Gloucestershire Beekeepers Association

Cheltenham & Gloucester Branch

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Bees in Bird Boxes or Buildings
If bees have set up home in your property this is not something we can help you with - we can only remove accessible honey bee swarms. Usually bees will not cause you a problem or damage your property; Our advice would be to leave them well alone, if you leave them alone they will usually leave you alone. If they subsequently become a problem then you can contact a pest controller to remove them. Usually this would involve killing them which is not something we would do.
A honey bee swarm contains many, many thousands of honeybees. If you see a lot of bees it is not necessarily a honeybee swarm. It could be that they are foraging in large numbers on a very attractive flowering bush or hedge.
It is astonishingly rare that bees in a birdbox are honey bees. They are far more likely to be bumble bees, most likely Bombus hypnorum (the Tree Bumblebee). Bees nesting in a hole in the ground are definitely not honey bees! If you can see the nest and it does not have curtains of honeycomb it is not a honeybee nest either.
Disney films do not give an accurate picture of what a honey bee looks like. These films confusingly portray honey bees (which in reality are thin and brown) as bumblebees (round and black, with yellow stripes).
The standard advice you will receive if you ring us about these bumblebees will be:
  • Beekeepers are not interested in collecting bumblebees. Bumblebees do not make honey.
  • Bumblebees are not huge . only the queen bumblebee is. The stingless drones (males) are not quite so big; the workers (which can sting) are small, round and basically black in colour. They may have orange colouration on the thorax (where the wings join onto the body) and yellow stripes and perhaps a whitish tip to the abdomen (the tail end).
  • You may well see relatively large bees hovering around outside the nest . they are the stingless male drones waiting to catch the emerging virgin queens. The small worker bees will be seen darting in and out of the nest hole on their way to and from foraging flights.
  • Bumble bees. nests die off at the end of the summer (end of August/beginning of September depending on the weather) and are not usually reoccupied the next year.
  • Best policy is to leave them alone because bumblebees are valuable pollinators and their nests do not move very successfully. Moving them usually kills them prematurely.
  • Bumblebees do react adversely to vibration, noise and smells (particularly petrol driven motor mowers, wobbly fences and gates) so sometimes movement or killing is essential. Both of these actions should be done late in the evening when all the bees are in the nest.
    • Movement. Wear rubber gloves and a veil of sorts, just in case. Securely block up the entrance hole of the birdbox. Keep the box upright at all times. Remove from the wall and take to a suitable hedge about 2 miles from the house. Place carefully, still upright, on the ground at the base of the hedge. Pull out the bung and get back to the car quickly.
    • Killing. Last resort. You can call in a pest controller but DIY using wasp killer and a suitable bung to stop the bees coming out also works.
  • Bumblebees prefer to nest in old bird nests and mouse nests. Clean all birdboxes out in the autumn to reduce their attractiveness to bumblebees.
  • This is a very busy time for us as beekeepers. If you have bumblebees please do not call us!
    If, having read all this, you are sure they are honeybees then Click here to use the BBKA's new online postcode search facility to find your nearest beekeeper who can help you.

    Alternatively contact our swarm collection coordinator for your area: for Tewkesbury and Gloucester contact Mike Forster on 01452 478473 and for Cheltenham contact Mike Sumner on 07850531308.
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