Swarms - Steve's Bees

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Steve's Bees

Before you call a beekeeper, please consider this. There are 24 species of bumblebees, around 225 species of solitary bee and just a single honeybee species.
I will come and collect Honey Bee Swarms within the Norton, Stockton-on-Tees & Billingham area free of charge for the general public, but I will always charge a minimum call out charge for other species to cover costs of the visit and all I can do is offer advice, I will not remove them.
The next few paragraphs are here to help you identify what sort of bees you have.


There are approximately 76000 species of wasps in the UK, which can be split up into parasitic wasps, solitary wasps and social wasps. It is the social wasps that the public generally come into contact with. The makeup of a wasp nest is very similar to that of the Honeybee in that it is split into a few thousand sterile workers, a few hundred fertile drones and one queen. That's where the difference ends. Although the wasp nest contains cells. Unlike Honeybees these are made of paper instead of wax.
Wasps feed differently to Bees as well. The workers are predatory and spend much of their time foraging for insects and caterpillars, so in fact they can be quite beneficial to the gardener. They don't eat their prey themselves but take the prey back to the nest where they feed the prey to their larvae. The larvae then exude a sweet sticky substance which the adult wasps then eat. During July / August the Queen wasp stops laying which means the food supply for the adult foragers dries up. They will then look for any sweet substances to feed on such as rotting fruit or picnics. This is when the general public start to have problems with wasps.
At this time of year they also become a problem for Beekeepers in that the wasps try and get into hive to steal the honey, this isn't a problem if the hive is strong as the Bees will drive the wasps off and will even kill them, but if the colony is weak the wasps will invade the hive and steal the honey leaving the hive with nothing to eat and therefore starve.
In July/August the newly hatched Queens leave the nest mate and then find somewhere to hibernate over the winter often under roof tiles on houses, before emerging into spring to start a new colony. The rest of the wasps die as the weather gets colder although in warmer climes such as New Zealand the wasps can survive, and the nest can expand over the years to fill the entire attic of a house

Common Wasp - Vespa Vulgaris

Common Wasp

German Wasp - Vespula Germanica

Larger than the Common Wasp but smaller than a Hornet. It is very similar in appearance to the common wasp.
German Wasp

Median Wasp - Dolichovespula Media

Something I get on the Plum Tree in my garden every year where this photo was taken. They were first identified in the UK in 1980. These differ from the Common and German wasps in that they have more black than yellow on them and whereas the Common and German Wasps like to build their nest in attics or shed these build their nest in trees or bushes.
Median Wasp

European Hornet - Vespa Crabo


Asian Hornet - Vespa Mandarinia

These were accidently introduced into France in 2004 in a consignment of pottery from China. Since then they have spread throughout France and into Northern Spain and they have now been found in Sourthern Briton. As Teesside is a major port this is something that local Beekeepers have to be very aware of. These are voracious predators of Honey Bees and will attack and destroy a colony. If you see them you should contact the Non-Native Species Secretariat NNS Asian Hornet
Asian Hornet
If you are having problems with wasps please contact you local Council who will be happy to help.

Bumble Bees

Unlike Honey Bees which over winter as a colony of thousands of Bees, Bumble Bees hibernate as a single Queen. These Queens will emerge from hibernation in early spring and start looking for a place to build a nest. These are the large Bumble Bees that can be seen flying round the garden in the spring.
Once the Queen has found a nest site she builds some cells and lays an egg in each, she forages herself for pollen to feed the newly hatched larvae. Once the larvae have matured they take over the foraging duties and building of more cells so the Queen can lay more eggs and increase the size of the colony. In July / August the colony produces new virgin Queens which leave the colony to get mated and then find a place to hibernate. The colony itself along with the old Queen dies out and is normally gone by the end of August
If you want further information on identifying Bumble Bees I can strongly recommend "Field Guide to the Bumble Bees of Great Briton & Ireland" by Mike Edwards and Martin Jenner. ISBN: 978-0954971311
It is not only reasonable damp proof it also has a handy table that allows you to cross reference the strips on the thorax against the stripes on the abdomen to help you easily identify Bumble Bees.
More Bumble Bee information can found on the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust Website.

Buff Tailed Bumble Bee - Bombus Terestis

Bombus Terrestis

White Tailed Bumble Bee - Bombus Lucorum

Bombus Lucorum

Garden Bumble Bee - Bombus Hortorum

Bombus Hortorum

Common Carder Bee - Bombus pascuorum

Carder Bee
Tree Bumble Bee

Tree Bumble Bee - Bombus Hypnorum

This is probably the commonest Bee a Beekeeper is called to. They are the bane of the Beekeeper. They are a European Bee that has expanded into the UK where it was first spotted in Wiltshire in 2001 and since then they have spread throughout the UK. I first started getting calls for this species of Bumble Bee in 2012 and now during the summer months they make up at least 95% of all Bee related calls I receive.
Naturally they nest in a hole in a tree, but in the UK they have found artificial nests already in place for them otherwise known as bird boxes and because of this they have thrived.
What I have found is that Tree Bumbles prefer south facing bird boxes. What not a lot of people know is that birds themselves prefer north facing bird boxes as they are cooler in the summer. So if you keep getting tree bumbles in your nest boxes, wait until they have died out in august and then relocate the box so that it is north facing.
They will also nest in the eaves of houses. The only way to prevent this is make sure your roofs are insect proof.
These Bee Colonies often go unnoticed by the home owner until late June / July when the virgin queens hatch, at which time the drones, which are larger than the workers perform flying dances around the entrance of the hive looking for virgin queens to mate with.
If you are having problems with Bumble Bees, advice can be found on the Bumblebee Conservation Trust website.

