The bees – In the beginning…

Back in autumn 2015, we noticed a few bees going in and out of the kitchen extractor fan grille on the back wall of the house. We’ve had masonry bees for several years previously. These are solitary bees, in the same way that bumble bees are. I.e. they don’t live in colonies.

In spring each year, they lay their eggs in a couple of air bricks at the back of the house and cap them with mud. Eventually the eggs hatch, they break their way out through the capping and to go to live a happy and fulfilled life, we assume. There are never more than one or two of them around at any one time.

Initially, we assumed the bees going in and out of the extractor grille were masonry bees too, so we let them get on with it thinking perhaps their activity would stop over the winter.

Our winter was fairly busy, then we were away several time early in 2016, and were away for 2 weeks in May. When we came back in May, the bees had been busy. There weren’t just one or two; there were now anything up to 20 or 30 coming and going every minute. This is clearly not the behaviour of masonry bees, these were patently honey bees. And the role of honey bees is – quite simply – to make more honey bees. Everything else they do – e.g. making honey – is done with the single-minded purpose of making more honey bees.

I contacted a few pest control companies, but none of them wanted to tackle honey bees – “they’re endangered, don’t you know?”. I contacted a number of local beekeepers who all said more or less the same thing – “you’ve got a problem, mate! You’ll not get them out of there without the queen, and the queen won’t leave unless they swarm. And they won’t swarm until the nest starts becoming too small for them or problematic in some way. But do contact me if they swarm & I’ll come round to collect them.”. Hmm.

By now, we were a little uncomfortable in the garden with all the bees around. Not only that, we discovered bee poo. Yep – bees poo. Especially in the spring. Blobs of sticky brown stuff that goes all over the washing hanging on the line, and all over the windows. It’s murder to remove and doesn’t easily wash out.

In June/July 2016, we went away for a month in the motorhome. On our return, their numbers had not diminished. Quite the contrary, in fact. There were more than ever and our discomfort levels rose accordingly. Tried the beekeepers again: same result.

In the end we left them alone. Bad idea.