Homeowners often panic when they discover a wasps nest or a bees swarm on or close to their property. But dealing with wasps nests and bee swarms need not necessarily be a major issue. In fact, it is important to remember that most wasps and bees are hugely beneficial in a garden. Wherever possible, it is best to leave them be. Leave them alone and they will aid you in your garden. They will provide their beneficial pollination services and enrich the biodiversity in the area.
There will be times, however, when wasp nests and bee swarms need to be removed. They may be too close to areas of human use, or pose a risk to you or your family.
Wasps Nest Removal
If there is a large wasps nest or hornet’s nest in a problematic place, it is best not to try to tackle this yourself. Contact a pest management company if you are certain that these are social nesters and that you cannot live with them where they are.
There are two types of wasp common in the UK. Solitary wasps are the first type. They live and work alone, and rarely bother humans. Social wasps live in large colonies. Solitary wasps primarily hunt other insects and it is the social wasps, like the Vespula vulgaris (common wasp), which are likely to be considered a pest. But even the common wasp can be a great benefit in your garden.
It is important to make sure that you are certain that these are not solitary species. Seeing one or a few wasps in your garden is not an issue. Often, you can simply live and let live. Remember, all living creatures are crucial parts of the ecosystem, and it is good to have a range of wildlife in your garden, sharing your space.
Bee Swarm Removal
There is only one species of honey bee in the UK. Since honey bees have been domesticated here, it is rare to discover a truly wild colony. Most now live in hives of up to 20,000 individuals and are tended by beekeepers. Perhaps you too could become a bee keeper and help to keep this species alive? If beekeepers live nearby, you will likely see honey bees around and about. They have a slim body with golden stripes and a black abdomen.
If you encounter a large swarm of honey bees (Apis mellifera) on your property, then you should contact a local swarm collector. A beekeepers’ association in your area may well be able to assist you should you wish for the swarm to be relocated to a new home.
But before you decide to contact anyone about wasps or bees, it is important to make sure you know which creatures you are looking at.
Wasp or Bee Identification
Large wasps nests, honey bee swarms and invasive hornet species may need specialist intervention. But it is important to make sure that you really are sure which insects you have in your garden or on your property.
Most swarm collections will only deal with honey bees – not with other insects. But there are more than 250 types of bee present in the UK. So it is important to understand which type you have in order to understand whether or not there is a problem, and to whom you might turn for help if it is needed.
Here are some common types to look out for that won’t usually pose a problem for gardeners:
There are 24 different bumblebee species in the UK, the most common of which are the tree bumblebee, the red-tailed bumblebee and the white-tailed bumble bee. Bumblebees are social, living in colonies, usually in the ground, with a few dozen to several hundred bees.
The tree bumblebee is often found in gardens and woodland. It has a ginger thorax, a black abdomen and a white tail and loves rhododendrons, comfrey and brambles.
The red-tailed variety you might spot around buddleia or thistles. They have bright red or reddish orange tails that make them relatively easy to identify.
The classic bumblebee, the white-tailed species has a bright yellow collar and belt, and a bright, white tail. They have a couple of lookalikes – the buff-tailed bumblebee, which has an off-white, brownish tinge to its tail and a browner collar, and the early bumblebee, which is much smaller with a bright yellow/orange tail.
Common Carder Bee
This is the only bee species in the UK with all-brown colouration. These little bees can be found just about everywhere. You may see them around gorse, dandelions, dead-nettles, comfrey or foxgloves.
If you see a hole in your lawn with a rim of earth like a volcano around it, that is likely to have been the work of a mining bee. There are many different mining bees, but the two you are most likely to see are the tawny mining bee, honeybee sized with a thick orange jumper and a black face, and the ashy mining bee, with its monochrome colouring.
If you see bees buzzing in and out of a brick wall, it is likely that they are mason bees. These bees are similar to mining bees but are identifiable, if you look closely, by their large and powerful jaws, though you are most likely to be able to identify them based on where you see them. The most common mason bee is the red mason bee. If you have a bee hotel, these bees are likely to be found inside.
There are plenty of other solitary bees and wasp species that can also be found in UK gardens. But these rarely pose a problem and can all be beneficial to gardeners. Remember, removal of nests or swarms should always be considered only as a last resort, and where humans will be hugely detrimentally impacted by their presence in a particular spot.
Before you decide to call someone in, spend a little time thinking about whether or not the wasps or bees in question really are a problem. Make sure you have identified what you are dealing with correctly.
Do you have more information that could help others identify or deal with wasps or bees in the garden? Feel free to share that information in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.