Bees in Chimneys

[This is a summary of a letter that our Vice chairman at the time, Peter Hutton, wrote to someone having problems with honeybees in their Chimney]

Firstly there is a page of background information about wild, or feral, honeybees Feral Honeybees – The Facts

In your situation, which is very common throughout Kent & Sussex, the obvious solution is to remove the bees and deny them future access.

An alternative solution is to close off the flue below the bees, allow the bees to continue their life in the chimney. This latter solution might seem horrendous when you are so frightened by stinging insects. But were you to know how many colonies live in houses without the humans being worried you would be amazed. However I can well understand your misgivings and particularly the worry attached to bees getting into the rooms.

You state you had a pest controller poison the bees, you also say they live in the chimney and the lower part of the chimney support was removed by former occupants of the house. The pest controller has to comply with a number of statutes, namely:
the Control of Pesticides Act
the Working at Height Regulations
the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health
Under the latter you should have received notice (a) of the effects, of the pesticide upon bees in general as well as those in your chimney, upon yourself and other occupants of the property, (b) a method statement which explains what is to be done, and (c) how the contaminated will be removed and destroyed, or sealed within the property so that other honey bees can not remove it to their hives, thus poisoning both bees and potentially humans that eat the honey.

All beekeepers within 3 miles of the place where honeybees are to be poisoned must be also notified in advance, and given details of the time and area where the poison is to be administered.

Honey bees are “Food Producing Animals” just like cattle, sheep etc. they also have a sophisticated communication system in both time and space that is equal to our own. The residual poison remains active in the honey in your chimney and other bees must be excluded from accessing your chimney to remove that contaminated honey. There have now been at least 2 successful prosecutions of pest control companies resulting in fines in excess of £1k where beekeeper’s bees have been affected by secondary poisoning.

Your current problem as stated is the honey now leaking into the house, this will require the opening of the flue (bricklayer), removal of all the comb and honey which has now fallen to the lowest point of the flue, removal of any remaining comb and honey left at the top of the chimney (bricklayer and scaffolder) reinstatement of the brickwork, reinstatement of the plaster and decoration, (plasterer & decorator). All the honey & comb must be safely disposed of under The Control of Waste legislation; my advice would be to bury it in the garden as it is as natural product albeit containing a poison.

MOST Important: The prevention of future swarms gaining access to the chimney. Whilst the scaffold is in place have all the disused flues made inaccessible to insects by use of stainless steel woven mesh or expanded sheet with apertures of less than 2-5mm.

You may wish to insert weather proof caps into any existing pots for ventilation as the mushroom-shaped pots you have are ideal for honeybee colonisation. The the 25mm apertures must have SS mesh incorporated.

Swarming can start from the middle of April and normally finishes by the end of July, and you will need to take prompt action to prevent reoccupation before them. If your pest controller did seal the disused flue there is a possibility that bees might take up occupation in an adjacent disused flue. If that does happen, the bees can be
smoked out, but this will only work if it’s done no later than 2 days thereafter.

Peter Hutton –  retired builder and bee keeper with 50 years experience.


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