FAQ

KBKA

I have bees coming in my house, what shall I do?

First identify them. This can be difficult, but nature field guides are available in many libraries, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust has a useful Identification Section on its website, and the Natural History Museum has a bee-related identification forum for the really tricky ones.

Once you know what they are, you can can seek advice from an entomologist or a (honey) bee keeper.

They are not wasps I know what wasps look like, and bumble bees are large, these are honeybees.

If they are in the ground or a compost heap and there are a number coming and going on a regular basis they are probably worker bumble bees which are a smaller version of the queen bumble bee. Bumble bees vary in size quite remarkably. To distinguish between a bee and a wasp look for the pollen baskets on their legs or for some solitary bees a big patch of pollen under their belly.

I have honeybees in my compost bin what shall I do?

Honeybees are often found hanging their comb under the lids of compost bins provided the compost does not smell, a beekeeper should be called and can easily remove the bees together with the comb. If they are in the compost then they are bumble bees and should be left to the end of their days in September. Do not kill them, they are an endangered species, if necessary they can be relocated over three miles away, this could cost you between £45 and £75 pounds.

I am a keen gardener, I need bees to pollinate my fruit, there is swarm of bees hanging in my apple tree, are they dangerous?

No they are not at all dangerous, swarming bees rarely sting as there are so many immature juveniles in a swarm, bees rarely sting without provocation anyway. Keep about a yard away from the swarm and inform a beekeeper who will collect them.

I have just bought an old period house, I am horrified, I have just come home from work to find bees in the bedrooms and dining room. They are crawling all over the floor, up the curtains and at the windows please help me.

It sounds as if a swarm has gone into the chimney to form its nest, which is made of wax combs. As the flues are dusty and there is no comb to hold onto a lot of young bees have fallen down both the flue to be occupied and the adjacent flues. (Flues are the voids from fireplace to the top of the chimneystack.) Honey bees cannot take off vertically like a helicopter although they seem to hover like a jump jet. The flue is 9″ square (225mm) and so, once at the bottom, the bees have to find their way out. They can either climb back, all the way up the flue or, following the air coming in from the fireplace or ventilator, emerge into the room.

You have a simple solution: either open the windows and let them out or vacuum them up. Lay in a fire as soon as and fuel with as much grass cuttings as possible to create smoke this will drive the bees out. Where no fireplace exists remove the ventilator and pump in smoke with a bee-keeper’s smoker to drive out the bees, this can take up to three hours and is best done on the day the bees go in, after the third day of occupation it is almost impossible to get the bees out, they have to be lifted out together with their comb from the chimney top thereafter.

I have bees behind the tile hanging of my house, I had them poisoned last year but they have come back, what can I do to stop them.

Yes and so they will for ever, firstly the pest man did not do his job properly – he killed the bees OK, but he left poisoned honey for other bees to steal. That caused the local bee-keeper’s bees to die and poisoned the honey in his hive so he could not sell it. Perhaps he did not know his bees had been poisoned and sold the honey quite innocently.

The solution is simple and does not require the bees to be killed. If the tiles are in sound order then remove the plaster from inside the wall, take out the honeycomb and store it in closed buckets. Then, take out the bees on the brood combs and put in a hive which can be kept in your garden, this will deter other bees from living in your wall. Finally, and most importantly, deny bees access to your walls by filling the voids with rockwool or fibreglass and seal up the access points used by the bees.

An alternative is to cover the wall temporarily with a tarpaulin and hanging a bait hive in front of it into which the swarm will go, this needs to be in place from the beginning of April till the end of August. There will be a hire charge and a charge for taking away each swarm.

I have some bees in the eaves of my house, what should I do?

Identify exactly what they are, some bumble bees nest in the eaves, in 2001 three house in the same road had bumble bees in the eaves also there were over 800 bees present in each, they do no harm are very docile and come to an end about September time, leave them alone. Honeybees are different, they will store up to 150lbs of honey, if your house is a bungalow then certainly have them taken out and put in a hive, if a two storey or more high house then leave them unless you need building work done, this is the time to remove the bees at a sensible cost, scaffolding will be needed and so that cost is defrayed. If a chimney is to be rebuilt or demolished then that is the time to remove bees.

Can I stop bees and wasps from occupying my roof.

