Pest control of wasps and bees

Information about wasps and bees

Bees can be easily mistaken for wasps, but the colours of a wasp are iridescent yellow and black stripes, whereas a bee’s colours are duller. A bee’s body is furrier than a wasp's and little yellow pollen sacs are usually visible on the hind limbs. 

Friends of the Earth have online bee identification resources

There are many kinds of bees. 

Bumblebees 

Big and bulky with dense hair covering their bodies. Distinctive 'bumbling' flight. Colours can vary as we have 24 different types in the UK. These are relatively large (up to 30mm) but there can be a variety of sizes within a colony. They often nest below ground – using old mouse holes – but may use a bird box or shed – in compost bins or compost heaps etc. A nest may contain between 100 and 200 bees but there are usually about 50 - 80. They rarely sting, unless they are severely provoked, and are a beneficial insect. General advice should be to ‘leave them alone’. 

Bumblebee nests only live for a short period (approximately 2 months). They are important pollinators and should be allowed to live out their life cycles. If left alone these should pose no problem. 

Bumblebees cannot be collected or removed by a beekeeper. 

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust explains when and how you could move a bumblebee nest.

Honeybees 

Thinner-looking compared to a bumblebee, with chocolate brown and yellow stripes with a slightly furry top half with dark yellow hair. Live in hives but sometimes swarms escape. These are important pollinators and should not be killed unless essential for public safety. They can form large nests within cavity walls, lofts, sheds hedges and trees etc. A colony can have up to 40,000 bees and a swarm can contain up to 20,000 bees. General advice should be to ‘leave them alone’ 

Considerable numbers of honeybees can be attracted to plants which are in flower. This is their normal behaviour to 'forage' and collect nectar and pollen. Foraging bees should pose no problem and should be left alone. 

At certain times of the year honeybees can ‘swarm’. Swarms can be triggered by weather conditions or caused when the size of the hive becomes too large, or its safety is threatened. Beekeepers can assist if you have a swarm. 

Find out more about honeybees at The British Beekeepers Association

If there is no practical alternative, we can attend and provide a chemical treatment. 

Solitary bees 

Vary in size, colour and hair density - make nests in cavities in soil, sandy embankments or crumbling mortar.  Although solitary, they sometimes nest in large numbers, especially ground nesters. They do not form large colonies. They cause relatively little damage and are unlikely to sting. General advice should be to ‘leave them alone’ 

Solitary bees are harmless and are important pollinators and should be allowed to live out their life cycles.  Many are now endangered. If left alone these should pose no problem. 

Solitary bees cannot be collected or removed by a beekeeper. 

Wasps 

Much thinner than a bumblebee, with distinctive yellow and black markings on a hairless body.  Nests are made of a paper-like structure. 

  • Wasps are important ecologically and help control other pests such as aphids. 

  • If nests are not causing a problem they should be left.  If they are causing problems they can be dealt with by a pest controller. 

  • The Borough Council can provide a treatment service for wasps - our services are explained further below. 

  • Beekeepers are usually unable to assist. Colonies cannot be moved. 

What to do if you are stung 

Some people (about 3 in 100) are strongly allergic to bites and stings and can become very ill. Most people who have an allergic reaction have been stung before without an allergic reaction. Some people never have another allergic reaction again after their first. Therefore, they are almost impossible to predict.  

Please seek advice from the NHS.