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Bees

There are over 250 kinds of bees in Britain. The honey bee and bumble bees live in colonies and belong to a group known as the social bees, but the majority of other species do not live in colonies and are solitary bees.

Our Pest Control Service do not kill or treat bees because they are a vital part of our ecosystems. We can help if you are unsure whether you have bees or wasps.

Bees play a major role in the food chain because they are pollinators. Without bees many plants would not be able to reproduce and so would die out. This includes many plants that we use for food. In fact, in the UK, about 70 food crops are dependent on visits from bees. The economic benefit of honey bees is estimated at over £200 million a year, with each hive valued at about £600.

Bee populations are being drastically reduced because of changes in farming practices, the use of pesticides, diseases and a phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder, where bees suddenly desert a hive for no apparent reason.

Solitary bees

Solitary bees are to be found in many gardens during Spring and Summer but go largely unobserved. Common species include the masonry, mining and leaf cutter bees.

Masonry bees

The female is often seen constructing a tiny tunnel in a wall normally in the pointing between the bricks where she lays a single egg.

There is no treatment; the only answer is to repoint the area after the new adult bee emerges. Solitary bees do not swarm and are unlikely to sting unless they are handled or their nest disturbed.

Honey bees

They are brown and yellow in colour and smaller than the bumble bee. They are the species kept by man in hives from which honey and wax are made. The numbers can vary in a colony from 40,000 to 50,000 at the height of the season (July). Those born at the end of Summer, however, survive the winter living on stored honey.

Bumble bees

Larger and rounder than honey bees and often produce a deep buzzing sound, bumble bees build small round grass nests, often under buildings or in holes in the ground. They do not swarm, nor do they sting, unless the nest is disturbed. If at all possible, bumble bee nests should be left undisturbed as, at the end of the summer, all bees, except the queen, will die and the nest abandoned.

Swarms

If a hive is overcrowded, bees may emerge in a dense cloud and, headed by the queen, settle on a branch or tree. If left, scout bees will eventually find a sheltered situation and start a new colony. If a swarm is causing a nuisance, please contact a Penrith Beekeepers' Association swarm collector to deal with the problem.

For further advice on bees