Wasps and bees are commonly found in many parts of the world, and we get more than our fair share of both in the UK. Although they look similar, they have distinct characteristics and behaviours, meaning we must approach them differently.
As a general rule of thumb, our advice is to leave them both alone as much as possible, but we know that sometimes intervention becomes necessary.
This blog takes a general approach to dealing with wasps and bees, including when their presence becomes problematic.
Wasps are often considered a nuisance due to their painful stings and tendency to build nests in inconvenient locations. However, just like bees, they play an important role in pollination.
The general approach to dealing with wasps is to leave them alone rather than fast-track to extermination. However, more drastic action may be needed when they begin to congregate in numbers that are a little too large for comfort.
Wasp Nesting Behaviours
When nests are located in rural areas, they usually do not pose a significant threat. Still, when they build nests inside communal outdoor structures or the roof void of a building, their numbers can cause anxiety among people and animals alike.
The good news is that wasps never got the sustainability memo and do not reuse their nests, choosing instead to build new ones every year. If you find an abandoned nest (during the winter months, for example) in a loft-type space, you can simply cut it out and dispose of it. Alternatively, you could leave it in situ, but be aware that redundant nests can attract other insects and pests.
Destroying Wasp Nests
If wasps gather in sufficient numbers to pose a risk to humans or domestic animals, then it might be time to go for the nuclear option. Although the entrances and exits to nests can be hard to find, you need to locate one or the other for an effective insecticide treatment to be deployed outdoors.
Where a nest is inside a building, insecticides can be introduced through the side of the nest with an insecticidal lance. However, this can be hazardous, as the wasps will fly towards any light source to protect the nest. As such, the correct PPE must be worn, including a half or full-face respirator and, at the very least, a beekeeper’s veil or a full beekeeper’s suit.
After the nest has been treated, wasp activity will continue for several hours as the workers out feeding and finding food for the nest return. Usually, within 12 hours or so, the last wasps have gone.
Evenings are the best time to treat a wasp nest, as this is when most of the wasps are in the nest. However, in a busy wasp year, they can be treated anytime.
Contrary to popular belief, bees are not protected in the UK. However, they are essential pollinators, and their numbers have declined in recent years due to various factors such as pesticide overuse, habitat loss, and disease.
Common Types of Bees
Honey bees are the most common type of bee people encounter. During May and June especially, honey bees swarm in numbers that can reach many thousands and they will attach themselves to any surface, from hedges and trees to walls and chimneys.
When honey bees attach themselves to a wall or a chimney, it can be the start of a serious problem, as they often migrate into the chimney shaft or wall cavity to establish a hive. Once the bees are inside this type of cavity, the honey they produce can seep through ceilings and walls and cause significant damage.
There is also a specific type of moth that is attracted to redundant bee nests, which can cause their own problems within buildings and can be difficult to eliminate.
Before it gets to this stage, call a local beekeeper. More often than not, beekeepers are happy enough to come and remove a swarm.
Bumble Bees, Tree Bees, and Mining Bees
These bees live in much smaller family units than honey bees and rarely cause problems for humans. Generally non-aggressive, they do not sting unless threatened.
Leave them alone if possible, and they will return the favour.
Wasps and bees are both important insects in their own right, although wasps can be a nuisance and pose a risk to humans and domestic animals. Bees, meanwhile, are crucial pollinators and contribute extensively to ecosystems.
It is always best to leave bees alone where possible, and the same can be said for wasps until they pose a serious threat. At this point, taking the necessary precautions and wearing the appropriate PPE to avoid harm is essential. Otherwise, bring in the professionals.