Being stung by a bee is quite rare as they are much less aggressive than wasps or hornets. Some bees cannot sting, others such as the bumble or solitary bee only sting if handled roughly. Honey bees may sting if provoked or they feel you are too close to their hive. If stung, scratch rather than pull the sting out and move away from the hive as quickly as possible.

A sting can be life threatening to those who are allergic to stings and may suffer anaphylactic shock. If you have been stung by a bee, please refer to our guide to treating insect stings.


There are many types of bees with colonies ranging in size from about 50 up to 50,000 all pollinate flowers and plants. The most commonly seen are bumble bees, honey bees, solitary bees and mason bees.

Bumble Bees – Often confused with honey bees. The bumble bee is larger, furrier and is dark coloured except for golden stripes across the end of their tails. They nest in small wall cavities, holes in the ground, under sheds or in undisturbed compost heaps.

Honey Bees – These are the kind kept by Bee Keepers, although they do live in the wild in hollow trees or in chimneys, wall cavities or roof spaces. They are similar in size to wasps but are furrier and mostly black in colour. It is the honey bee that converts nectar into honey and beeswax and is known to swarm. A honey beeswarm will arrive in flight and cluster on a tree branch. The noise can be alarming, but the danger is not great if you keep your distance and contact a local Bee Keeper or Environmental Health Department as they will be able to arrange for the swarm to be relocated.

Solitary Bees – Many of these look similar to honey bees and often nest near each other in villages but, as the name implies live alone. Some tunnel in sandy soil, soft mortar in old houses or use domestic air bricks to nest in.They do not swarm and are not aggressive.

Mason Bees – Several species of bee nest in crevices or holes in masonry and are known asmasonry or mortar bees. They are often found in walls that receive sunshine for much of the day. They use naturally occurring holes in bricks or mortar joints (especially mortar with a high lime or sand content). Mason bees are harmless, they are not aggressive and will not attack. Masonry bees are most common in southern Britain, they include the wool-carder bee, the mining bee, the hairy-footed flower-bee, the leafcutter bee and the red mason bee.


Bees are highly beneficial to our environment and some species such as the honey bee are under attack by the varroa mite, which has destroyed most wild bees with only Bee Keepers safeguarding remaining colonies. The natural habitat of the bumble bee continues to disappear, with a significant decline in recent decades.

Bees should not be killed and nests should be left undisturbed whenever possible. If a bees nest represents a very high risk (such as a nest within the home, school, hospital or near those who are allergic to Bee stings), the nest can be removed and relocated to a safe area by a professional.

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