My tenants are reporting that bees have moved in to the space underneath the flat roof. I didn’t think I was allowed to treat a bees nest, is that correct?

Question

My tenants are reporting that bees have moved in to the space underneath the flat roof. I didn’t think I was allowed to treat a bees nest, is that correct?

Answer

Yes and no.

When the weather is this glorious, having a swarm of bees in your garden can’t be much fun and it’s understandable that your tenants are keen to see the back of their stripy neighbours – after all not only are many people nervous of our flying friends, they can also cause significant allergic reactions, and can be very noisy when they’re living in your walls and roof!

However, bees are tricky house guests to deal with, as there are a few different species, all of whom must be dealt with differently.

The first task is to figure out what sort of colony your tenants are playing host to Bumblebees: Bumblebees generally prefer to nest underground in burrows, under decking or in your compost bin, so they may not be the culprit in this case.

You can recognise a bumblebee by their large, furry bodies. They rarely sting – and don’t pose a risk to people or animals unless provoked (so do advise your tenant to avoid poking the nest, just to be safe).

Tree bees: Tree bees are less yellow that you might expect – with a browner tone to their stripes. They like to nest in bird boxes or high in buildings (maybe a roof!), and there tends to be a significant amount of activity around their nest - which could be worrying for your tenants. Solitary/Masonry bees: Whilst it is unlikely that your tenant is reporting this type of bee living in a roof, it is still good to be aware of the solitary/masonry bee. It’s well named, as this clever little insect can build nests by tunnelling through brick - don’t panic, they don’t pose too much of a risk to the structure of your property as they tend to work alone!

Honeybees: Providers of honey and almost universally viewed with affection in the UK - Honeybees rarely present problems as pests, however, feral swarms can set up home in undesirable places such as chimneys and wall cavities. If you find yourself playing landlord to these extra sweet tenants, your local beekeeping organisation can help move your honeybees on to a new, more suitable home.

Wasps: Probably people’s least favourite element of summer, the wasp is the baddie of the season. Although a colony will die out when the weather turns cold, your tenants are unlikely to want to wait that long, as a swarm can be intimidating and even deadly – with many people allergic to wasp stings. Any perst control firm will be able to assist in the removal of a wasps nest – don’t attempt this yourself unless you fancy spending a good few days nursing some very sore stings!

Hornets: The big boys of the buzzing world! Black and brown, with a large curved tails and a very loud buzz, the hefty hornet is actually less aggressive than their smaller cousin, the wasp.

Aren't bees protected?

Contrary to popular belief bees – even honey bees - aren't protected and can be treated, however do this incorrectly and you could end up with a really hefty fine!

Whilst not protected when they are in their ‘wild’ state, if honeybees are kept in a hive, they are considered livestock, and doing anything to injury or kill them would be treated with the same consequences as if you were to hurt a sheep or cow. But my bees aren’t in a hive, I hear you cry! Ah, herein lies the issue.

Bees by nature are quite the bully, and are known to take over competitors’ nests – if your neighbour has a honey bee hive in their garden and you poison a ‘rogue’ nest residing in your roof with a residual insecticide, all it takes is for a few of your neighbours bees to come and investigate your poisoned nest, before buzzing off home, and you could have a hefty bill on your hands for inadvertently wreaking havoc on your neighbours livestock!

Ensuring all honey and honeycomb has been removed once your nest has been treated is vital to prevent this, and a professional pest control company will be able to advise on a insecticide that will pose minimal risk.

Alternatively, you may want to consider simply moving the nest out of the way! A swarm collector from the British Bee Keepers Association (www.bbka.org.uk/swarm) is likely to be the best person for the job.

You’ve earned your stripes as a bee-remover! What next? Once the nest is dealt with, you may have a little bit of patching up to do. Depending on the type of bee you were dealing with, this can be a simple job, or a little more hands on.

Whatever type of bee you’ve identified, you obviously have a location that is attractive to our stripy friends, so your first task should be to make sure that the entrance and exit points to the area that they inhabited are blocked up – this should stop you having to deal with the same problem again this time next year (you might be good at it now, but if you can avoid it, it’s a bonus!)

If you played host to the honey bee, you must make sure that all honey and honeycomb is removed from the property. This sticky job is vitally important, as not only will the honeycomb be contaminated with insecticide, and therefore potentially a danger to other bees in the area, but gooey honey lasts indefinitely (archaeologists even found some in Tutankhamun’s tomb, which was apparently still edible!) and once it has seeped into walls, plaster, ceilings, and floorboards, you’ll be dealing with its effects for years.

If your walls are looking a little gappy thanks to the best efforts of a swarm of masonry bees, it’s time for a trip to the DIY store as you have a repointing job on your hands. Failure to plug the gaps is like a ‘To Rent’ board for the next swarm of masonry bees, who’ll move straight in with no hesitation – no reference required!


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