The Council do not provide a service for the removal or destruction of bees.

The swarm is the responsibility of the person on whose property it has settled and remains so until it has been removed. In the event that it cannot safely be removed then the owner of the property must decide on what action he or she will take. If it is necessary to destroy the bees, because they represent a threat and cannot be removed, then this is best carried out by a pest control company.

When you are confident that you have identified the problem as Honey Bees and not a wasps nest or other bees after reading the attached bee information and you want the swarm removed then you should telephone a local beekeeper.

You may be asked to make a contribution to offset their expenses in providing this service.

The British Bee Keepers Association [external link] provide contact details of local beekeepers who are willing to collect swarms.

Bee information

Solitary Bees

These are sometimes referred to as mining bees as they make small holes in the soft mortar joints in brickwork. Holes in airbricks, and the ends of garden canes, are also used by the bees for egg laying. They look like honey bees but are sometimes slightly larger and slower in their movements.

They can appear in April when the weather warms up and the eggs, which are laid the previous spring, hatch and adult bees appear. The adults usually survive about 6-8 weeks and during this time they mate and, in the holes from which they have emerged, lay the eggs for next years bees.

Most do not sting and any that could do not because the sting is normally too weak to penetrate the human skin. Left alone they will not usually cause any harm. The numbers appearing at any one time is about 20/50 and unlike the honey bee they Do Not Swarm.

It is almost impossible to remove them and it is illegal to poison them. To try and stop them reappearing next year, the holes could be blocked with new mortar or some type of builder’s sealant. It is unwise to block airbricks as they are there for a purpose and should be left open.

They are useful as pollinators, so will be seen working on flowers along with the honey bee.

Bumble bees

These are easy to identify with their round black furry bodies and football jersey liked stripes of yellow, orange or rust-colour.

The "Queen" emerges from hibernation in the spring and feeds on nectar and pollen. When the time is right she then searches out a site for the nest which could be in any of the following places:

  • Disused mouse nest under ground
  • Compost heap or bin (these are favourite places)
  • Unused bird nesting boxes
  • Under garden sheds and other buildings (another favourite place)
  • In wood piles
  • In thick tufts of grass

Once the site has been selected the queen then starts to lay eggs and from these come the young bees, which are small to start with but grow quite quickly if sufficient food is available.

A bumble bee nest usually never totals more than a few hundred bees, often quite a lot less.

The nest dies out during late summer/early autumn, only the queen surviving until the following spring.

Bumble bees are harmless and will only get agitated if the nest or its entrance is disturbed.

Solitary bees and bumble bees never swarm and compared with honey bees there are only a few of these flying at any one time.

Honey bees

The honey bee is the only bee in this country which swarms and the swarming season is usually from mid April until early August, with May and June being the months when swarming is at its greatest.

Several days before a swarm emerges from the hive "scout bees" will fly and find various new sites for the swarm to go to and it will be one of these sites that the swarm will establish a new colony. It is not uncommon for people to mistake this "scouting" especially around chimneys, for actual swarms.

A swarm will only leave the hive if the weather is right and this is usually on a bright sunny and warm day with little or no wind, normally mid to late morning is a favourite time.

Swarms are easy to spot as there are several thousand bees and it will usually be as large as a football, sometimes larger and they all hang as one mass when they have settled.

Places where swarms settle

  • Branches of trees and shrubs
  • In or on the outside of hedges
  • Inside garden compost bins assuming there space. Inside chimneys/central heating flues
  • In the cavity wall of a building
  • On the outside wall of a high building

If the trees/hedges/compost bins are reasonably accessible the beekeeper should be able to remove the swarm without too much difficulty. It is almost impossible to remove honey bees from a chimney or cavity if they have been there more than 2/3 days, as in that time they will have started to build comb and establish themselves. They will probably survive until the winter but because of lack of food or disease will die before spring.