Problems with bees and wasps
Please read the advice below before you contact us for help.
We are generally unable to ‘collect’ bees and can only use a chemical to destroy them. Although the law allows us to control bees, the council will usually only treat where bees pose a danger and risk to public health and there is not a practical alternative. We can visit to offer advice from £48, or, if appropriate, provide a pest control treatment from £75. Most years we investigate about 40 reported problems with bees and treat about 500 wasps nests. Find out more about our services here.
What do they look like?
Bees can be easily mistaken for wasps but the colours of a wasp are iridescent yellow and black stripes, whereas a bee’s colours are duller. A bee’s body is more furry than a wasp's and little yellow pollen sacs are usually visible on the hind limbs.
Friends of the Earth offer online bee identification resources
There are many different kinds of bees:
1. Bumble Bees
Big and bulky with dense hair covering their bodies. Distinctive 'bumbling' flight. Colours can vary as we have 24 different types in the UK. These are reactively large (up to 30mm) but there can be a variety of sizes within a colony. They often nest below ground – using old mouse holes – but may use a bird box or shed – in compost bins or compost heaps etc. A nest may contain between 100 and 200 bees but there are usually about 50 - 80. They rarely sting, unless they are severely provoked, and are a beneficial insect. General advice should be to ‘leave them alone’.
- Bumblebee nests only live for a short period (approximately 2 months). They are important pollinators and should be allowed to live out their life cycles. If left alone these should pose no problem.
- Bumblebees cannot be collected or removed by a beekeeper.
- The Bumblebee Conservation Trust explains when and how you could move a bumblebee nest. The trust offers the following advice:
- There is more help to identify bees from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust including details of an iPhone app.
2. Honey Bees
Thinner-looking compared to a bumblebee, with chocolate brown and yellow stripes with a slightly furry top half with dark yellow hair. Live in hives but sometimes swarms escape. These are important pollinators and should not be killed unless essential for public safety. They can form large nests within cavity walls, lofts, sheds hedges and trees etc. A colony can have up to 40,000 bees and a swarm can contain up to 20,000 bees. General advice should be to ‘leave them alone’
- Considerable numbers of honey bees can be attracted to plants which are in flower. This is their normal behaviour to 'forage' and collect nectar and pollen. Foraging bees should pose no problem and should be left alone.
- At certain times of the year honey bees can ‘swarm’. Swarms can be triggered by weather conditions, or caused when the size of the hive becomes too large or its safety is threatened. Find out more about honey bee swarms here. Beekeepers can assist if you have a swarm.
- Find out more about honey bees at: The British Beekeepers Association
- If there is no practical alternative we can attend and provide a chemical treatment.
3. Solitary Bees
Vary in size, colour and hair density - make nests in cavities in soil, sandy embankments or crumbling mortar. Although solitary, they sometimes nest in large numbers, especially ground nesters. They do not form large colonies. They cause relatively little damage and are unlikely to sting. General advice should be to ‘leave them alone’
- Solitary bees are harmless and are important pollinators and should be allowed to live out their life cycles. Many are now endangered. If left alone these should pose no problem.
- Solitary bees cannot be collected or removed by a beekeeper.
Much thinner than a bumblebee, with distinctive yellow and black markings on a hairless body. Nests are made of a paper-like structure.
- Wasps are important ecologically and help control other pests such as aphids.
- If nests are not causing a problem they should be left. If they are causing problems they can be dealt with by a pest controller.
- The Borough Council can provide a treatment service for wasps - our services are explained further below.
- Beekeepers are usually unable to assist. Colonies cannot be moved.
Only Honeybees swarm. This is a natural process where a queen leaves a colony and her followers mass around her. It typically occurs during very hot weather at the beginning of summer (May-June) through to late July. Swarms occur where a colony of bees produces more than one queen, the colony then splits and one of the queens leaves the hive along with her workers to find a suitable site to create a new colony.
If you have a swarm of bees at your property it is best and safest to leave them alone and seek some expert advice from a beekeeper (list below)
If a swarm has settled, and is in an accessible location, you can contact a beekeeper who will often come and remove the swarm for you. A list of local beekeepers can be found below or via The British Beekeepers Association website
Beekeepers do not work for the Borough Council, and are not obliged to respond. Any arrangement you make with them is a private agreement. They may make a charge for their time and travelling expenses.