Solitary Bees

Unlike social bees like Honey Bees and Bumble Bees that have workers, queens and drones, solitary bees have just males and females. They nest either as individuals or as groups, or in the case of Cuckoo Bees who lay their eggs in Bumble Bee nests. They are all active at different times of the year depending on the species and they are only active for a few weeks after which the adults die.

Leaf Cutter Bee - Megachile centuncularis

These Bees nest in dry plant stems, walls and dead wood, and are generally active between April and August. They cut disks from leaves especially roses which they feed to their young.
Leaf Cutter Bee

Tawny Mining Bee - Andrena fulva

These Bees dig holes in the ground, often in lawns, where they lay their eggs. They are sting-less and therefore are harmless.
Tawny Mining Bee

Masonry Bee - Osmia Rufa

Smaller than Honey Bess. These Bees nest in sand soil or the mortar joints in brick walls. They will only nest in mortar if there is pre-existing damage that has made the mortar soft. They are active between April and Mid June after which the adult die. They lay their eggs in the nest holes, and these eggs take up to a year to hatch out. They can be discouraged by ensuring that areas of damaged mortar are re-pointed. These bees are harmless as they do not sting.
Masonary Bee
Bee Fly

Bee Fly - Bombylius major

Although these are not Bees, in fact they are flies, people often mistake these for bees. They can be seen hovering around the garden in April to June. They are in fact a parasite of solitary bees they will flick their eggs into the nests of solitary bees where the larvae develops.

Ivy Bee - Colletes Hederae

A newcomer to the UK being first sighted in 2001 in Dorset. So far it has only been sighted as far north as Birmingham. It has not been found as far north as Teesside yet, but it is on its way. In appearance it is very similar to the Honey Bee. As a species they are normally active in September when the ivy is in flower. They nest in groups and prefer to nest in sandy soil but have been known to nest in lawns. The females will sting but only if you pick them up and squeeze them. When they are mating you get what is called a nesting aggregation which can consist of tens of thousands of bees. The majority of these bees are males and have no stings whatsoever. They will be looking for virgin females and are all but completely safe to children and animals.
Ivy Bee

Drone Fly - Eristalis pertinax or Eristalis tenax

These flies bear a striking resemblance to Honey Bee Drones. Active in gardens in our area from early April through to November.
These are harmless and don't sting.

Drone Fly
If you are having problems with Solitary Bees, advice can be found on the Bumblebee Conservation Trust website.

Honey Bees - Apis Melifera

There are 44 species of Honey Bee on our planet of which there is only one species in the UK (Apis Mellifera). Honey bees are characterised by the facts that they can produce combs of wax and produce and store honey. It is these characteristics that came to the attention of man nearly 4000 years ago when we first cultivated them. Unlike bumble bees they exist in colonies in the 10's of thousands.
At this point you ring a Bee Keeper like myself who will quite happily come and remove them for you. I can be contacted on: 07769 660133.
In the event that I am not available, I can put you in touch with other Beekeepers in your area, you can also contact your local Beekeeping Association or the British Beekeepers Association
These organisations all maintain a list of Bee Keepers who are willing to come and collect Honey Bee swarms. All these Bee Keepers have agreed like myself to abide by the BBKA's swarm catchers protocol which is available from the BBKA website.
Alternatively if you cannot identify the type of Bee you have from the pictures above just send me a picture using the contact form and I will endeavour to try and identify the type for you.
If you have a Colony of Honey Bees living in a building then we may be able to remove them safely depending on the circumstances. There is a charge for this work and we would be happy to provide an estimate depending or the requirements of the removal.


To avoid confusion when talking to a beekeeper I have included a few helpfull definations:

Hive - Box Wooden or Polystyrene that Beekeepers keep Bees in.
Colony - A group of Bees living and working together.
Swarm - Cluster of Honey Bees sat on a fence /tree / wall.
Marked Queen
Swarming of Honey Bees (Apis Melifera) is a natural process. It is all part of the reproductive cycle where the colony naturally divides too produce a new colony. The half of the colony containing the old queen leaves the hive and then forms a cluster somewhere. Normally on a fence, hedge or tree etc and looks like this:
Thank-you for your consideration in READING this webpage. Please only contact us if you have a problem with Honey Bees. Please DO NOT contact us for any other species, we receive hundreds of calls about Bee Problems during the summer and only a very small percentage are about Honey Bees, while we value their cousins the Bumble and Solitary Bees and we would love to assist the General Public with them we have neither the manpower, expertise or the facilities to handle other species of Bees.

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