Dealing with bees & swarmsLast updated: 18 September 2013 17:27 UK
Honey bees both wild and colonised, will become active in spring around late April through May and June.
Honey bees can swarm all summer and can be seen hanging in large clumps from trees bushes and attached to buildings.
These bees are important beneficial insects, not normally considered as pests.
- Portsmouth City Council does not treat bees - but we do treat wasps
- When we visit, please check our images to ensure you have wasps not bees to avoid a call-out charge
Bees live either in the wild in nests, or as colonies in hives kept by beekeepers. In either case, they will only sting people if strongly provoked.
Because of their beneficial role, every effort should be made to avoid carrying out control treatments against honey bees - treatment with a pesticide should be considered only as the last resort.
Risks from treated nests
If foraging honey bees find a nest which has been treated, they will carry away contaminated honey. This can lead to contamination of honey destined for food use, kill large numbers of bees and cause the destruction of hives.
Advice on what to do if you have bees on your property is below:
- The first thing you need to do is identify the kind of bees that you have
- If you have honey bees you will need to contact a bee keeper
- Contact the Portsmouth Beekeepers Association on 023 9259 8353 or 023 9246 8609
The success of moving a colony of bees depends on its location and the chances of locating or moving the queen. If the nest and colony can be accessed easily, then the chances of successfully moving the colony are increased.
If you have a bumblebee it is unlikely that you will be able to move them successfully - most bumblebee colonies are damaged by the movement process to the point that they can not recover.
- if you have a bumblebee colony you should leave it alone until the queen departs at the end of the season
- then block off the entrance so that other bees and mammals cannot re-use the nest next year
- bumblebees are sufficiently gentle - they do not generally cause a problem if their nest site is treated with respect
There are over 200 species of solitary bees found in the UK and you might see many of them without even realising you are looking at a bee or what kind of bee you are looking at. Solitary bees do not live in colonies like honey bees or bumblebees and all females in the species are fertile.
Some common bees you might see are described below:
- Mason bees live in small holes in wood or masonry
- They look small and sleek, and are often blue or red in colour
- Gardeners provide nests made of drilled wood or thin cardboard tubes to encourage mason bees to pollinate
- Mining and Mortar bees dig holes in dry firm ground or old masonry to use as nests
- They look a little like smaller, less colourful bumblebees
- Mining bees are solitary, but if they find a good nest site, they'll often nest together, tightly packed
- Carpenter bees tunnel holes into wood and can cause damage to property if allowed to nest close together
- They vary in size and colour, but generally look a little like bumblebees with a shiny hairless abdomen
Frequently asked questions about bees
Why do I get bees every year?
There are two reasons that this may occur - you could have honeybees that have set up permanent residents at your property or you could have honeycomb from previous bees that have now left this will attract other bees to the site.
There is a swarm of bees in my garden. What should I do?
They are usually not aggressive. However, it is best to keep children and pets safely indoors. Do not try to scare the bees away by waving your arms wildly at them or throwing water at them as this is liable to aggravate them.
Swarms usually move off to a permanent site within a few hours. If the bees are easily accessible, a local bee keeper may be willing to remove the swarm.
I have seen little mounds of earth and small bees tunnelling in my garden. What are they?
These are most likely to be solitary Mining bees. Every Spring the females excavate tunnels as nests in which they lay eggs. Each egg is laid in a cell and is provisioned with a ball of pollen mixed with nectar. At the top of the tunnel, there is a mound of excavated soil, somewhat like a worm cast, and sometimes you can see the females sitting on the mound sunning themselves. These bees will not harm you and help pollination.
I have seen lots of very small bees flying close to the ground. What are they?
These are most likely to be solitary bees.
I have seen small bees making holes in my wall. Should I worry?
These are solitary bees and it depends on the species of bee whether they will damage your wall. Most Mason bees nest in pre-existing cavities and do not harm the walls. If they find a large area of good nest site, then they'll often build lots of nests tightly packed in a close area, so you might see lots of them around the nesting site.
However, there are 'true' Mason bees, that tunnel into soft mortar and can do damage, especially in old walls. If you have bees in your wall you could tempt them away from the wall by putting out artificial nests for them - they often prefer nice clean tubes.
I have a honey bee nest in my cavity wall. What can I do about it?
The bees won't do any harm to your walls, so if they are not causing problems leave them alone. However, if they are a nuisance, you may have to get rid of them. It is not easy to get them out - spraying with insecticide is unlikely to kill them all and any remaining wax comb should be removed or it will attract other pest insects.