Bees: advice and information
Bumble bees are relatively harmless and normally don't sting unless threatened. They are valuable to the environment as pollinators.
Therefore the council does not provide any pest control for bees. Most enquiries may be referred to a local bee keeper who may charge for the removal of a swarm.
Bumble bees have round, furry bodies with black and orange coats and a bumbling flight, making them easy to identify. They are approximately ¾ inch in size and do not live in hives. The 'queen' hibernates over winter then will look for a suitable nesting site in spring (such as old bird's nest, compost heap etc), where she will raise her offspring. Each nest consists of a large queen together with female worker bees and tiny male or drone bees. Only queen and worker bumble bees have a sting.
A bumble bee colony never amounts to more than a few hundred individuals and does not swarm. During late summer and autumn, fully fertile male and females are produced which mate. The fertilised females hibernate until the following year while the remainder die in the cold weather.
To find out more about bumble bees visit www.bumblebee.org.
Honeybees are kept by beekeepers but can also live in the wild. They are similar in size to wasps, but are mainly black (sometimes with a tan banding). They are always found in colonies (individuals cannot survive alone), are headed by a queen, and will survive over winter.
Honeybees can be seen in the garden collecting nectar and pollen. They may also be seen around wet areas such as dripping taps and ponds as they do require fluid. In most cases they are harmless and will fly away if disturbed.
Colonies can total as many 20,000 bees and can swarm. The noise of a bee swarm can be alarming but the danger is not very great. The swarming bees will cluster, possibly on a tree branch, and should be collected by an experienced beekeeper. Honeybees can sting, especially if they are disturbed.
Honeybees are valuable as pollinators of a wide range of flowers and crops and they also produce honey and beeswax.
There are around 250 species of solitary bee in Great Britain. They resemble honeybees but do not live in colonies and do not swarm.
They construct cells, usually in sandy soil, in which they lay a single egg, fill it with pollen and seal. When the larvae hatch they consume the pollen within the cell, pupate and emerge as a bee the following year. Solitary bees are useful pollinators, they are harmless and do not swarm.
The British Beekeepers Association have some useful information about identifying a swarm and who to contact to clear one.
Visit www.bbka.org.uk/swarm for further information.