We have a bees’ nest. The joy of living on the edge of woodland is the high frequency of wildlife to our garden, and it appears that this year the bees have found us, and sought solace in our roof.
There are several species of bee including bumblebees, honey bees and solitary bees. According to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust there are 275 species of bumblebee around the world, with 24 residing in the UK. One of these species is the Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum).
Tree bees are said to be very docile unless you interfere with them at which point they will become defensive (rather like me on a winter’s morning when I can’t bear to part with my snug duvet). Much like other species of bumblebee, being stung is most likely to occur if you tread on them or directly disturb them. If you keep to yourself they will go about their business and not bother you. Unlike honey bees, bumblebees do not die if they sting you, as their stings do not have barbs. If they do feel threatened enough that they would want to sting, they will give you fair warning (by raising their legs and possibly evening ‘showing’ you their sting), and the males do not have a sting at all.
So when I saw these bees grouping around the corner of our roof I wasn’t concerned. Unlike the wasp nest that I removed from our play shed earlier this year (side note – I don’t advise doing this yourself unless you are confident with what you’re doing) the bees will stay.
Somewhat surprisingly, although bees are endangered, they are not protected*. Bees pollinate crops and wildflowers but changes in agricultural practices have seen a decline in numbers. Some species have now disappeared altogether from the UK.
Nests only tend to last for a few months (although very occasionally you might find a second nest begins at the same site as the first is fading) and when they’re fully gone they’re gone. The nest will decay over time and they will find somewhere new to nest next year. The nests themselves do not cause damage so really, although I am not an expert in bees, I consider that there is nothing to be concerned about.
We actually feel very lucky, and slightly honoured, to have bees residing with us this year. We can stand on our patio and watch the drone cloud fly around the nest, or watch from inside through the window. The boys can see the bees up close and personal, and understand a little more about these creatures which are so often, unfairly in my opinion, feared. They are also learning about how common it is (or not, as the case might be) that a bee might sting you, and what the warning signs are if they feel threatened. They are learning respect for other creatures, and, although typically it has not yet fully grown through, understanding the importance of creating our wildflower area.
So if you see a group of bees buzzing around your roof, please think twice before calling a pest removal company. Although some companies won’t remove bees’ nests for ethical reasons, many will without thinking whether it is absolutely necessary**. As for our bees, we will keep Chief’s window shut for a few more weeks, using other windows or fans to move air around and keep his room cool, and will continue to watch these lovely creatures as we share our homes.
**If you’re concerned about a bees nest or would like further information, please read this leaflet from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust here.