With so much press coverage about the threat posed to the UK bee population, you no doubt know how important bees are and how much we need them. You may well have read articles about how to encourage bees into your garden with wildlife and thoughtful planting.
However, if you’ve got young children or someone with a bee allergy, life isn’t always that straightforward. We appreciate that you don’t want to harm bees but equally, you do sometimes need to avoid your children getting stung or worse still, attracting a swarm or nest.
So how do you get rid of bees without harming them or yourself in the process? Here’s our guide.
Step 1: What is the problem?
The first thing you must do is ascertain the nature of the problem. The occasional bee is a very different problem to a nest or a swarm. If you’ve experienced a sudden influx or a lot more bees than normal it may be that they have or are forming a nest (a swarm is much more obvious). Try and establish where the bees are nesting and this means trying to track down where they are originating from.
You may find large numbers clustering around somewhere or going in and out of a hole in the wall or ground and this is indicative of a nest. But do take care, noise and disturbance can aggravate them.
Step 2: Identify the insect
It is also important to establish as clearly as possible what kind of insect you have. What may look like a bee could be anything from a hover fly to a wasp or even a hornet, even within the bee species, it is important to try and clarify what type.
Honeybees, for example, are less likely to sting than other types. If you can get a close-up photo, without getting stung, that’s great, but failing that, try and make sure you get an accurate description i.e. colouring, markings and size.
Step 3: Seek a pro
Once you’ve identified what kind of bee you have and that you have a nest, the next step is to call in professional help. Many communities have beekeeping associations who will be happy to come out and advise you as to what and how to manage the problem.
The advice they give is likely to be dependent on the time of year, the location of the nest, the type of bee and your own particular circumstances but we do not recommend that you try to move or interfere with a bee nest yourself.
How to deal with a swarm
In the event of a swarm, the advice is simple. Get everybody inside, including animals and shut the windows and doors before calling for professional help. Most beekeeping associations will attend quickly.
A swarm is quite obvious and you will often hear a loud buzzing before you see huge numbers of bees flying together in a large group. They often move from place to place as they search for somewhere to choose as home but don’t panic. Honey bees will not harm you if you leave them in peace.
Things to consider
If you haven’t got a nest or swarm there are still steps you can take to discourage bees from your garden, namely:
- If you have someone who uses your garden regularly who has a bee allergy, it may be worth reconsidering your planting. Choose less fragrant plants and trees to discourage the bees, going perhaps for leafier planting schemes.
- Check that you aren’t doing anything that inadvertently attracts them, such as leaving food out in the garden. Bees are attracted to fragrance so consider what fragrances (natural or otherwise) that might be in your garden and attracting them. Do you always wear a strong perfume or burn fragrant candles for example?
- Consider using a natural bee repellent. There are a number of different ones available and your local beekeeping association may be able to advise you about this. Other alternatives are catnip or peppermint oil although you may need to experiment with what works the best. Garlic powder sprinkled around an outside table and citronella candles can also be effective deterrents.
- If your garden is big enough, lure the bees away from the main area you use by leaving a small container of fruit in a safer location.
- Create a pretend bees’ nest. You may sometimes see a grey bag shaped object hung under a table parasol, this is to create the impression that there is already a bees’ nest there, thereby discouraging bees from building another one. You can buy these fake nests or create your own.
Bees for the large part are a fascinating insect and are important for our environment. It is equally important that we try and live in harmony with them. You don’t want to risk getting stung but you don’t want to harm the bees either, so it is always worth trying a natural approach to discouraging them.
Have you discovered a natural deterrent? Because if so, we’d love to hear from you, so please get in touch with us via our social media sites.