I'm pleased to say, most people these days are keen to help bees, and leave bee nests alone. However, now and then I receive queries with regard to nest sites for bumble bees, and whether it is legal to destroy them or whether they are protected species. In particular, I am often asked whether a neighbour can force another neighbour to remove or kill bees on their property.
Here is such a scenario:
Funnily enough, I had just received a fairly similar query, and so decided to publish my thoughts on the matter in order to help others.
However, please note, the following is not legal advice, which I cannot provide. Any decision you take is yours.
As I write, I cannot make a comment on what the exact legal position might be (and please note, the legal situation may vary according to the country in which you reside). Even if no legal protection is given to bee nests, this may not necessarily mean that a neighbour has automatic right under the law to compel a neighbour to have a nest destroyed (and there could be questions about who should pay the cost of professional removal).
However, if my council contacted me about such an issue, I think it would be unwise to be obstructive. I would adopt a co-operative tone, but there are a few points and questions I might raise, and I would request that the council provide a response before action was taken.
It should be noted that these days, I find many councils take a dim view of removing nests of bumble bees, because they acknowledge that they are temporary and pose little danger.
They will often refuse point blank to do it (in fact, increasingly I hear of some pest control companies refusing to move bumble bee nests!)
You could always check with your council, and if they take such a position, it might be better to let the council explain this to your neighbour. With any luck, the council will draw a line under the matter, and your neighbour will not take further action.
In the scenario described above, it turned out that the complaining neighbour had lots of bee-friendly flowers and shrubs in their garden, and once this was pointed out to her, she ceased her complaining. However, if a removal had been necessary, this situation would have been much easier than other situations I have encountered, as long as the bird box could be removed from the shed in its entirety (although it is always best to leave nests alone).
If you have to move a bumble bee nest in a bird box, do it at night, wear protective clothes, cover the entry holes, and try to remove it as smoothly as possible. You may hear angry buzzing from the bees, but as long as all exit points are covered, you should be okay. Place the nest box in its new home – it’s a good idea to have the new spot confirmed in advance – perhaps a neighbour a few doors away, with more tolerant people living next door? Then uncover the exit holes. You can read more about it here.
As I write in June 2018, bumble bee nests are not protected by law in the UK, though I have previously argued that some protection should be the case, for the sake of curbing unnecessary removals.
However, with regard to protected species in general, councils may take an especially dim view of disturbing nests of BAP species. The priority terrestrial invertebrate species list does include a number of bumble bee and solitary bee species as well as other pollinators.
However, if the situation persists and you are determined not to remove a nest, it may be necessary for you to get a legal opinion.
This is about as much feedback as I can (at this time) provide. However, I am hopeful that as awareness increases, fewer people will seek the drastic measure of removing bumble bee nests.
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