It's the peak of Tree Bumblebee season, the start of Honey bee swarm season, and also the beginning of the Wasp season and the phone is going crazy!!!
We've all been there, both pest controllers and beekeepers. That phone is ringing off the hook, and it's a pleasant change after the lean months of winter and spring.
Nearly every call you are getting goes pretty much the same, tell me if this doesn't ring a bell:
You: How can I help?
Customer: I got wasps!!! A swarm of wasps!!! There's millions of 'em!!! Can you come kill 'em?
You: Are you sure it's wasps? It's very early for wasps and wasps don't swarm. Could it be honey or bumble bees?
Customer: Nah, it is definitely wasps. I know what a wasp is.
You: I think you are mistaken. It is going to be either Tree Bumbles or Honey bees, only honey bees 'swarm' and when they do it's in massive numbers, probably in numbers from 10,000 to 50,000 bees, so it is really quite a sight! Tree Bumblebees will do a mating dance near a nest that can look a bit scary, but they are big and round and fluffy, not small and yellow & black and pointy like wasps.
Customer: NO! THEY ARE 110% wasps!!!
You then attend the 'Wasp swarm' to be greeted by either Tree bumblebees doing a mating dance by the guttering, or 20,000 honey bees hanging in a bush!
The above annually repeating scenario started to wear us out! Every year it seemed to be more and more exhausting (ten years plus I have been a pest controller), the same old conversation! After all, what would us lowly pesties know??!
In the end it turned out to be a good thing for us and our business, as we decided to make a Youtube video to show customers what Tree Bumblebees look like when they are up by the gutter of a house and what they look and act like when they are in a bird box. (Please feel free to use our video to show your customers.) https://youtu.be/yqivDIIrZ4w
This short and simple YouTube video saved us lots of explaining and time, but it also gave us the YouTube bug!!! We soon realised that we could use this medium to help customers understand many other aspects of our work, and how different approaches may be required, and most importantly, that if the route cause of the infestation isn't solved, then the pests will just keep coming back (rats, mice,fruit flies,etc, etc.).
We also saw that watching us remove bumblebees was perfect for Youtube, well, not so much the bee removals themselves, more likely because people love to watch men getting stung and chased by angry bees! We ham it up a fair bit, but that's the nature of the YouTube beast, give the audience what they want!!! Last year, when we were filming the bumblebee season, we were still in our infancy on the learning journey of how to make good videos. We cannot wait to get filming this coming season, with our new filming skills and editing knowhow!!! Looking back through our diarys, it seems that bumblebee calls start to come in in the West Midlands (where we are based) around mid May, this will obviously differ from north to south, you lucky southerners probably get the calls a few weeks before us!
Here are some photos in descending order. Honey bee, Tree bumblebee and Wasp, just in case you need them:
Our YouTube journey then went into the Honey bee season. What a learning curve we had. We had only done a few honey bee removals up to this point, but through trial and error, lots of research, and help from people like Clive Andrew Stewart, of Westart Apiaries, and the courses he runs using the UKBR's code of practice, we did many removals last year.
There were a few reasons why we wanted to move into saving both honey and bumble bees, but the two main reasons were this. I love animals and hate to kill anything that I don't have to, also, the world and the laws are changing, and changing fast!!!
Let's look at the two reasons and what they have lead my business into:
Loving animals great and small:
This year I had around 25 temporary bumblebee colonies (taken from customers' lofts) in my own back garden that I could sit and watch with amazement whilst I learned more and more about the life-cycle and behaviors of different species of bumblebees. We also removed many bird boxes full of bumbles and put them up in a local farmers' woods, some of these bird boxes are now homes to birds (although birds, especially Blue Tits, are arch rivals of Tree Bumbles, but that's a whole other story!).
We now have two apiaries, one for quarantining newly rehomed honey bees, and another for the honey bees when they have a full bill of health. We now have a new full time hobby as beekeepers!
N.B. Please bear in mind that after you remove a colony of bees, those saved bees need a new home to either live out and complete the rest of their season, or, in the case of honey bees, a quarantine apiary and then a permanent apiary for many years to come.
The worlds' attitude and new laws, label changes:
The world is an ever changing place to do business, it seems to change pace at an ever faster pace nowadays too! The days of customers wanting the cheap option of killing bees is waning. This has been helped by the world's media jumping on the eco bandwagon. I'm not a fan of the media world, but for once they are kind of going in the right direction, although honey bees are probably the only bee out of hundreds of bee species that are not on the decline! So, I am a firm believer in going along with this trend. On our Honey bee removal webpage, we start with the statement:
WE ALWAYS SAVE BEES. Saving, relocating, conserving, re-homing, or indeed living with 10's of thousands of honey bees is nearly always your ONLY LEGAL WAY FORWARD
If you are a pest controller that is killing bees because it is an easy and quick buck, you really need to wake up to the reality that the industry is now in. No powders are for use on bees as of last year's label changes. The old grey area of 'walking and flying insects' on labels is starting to disappear.
And here's the kicker!!! The only products that can legally be used (they are getting fewer and fewer, and I am certainly not going to tell you what these products are, as we need to keep them for the sad occasions where, because of health and safety, a bee colony must be euthanized) are only going to be effective if they are sprayed directly onto the bee colony. As you all know, or should know, you must always use the least toxic method. To use these products you will need to open the bee colony up to be able to apply the treatment, at which point you could and should use the least toxic method, which is, removing and rehoming the colony.
If you would like to see why we still sometimes need to euthanize a colony of bees, feel free to watch this video from a few years ago, before we had the training and knowledge we do now. It was a painful learning experience! One that we could have avoided with training and the knowledge that comes with it. But, the truth is, euthanizing a bee colony can only be done under certain criteria, this super aggressive, super strong, super sized colony of honey bees would certainly have been one that should have been euthanized.
So if your boss is pushing you to kill bees, take a read of the label (THE LABEL IS THE LAW)! Ask yourself this question, "Would my boss risk prosecution in court for me?", I think I know the answer and so do you.
If you are a one man band, think about this, as well as the prosecution risk, think about your reputation. We live in a world where every man, woman and child has a 4k camera in their pocket! That camera is linked to literally billions of social media users, so please think about how one little video could spread like wildfire and destroy your reputation and business overnight!
My message is simple. STOP KILLING BEES!!! It's not big, it's not clever, and it could seriously land you and your business in hot water!
So if you have enquiries about bees that come in, pass them onto others who can do what's required. I know the Pest Interceptors will always happily take the jobs on and we will even help you and train you at the same time, and so will many other bee removers, so just ask!
The Pest Interceptors are on a mission this coming year, and future years, to re-educate both other pest controllers and the general public into what can and what cannot be done when it comes to bees.
I have been toying with the idea of setting up a new series on our YouTube channel in the style of 'Rogue Traders' or 'Watchdog' to expose the companies that go around killing bees that could have been saved. If your readers would like to give me feedback on this, please do. Feel free to subscribe to our YouTube channel, we have some really awesome videos still to upload from last year's bee removals, plus hopefully many more exciting and educational videos this coming year. Watch this space!!!