RESIDENTS in Barrow have reported finding swarms of bees in their homes, gardens and even on their cars following the recent warm spell.

The Furness Beekeeper’s Association have a training apiary in the grounds of Gleaston Water Mill and owner Vicky Brereton has received several panicked phone calls requesting help with the swarms.

She issued the following advice:

If honey bees become overcrowded in their hive the old queen and a large group of bees fly off to locate a new home. They usually settle for a few hours in a large ball shape, typically clinging to the branch of a tree, while scout bees fly off to locate a permanent new home.

If left alone swarming bees are rarely aggressive, although the sight (and noise) of a swarm can be very frightening.

Honey bees are smallish, dark bees (not to be confused with bumble bees) and a prime swarm can contain tens of thousands of bees. Beekeepers are usually available and happy to collect swarms providing they are accessible (e.g. not in a cavity wall or chimney).

Although calls asking for help with swarms mostly concern honeybees some turn out to be bumble bees or wasps.

So how do you tell?

Bumble bees (the big fat hairy ones) often make their home in a nest underground, under a

shed, in a bird box and often take a fancy to compost heaps! Some bumble bees are solitary but even in a colony there a rarely more than 150 in the nest and they are not aggressive.

If you find them in your garden it’s best to just leave them alone and let them get on with pollinating your plants. Perhaps put a marker or barrier by the nest entrance so they are not disturbed.

Wasps however live in large nests and favour outbuildings and lofts spaces.

They have well defined yellow and black stripes on their bodies and there can be up to 6,000 in a nest at the end of the summer when the nest breaks up due to lack of food.

Wasps do a lot of good work eating aphids and flies, but sometimes it is not an option to have a wasps nest too close to your home. Disturbed wasps can be extremely aggressive so it is better to contact a pest removal service to dispose of them.

So before you call out the beekeepers do try to identify that they really are honey bees, and that they are in an accessible place. The following pictures should help to identify them.