In summer we get many calls and questions from people with bees in their buildings, outbuildings and bird boxes. Often these turn out to be bumblebees. Below we show you how to identify them. 

As well as honeybees there are around 24 species of bumblebee and over 240 species of solitary bee in the UK. To find out what type of bees you have please see the pictures below.


There can be variation in the colour of the main body or abdomen of honeybees, from honey coloured Italian bees to very dark native Black honeybees but all will form a distinctive cluster when they have settled as a swarm. Honeybees have large hairy eyes, a furry chest or thorax and distinctive bent antennae. 


 This is a swarm of honeybees gathered on a wall. There are more pictures of swarms here honeybee swarms

If you are sure they are honeybees then again follow the link at the bottom of the the BBKA website swarm page  . This allows you to type in your postcode and find a nearby beekeeper, who may be willing to collect the swarm.
Beekeepers are not normally able to collect honeybees from roof voids, cavity walls and chimneys.

Other bees 

If they are not honeybees (Apis mellifera), unfortunately beekeepers do not normally remove them. This is because of the low chance of a success and the capacity of our members to respond to the very large volume of non-honey bee calls.  If wasps or hornets and they are in a dangerous position you may wish to contact a pest control company as beekeepers will not remove them.

Bumblebees and Solitary Bees

If the bees are not honeybees please leave them alone. All bees are valuable pollinators and many are becoming endangered. Bumblebee nests will normally die out in Autumn. Most bumblebees live in small colonies, are not aggressive, do not sting unless provoked and so present a low risk. If you have a bumblebee nest with an entrance that is causing problems, it is sometimes possible to redirect their flight path.

Tree bumblebees (Bombus hypnorum) may be more sensitive to vibrations and are on occasion a little feisty. Tree bumblebees have a distinctive white rump and ginger furry back and often like to nest in bird boxes. However they usually only fly for a few weeks so should be left alone.

Bumblebee Conservation Trust have a free 3D augmented reality app to help you identify 8 common bumblebees which you can download for your phone.

Red-Tailed Bumblebee worker with pollen

 Red-tailed Bumblebee male

Buff-tailed Bumblebee queen 

Tree Bumblebee

Common Carder Bumblebee worker 

Solitary Bees 

As their names suggest solitary bees do not live in colonies. Each female makes her own nest but they can nest close together in large numbers. If they are in your lawn or buildings, they may look worrying but they cause no damage.
Again most species only fly for a few weeks, so will probably disappear again within a month. Please leave them alone if you can.

Tawny Mining Bee female

Wool Carder Bee male

Buffish Mining Bee female 

Red Mason Bee male and female 

Leafcutter Bee female

Leafcutter Bee female

Ivy Mining Bee 

Colletes Plasterer Bee female 

Red Mason Bee female 

Ashy Mining Bee 


Hornets - European and Asian 

The European hornet

European Hornets are native and of no threat. 

Asian Hornets are an invasive species and must be reported!

Never Disturb an Active Asian Hornet Nest!

Beekeepers cannot remove Asian Hornets but we can assist with identification. See our Asian hornet team page for details of your local team.

Also please report immediately to: [email protected]  or use the Asian Hornet Watch smartphone app.


Asian hornet

Asian Hornet primary nest with queen 


Social Wasps

Bee mimicking hoverfly 

There are flies that people mistake for bees and that is not surprising because nature has designed them like that to ward off their predators.

How to tell the difference: Bees have two pairs of wings, flies have only one. Bees have long antennae flies have short antennae. Bees have hairy eyes, flies have very large eyes. Most like the one below have eyes that cover the whole of the front of their head and two small feathery antennae stick out just below them. And definitely just one pair of long wings. 

If you need more help identifying a bee then there are other good places to look.
On Facebook the BWARS group has many experts on bee identification via their Facebook page


For further information about bumblebees the following web links may prove useful.

About Bumblebees 
Identify a Bumblebee
Bumblebee nests FAQs 
Solitary Bees 
About Solitary Bees
Guide to British Solitary Bees 
This link will take you to a very comprehensive picture ID of most UK bees 

BWARS Website

Information sheets on gardening for bees & beehotels
Species information sheets 
Photo gallery 

Frequently Asked Questions 

What can I do if: bumblebees nest in an air brick
What do I do if: bumblebees nest in my bird box

What do I do if: solitary bees nest in my lawn?
Can they sting my pets?
Will they sting my children?