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Types of bees & wasps - please note, beekeepers will only deal with swarms of honey bees and not bumblebees, wasps or solitary (Masonry) bees.

The Honey Bee (Apis mellifera)

Honey bees are small, slightly hairy, and muted in colour - usually shades of brown and black, rather than the bright yellow of wasps or hornets. They are only usually aggressive when defending their hive, and are not aggressive like wasps when foraging away from home. Honey bees can often be seen carrying pollen on their hind legs as 'pollen baskets'.

The Bumblebee (Bombus bombus spp.)

Bumblebees are generally large, round and visibly furry, and come in a variety of species and colours. They are fairly common in gardens throughout the UK during the spring and summer, and often build nests in compost heaps, under decking or garden sheds and other warm dry places like old mouse nests.

They are generally peaceful, and while they can sting rarely do so unless their nest is disturbed. However the Tree Bumble Bee - a relatively new species to the UK, can be more defensive. Its preferred nesting site is in bird boxes or roof eaves.

The Wasp (Vespa vulgaris)

Wasps are smooth-shelled and shiny, with brighter, distinct yellow and black stripes, and lack the hairs that honey bees and bumble bees have. They are more inquisitive and aggressive than bees, and are attracted to sweet smelling or fermenting things, such as jam, rotten fruit, alcohol. 

Wasps can sting repeatedly, and are much more likely to do so than honey or bumble bees - especially later on in the season.

Wasps, like Hornets, build their nests out of paper, made of chewed up wood and plant material. They tend to nest in sheltered locations, such as sheds, bird boxes, or roof eaves, but can also nest in the ground.

The Masonry Bee (Osmia)

Masonry bees are normally harmless, their sting seemingly unable to penetrate human skin. Unlike honey bees these are solitary insects. They nest in a wide range of cavities some of which they excavate themselves. The nest particles are glued together with saliva. On occasions masonry bees can present a problem due to their ability to build nests by tunnelling through soft brick mortar, generally in older properties. Only rarely do large numbers occur together but due to the fact that vulnerable buildings tend to be repeatedly attacked, quite severe damage can occur over several seasons. Modern houses are not immune either. Small gaps left in otherwise sound mortar may be colonised. Although this is not a problem from a structural point of view, some householders are distressed by such activity. In the long term, re-pointing with sound mortar is the only answer. This must be thorough however, as bees hunting for a nest site will soon locate areas that have been missed. Small individual holes are easily filled.

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