No, not with any certainty, current building regulations require roofs to be ventilated and yet insulated, water tanks in your roof have to be covered and overflow pipes must have insect proof screens in them. Clearly contamination prevention was in the minds of the legislators, but not wasps or bees both of which need only a quarter-inch (6mm) access hole to your roof. The builders would have obliged with this hole had not the legislators. 3mm 1/8 ” mesh is required to prevent bees and wasps, flies as well entering your roof space. Beyond this there is little you can do other that becoming a beekeeper and having a hive in the garden. If builders need to repair your house the bees can be removed first.

I have some insects flying from my eaves, they must be bees because I have not seen them before.

You could be right, you could be wrong especially if it is June, wasps will have been there since May but so few you would have to be lucky to notice them, in June they build up numbers dramatically so you see them. You know they are bright yellow and black but honestly can you see the colours against the skyline when you are on the ground? I can see which they are as they fly differently to each other especially on landing. Bees have hind legs that hang down like the undercarriage of an aircraft, wasps do not, bees slow up and move side to side if there is congestion at the entrance, wasps do not they either plough straight in or go round for another try. Wasps are also slightly but discernibly smaller than bees.

I have a swarm of bees in my hedge. Can you take them away?

Yes, but are they bees? Can you see the insects if not then they are probably European wasps. This applies in houses to wasps and bees as well. If the insects are visible but not the combs then they are likely to be bees, if the nest is seen with the insects coming out then suspect wasps.

I have a swarm of bees gone into my chimney, if I leave them will they go away?

Unlikely, it is very rare for the bees to go unless they find they have made a serious mistake, such as moving into a roof space where the temperature rises too high for them to control, or a chimney where the reaction between lime and sulphuric acid from old soot is so active as to cause them to leave.

What can I do, bees come every year into my house, I have them killed and in some years it happens three or four times, each time the pest man comes it costs £90.

Very simply deny the bees access by filling the voids with rockwool or fibreglass in the case of external walls and seal the entrances with a proprietary building mastic. In the case of chimneys insert stainless steel woven mesh of 3mm squares maximum size, no greater, no smaller, bed it into mortar under the pots, ventilation will continue but no insects will get through. Put a bird cage over the pots to prevent nests being built, ensure following owners are made aware as monoxide poisoning will result if a gas fire were fitted subsequently. This answer presumes honeybee occupation.

There are bees going into the wall of my house, I have young children for whose safety I am concerned, I need to get rid of them but do not want them killed. The bees go into different holes along the South facing wall.

First it would be illegal to kill these bees, secondly totally unnecessary as they do not sting and are no danger whatsoever nor do they damage your house. They are one of some fifty specie of solitary bee that construct cells within holes in brickwork, locks, hard sunny earth or sandstone banks. They provision the cells with nectar and pollen, lay an egg, seal the cell and depart. They may construct the cells in a tunnel one in front of the next, side by side or whatever. Despite being described as solitary many are gregarious reaching the high fifties or in the right spot the low hundreds. They are only around for a few weeks after which they depart.

You say you have children, here is a splendid opportunity both for you and the children, do make the most of it!

Learning

Look through your natural history books with your children, find as many pictures of bees as possible for the youngest, help the older to read the descriptions, ask them if any are the same as those in your wall. Take them to the public library, show them where to find the natural history section even the museum as well can help. Use the computer via the Internet to look up information. This applies to bumble bee nests as well. Mark out an area with sticks or chalk around the nest. Tell the children, “that is their space” have a time piece with a minute sweep hand, teach them to count how many bees “in” in a minute and “out” in a minute, do this at different times of the day, add up and subtract the differences. For the older children make a chart, work out averages and such like. Note the different pollen colours, observe flowers in your garden, in the park, what colour pollen do flowers have, the same or different? Can you see your bees working there, if not then where? There is so much for you and your children to learn TOGETHER.

This will overcome any phobias you might have. NEVER THREATEN YOUR CHILDREN BY SCARING THEM ABOUT BITING AND STINGING INSECTS AND ANIMALS or they will grow with unreal phobias, TEACH THEM WHICH INSECTS BITE AND STING, WHICH ANIMALS KICK AND BITE AND WHY THAT IS SO. If you don’t know why because you were never taught then it is generally a defensive action or an action needed in their feeding or reproduction regime.

Remember, killing bees is selfish, unnecessary and ultimately will contribute to the general destruction of the planet and the future generations of yours and my offspring. Help the planet produce food for us all, keep the bees, turn your engines off when sitting waiting in traffic jams and at traffic lights, it will save you money and harm the planet ozone less