Bumble Bees, Wasps and Solitary Bees

These insects make their appearance in the garden, sometimes to the consternation of the owner, as their activities may be considered a nuisance. They are usually harmless unless you provoke them. However, towards the end of summer, wasps can be a problem in their search for sugary substances.



Chelmsford City Council Environmental Services (01245 606800) will deal with wasps’ nests which are made out of a papery substance and are round in shape. These insects can get very angry when provoked! However, wasps are very good at clearing up unwanted pests on plants and flowers and do have some beneficial effects. At the end of the summer, the nest will die out.


Bumble Bees
Bumble bees usually build their nests under sheds or holes in the ground. When the swarm needs to build a nest, the queen bee raises workers at the beginning of the season. The colony is never a big one, like that of honey bees, and will generally not be of any trouble, although they can make their homes in awkward places.

Bumble bees vary in size, some are large and others are like the size of honey bees. They BumbleBee1are very beneficial to the garden as pollinators. Like wasps, at the end of the summer the nest will die out but queen bumble bees will find somewhere to hibernate during the winter. Bumble bees are no threat whatsoever, if you have young children then they are an ideal social insect to watch and learn about. Peg out four sticks around the nest area to indicate the nest position, say two foot by two foot or for the children 60cm by 60cm, now look through your natural history books with the children to identify which specie you have. Take the children to the library to search through more books if yours do not have sufficient information. See what colour pollen the bees carry on their legs.

Bumble bees are endangered with their numbers struggling to survive. This has been mostly caused by a combination of habitat loss through changes in agricultural policy (less areas of wildflowers). Estimations are that we have lost 97% of our flower rich grassland since the 1930’s resulting in the extinction of two of our native bumblebee species since the 1940’s. Honeybees, solitary bees and bumble bees are not currently protected under UK law. If you find a bumble bee nest and it is causing a nuisance it is best to follow the guidance on the Bumble Bee Conservation Trusts website.

Red Mason

Solitary bees
The Two most frequently noticed garden solitary bees:

The Red Mason Bee. The red Mason bee nests in all kinds of holes or crevices, frequently in numbers, in crumbling masonry. It’s very unlikely that the bee causes much, if any damage to buildings, as it only excavates mortar that is already crumbling.

The Tawny Mining Bee
The Tawny Mining Bee

The Tawny Mining Bee. Every spring these bees turn up in garden lawns, triggering minor hysteria in the populace. Tawny Mining Bees are harmless

There are over two hundred different types in the UK most do not sting, any that could do not because their stings are too weak to penetrate us. If your garden, house or outbuildings present the right accommodation requirements then you may be blessed with solitary bees, which come in all sizes and shapes and colours.

OK – but what does a honey bee look like

look below:

honeybee1           honeybee2