If the swarm is not easily accessible, or no beekeeper is available the Borough Council may be able to assist. Our contact details are shown below.
What to do if you are stung
Some people (about three in 100) are strongly allergic to bites and stings and can become very ill. Most people who have an allergic reaction have been stung before without an allergic reaction. Some people never have another allergic reaction again after their first. This is why they are almost impossible to predict.
To treat an insect bite or sting:
- Remove the sting, tick or hairs if still in the skin.
- Wash the affected area with soap and water.
- Apply a cold compress (such as a flannel or cloth cooled with cold water) or an ice pack to any swelling for at least 10 minutes.
- Raise or elevate the affected area if possible, as this can help reduce swelling.
- Avoid scratching the area or bursting any blisters, to reduce the risk of infection – if your child has been bitten or stung, it may help to keep their fingernails short and clean.
- Avoid traditional home remedies, such as vinegar and bicarbonate of soda, as they're unlikely to help.
The pain, swelling and itchiness can sometimes last a few days.
If you've been stung and the sting has been left in your skin, you should remove it as soon as possible to prevent any more venom being released.
Scrape it out sideways with something with a hard edge, such as a bank card, or your fingernails if you don't have anything else to hand.
Don't pinch the sting with your fingers or tweezers because you may spread the venom.
If you have troublesome symptoms after an insect bite or sting, the following treatments may help:
- For pain or discomfort – take over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen (children under 16 years of age shouldn't be given aspirin).
- For itching – ask your pharmacist about over-the-counter treatments, including crotamiton cream or lotion, hydrocortisone cream or ointment and antihistamine tablets.
- For swelling – try regularly applying a cold compress or ice pack to the affected area, or ask your pharmacist about treatments such as antihistamine tablets.
See your GP if these treatments don't help. They may prescribe stronger medicines such as steroid tablets.
Contact your GP or call NHS 111 for advice if:
- you're worried about a bite or sting
- your symptoms don't start to improve within a few days or are getting worse
- you've been stung or bitten in your mouth or throat, or near your eyes
- a large area (around 10cm or more) around the bite becomes red and swollen – your GP may refer you to an allergy clinic for further tests or treatment (read about treating allergies)
- you have symptoms of a wound infection, such as pus or increasing pain, swelling or redness – you may need antibiotics
- you have symptoms of a more widespread infection, such as a fever, swollen glands and other flu-like symptoms
Dial 999 for an ambulance immediately if you or someone else has symptoms of a severe reaction, such as:
- wheezing or difficulty breathing
- a swollen face, mouth or throat
- nausea or vomiting
- a fast heart rate
- dizziness or feeling faint
- difficulty swallowing
- loss of consciousness
We can provide treatment from £75 or make an advice visit for £48. If you need technical telephone advice from a pest control officer we charge £10. To request our help use our online form here, or contact our Customer Services team by calling 01782 717717 (select option 4) or visiting Castle House in Newcastle or Kidsgrove Town Hall.
How we treat a nest depends on its location. We are generally able to treat most nests from outside, providing we have access through gates etc. We'll usually use an insecticidal powder and have equipment to help us reach up high. We don't remove the nest as this would often result in damage to your property. Once treated, the nest, which like paper will cause no problems and will break up over time.
You can purchase a range of chemicals from DIY/hardware stores and supermarkets to treat wasps nests yourself. You must always make sure that you read and understand the label before you use the product, and that you follow the label instructions carefully.
The council has a list of local beekeepers including where they are based (below) who have offered to provide help and advice but more information and other contact details can be found at the BBKA (British Beekeepers Association) website
T: 01782 680453
M: 07762 930578
T: 01782 502495
M: 07971 013787
T: 01782 681268
T: 01782 776944
If you would like your details adding, updating or removing please contact us
When are bees and wasps active, and what else needs to be done?
Wasps and bumble bees are seasonal insects in so far as when the first frost arrives the colonies die but honey bee colonies continue to live throughout the winter. It may be necessary to remove honey bee comb from your property as walls can become stained and the wax can burn.
Once established in a property none of the these insects are likely to just “go away”. If nests are built in a chimney or gas vent it is essential that the nest is fully removed. Contact a chimney sweep or a gas engineer if the nest is in the vent to a gas appliance, and do not use the appliance until it has been confirmed to be safe.
Last updated 9 June 2020