaloe@hotmail.co.uk 07787 822344
YO8 Dave Chartres david@chartres.plus.com 01757 707 886
Fulford Graham Cheyne grahamcheyne49@gmail.com 07921 515002
YO30 Chris Holland chrisandsueyork@yahoo.co.uk 01904 470113
YO24 Hugh MacPherson hugh@hughmacpherson.com 07707 009359
YO25 Don Laing don.laing@tiscali.co.uk 07387 343406
YO32 Tim Brenchley tjbrenchley@gmail.com 07786 393059
YO41 Emma Trevarthen emmatrevarthen@gmail.com 07407 060813

Dealing with honey bee swarms or colonies in property - general advice

Honey bees swarming is a natural event and can occur at any time during the Spring and Summer. When honey bees swarm, a large proportion of the honey bees leave their nest in search of a new location to start a new colony and that place can be anywhere that is warm and dry.

The types of places can include:

  • Inside roof spaces
  • Behind fascia boards and soffits
  • Between the ceiling and floor boards
  • Wall cavities
  • Sheds
  • Garages
  • Out buildings
  • Compost bins
  • And many more places

In other words anywhere that offers honey bees protection from the elements and room / space to expand.

A swarm of honey bees occurs when a proportion of honey bees leave their nest (colony). They usually form a cluster in or on any suitable place, which might be a tree, gatepost or on an object. Even under a trampoline!  When they are organised into a cluster, they will fly to their new “home”.

A colony of honey bees is an established and mature/growing entity which can consist of up to forty thousand honey bees i.e. substantially larger than a swarm of honey bees. It will contain bees, bee’s wax comb and stores of honey and will take up a sizeable amount of space.

Swarms of honey bees can usually be safely removed by a suitably qualified/experienced beekeeper if they are contacted in time. If the honey bees have left their post swarming clustering place and taken up residence in the fabric of a building, that can be more difficult (if not impossible) to be safely dealt with by a beekeeper. Professional pest control personnel will be required to undertake the work either solely or in conjunction with a beekeeper.

If the honey bees are not causing a nuisance or a threat, they can be left alone. Some properties are known to have had honey bee colonies within their fabric for many years without causing any disturbance or problems to the property owner.

If the honey bees are considered by the property owner to present a risk or a disturbance to them, beekeepers will always provide help and advice. Whilst suitably qualified beekeepers are normally able to remove swarms of honey bees and are insured for all normal beekeeping activities, the insurance does not extend to working at heights or undertaking building works to gain access to honey bees. This includes roof spaces and external first floor heights. Those are jobs for professionals i.e. builders and pest control personnel. Beekeepers cannot put any member of the public or themselves at risk by undertaking swarm collection in dangerous or hazardous environments. Nor should they put themselves at risk in any way.

Whilst no one would wish to see a colony of honey bees destroyed, if they cannot be safely removed and they present a risk or disturbance to the property owner, the only option may be to have the colony destroyed by professional pest control personnel and there are many suitable private and Council agencies who can undertake that task. Following the work, it is essential to sanitise the area where the honey bees entered the property by using a strong smelling detergent or liquid similar to Jeyes Fluid to neutralise the pheromone (smell) marker left by the bees.

It is also recommended that the property is then inspected and work undertaken to repair or fill the access point(s) to prevent any more ingressions and where possible the removal of all colony debris. Colonies that have inhabited an area for some time can create a large amount of bee’s wax comb and honey stores which can act as an attractant to other pests and rodents. If that task is difficult or impossible to achieve, then the minimum is to effectively block any access holes that the honey bees were using to enter the property.

Honey bees can gain access to property through the smallest of holes or cracks in the fabric and it is therefore suggested that regular property preventive maintenance is undertaken. Honey bees are more difficult to deal with once they have started their colony inside the fabric of a property.

Whilst honey bees in the fabric of a property cannot usually be dealt with by a beekeeper, honey bee swarms and colonies can also be found in sheds, garages, out buildings and empty compost bins. The main sign is visible wax comb. However, bumble bees nests can also commonly be found in compost bins, compost heaps and under sheds and they also produce wax but the shape is a mixture of nodules rather than combs therefore the identification of the insect is recommended and the information contained within the section of the BBKA website will help in that task.

If they are honey bees and providing they can easily and safely be accessed without necessitating any structural work or causing any structural damage, there is a better chance of them being removed. Again, all actions undertaken by a beekeeper has to be tempered with the assessment of risk and possible damage to property for which the beekeeper is not insured.

As previously stated, beekeepers where possible, will always help or offer advice within these parameters.

It is just possible from May to August that you come across a swarm of bees. There will be lots of bees flying around a large clump of bees which could vary in size from a tennis ball to a rugby ball. During August, the swarm is likely to be small, probably too small to last a cold winter. In such cases, they are best left to their own devices unless they are an actual nuisance. If in doubt, the best thing to do is move slowly away and if possible go indoors. Here is a link for you to get some advice on whether it really is a swarm of bees.

More often than not, if the activity centres on a bird box, then you are looking at bumble bees. They are also important pollinators and we encourage you to keep them. They do get upset if the box is subject to vibration from, for example, a garage or house door being opened and closed. You can safely move them at night time if you close the entrance hole with a small sock or a large cork, champagne size is ideal! We may be able to assist and there could be a small call out fee to cover travel costs. Quite often, on a sunny day, you will see lots of bumble bees flying around the box but not going in. They are males and are waiting for a virgin queen to come out so that they can mate with her. There is a short video below that you can watch that shows this. Not the mating, just buzzing around. But the bumble bees move so quickly, they are difficult to film.