The delightful buzz of bees is a sure sign that summer is well on its way. However, if that buzz gets a little too loud, and the bees are a little close for comfort, you may well have a few uninvited guests staying in your garden.
The chances are that you won’t notice a bees’ nest until you try to paint your exterior or you inadvertently disturb them; they will come out to warn you to stay away from their precious queen. We all know the importance of bees but having them in your garden can be an inconvenience. If a painter, gardener or builder spots the nest, they may know someone that can help you; as you know, it’s always best to trust recommendations and local knowledge.
If you find a bees’ nest in your garden, here’s what you need to do:
Identify your bees
Before you decide what to do with the bees in your garden, you need to identify them.
Honeybees live in colonies with thousands of other bees. There are different types of bees: the queen, who is usually the only one who can lay eggs; the worker bees (sterile females who do the work) and the drones (males who are mates for the queen). Each worker bee has her own job to do in order to help the colony, although this job can change as they age. Some bees are the “teachers”, taking care of young bees; some are the “providers” collecting food, others are the “builders” and there are “cleaners”, too, whose job it is to keep the hive clean. The older bees make wax; this is used to build the honeycomb nest for the bees to live in. The hexagonal structure is great for keeping young bees safe and storing honey, pollen and unprocessed nectar.
The providers collect pollen nectar for food; this nectar is made into honey, which is the main source of energy for bees. The pollen is used primarily to feed young bee larvae. Honeybees create a surplus of honey throughout the summer so that they have enough to fuel them through the winter. Beekeepers keep bees in an environment that means the bees make an excess of honey – so there is enough to harvest for human consumption.
Honeybees are about 1 cm long with stripy abdomens. A honeybee nest will have lots of activity during a warm day – and in the evenings you may hear the hive hum as the bees fan the air to keep it cool.
Bumblebees are similar to honeybees, but their colonies are smaller – with fewer than 50 in a colony. Bumblebees are better able to regulate their body temperature, which means that they don’t rely as heavily on honey stores – hence they produce less honey. Bumblebee nests are usually in the ground in holes left by mice and other rodents; the bees themselves are fatter than honeybees and are furry all over.
Other bees – there are plenty of other bee varieties, but they don’t live in colonies; if you have a nest they will be bumble or honeybees.