First, check if what you have are bees or wasps. This may sound rather obvious, but it is an easy mistake to make. Wasps and honeybees are about the same size, but wasps have alternating black and bright yellow body stripes. Honeybees are brown, with paler brown or dirty yellow bands on the body. Bumblebees are furry. Please refer to The Wild Bees of Scotland Identification Guide. If they are wasps or bumblebees, then please see the other questions in this section. If they are honeybees, then visit our Swarms page.
Please don't! Bumblebees are one of our wild insects that occur naturally throughout the country. Unfortunately, due to loss of habitat and the prevalence of pesticide use, their numbers are decreasing and some species are already under severe threat of extinction. Bumblebees are rarely in any way aggressive, and will only sting if you provoke them severely by disturbing the nest. The nest is seasonal, and dies out naturally once the new generation of queen bumblebees has been reared towards the end of the summer. The queens go off to hibernate in a dry hole somewhere, and the remaining workers in the nest die by the end of October. It will be in order for you to move your shed or compost heap then. In the meantime, consider yourself lucky and privileged to have them nesting in your garden, and develop a sense of moral responsibility in helping protect our nation's wildlife. You will find more information on the Bumblebee Conservation Trust website.
When you buy honey, you get what you pay for. Independent beekeepers in Scotland have to work in a very unpredictable climate, which can mean a bumper crop one year, and nothing the next. Scottish honey is produced from a wide range of mostly wild plants and flowers, the honey yield of which also varies from year to year. This produces a honey of remarkably fine quality and unique style, which is highly regarded. Much supermarket honey is imported, and in addition overseas producers are sometimes paid very poorly for their product. It generally also comes from countries which are warmer, have a more consistent climate, and where the quantity and nature of the crop is assured year-on-year. These honeys, often from a single cultivated floral source, may have a milder flavour, and lack the distinctive quality of good Scottish Honey. Scottish Beekeepers are totally independent, and the majority who are ‘hobby’ or part-time beekeepers receive no government help or subsidy, and must maintain the overheads of equipment and stocks of bees entirely from the income they generate from selling honey and honey products. All these factors contribute to the cost of honey production in Scotland. Please support Scottish honey producers by buying local Scottish honey whenever you can.
Again, please don't, unless the nest poses a danger to children or pets. Wasps do a great deal of help in the garden by consuming large numbers of caterpillars and other plant pests. It may be safer in fact to leave the nest alone, unless it is already causing a nuisance. If you MUST get rid of it, use the services of a qualified Pest Control specialist, or one of the proprietary products available from hardware stores and garden centres, following the instructions carefully. Please do NOT use 'DIY' remedies such as flammable liquids, bashing it with a shovel etc. You will probably get stung, fail to remove the nest, and may end up damaging your home and property.
Excellent news, the country needs more beekeepers! You will first need to make contact with some other local beekeepers, and this is best done by joining your Local Association. Go to the page of Affiliated Association Contacts to find the Secretary of your nearest Local Association. You should also join the Scottish Beekeepers' Association, and you will find details of how do do this on our Joining the SBA page. You will find that your Local Association holds outdoor meetings and demonstrations, as well as lectures and talks throughout the year, and you will find these, plus the advice of other members, an excellent way to get started. Try also looking further in the learning section of this website for some basic information on how to keep and manage bees. Your local library will also be likely to have some beekeeping books - and of course as an SBA member you are entitled to use the extensive members' Library.
Hornets, or even Asian Hornets, are not commonly found in Scotland. If you have found what appears to be a very large wasp, then check first to see if it is a woodwasp, you can find an image of one below. Wood Wasps are commonly seen in summer, particularly the end of June and July, especially in rural areas and most particularly near to pine forest, as they lay their eggs in wood. They are completely harmless. You can find out more about hornets, and Asian Hornets (which may in future pose a threat to honeybees) on the following links:
Visit the Affilliated Beekeeping Association page where you will find the names and contact details for the Secretaries of Affiliated Beekeeping Associations throughout Scotland. Look for the one nearest or most convenient to you, and ask them to put you in contact with a local member who sells honey. Alternatively, try your local Health Food shops and also Farmers' Market, if you have one.
The SBA is a voluntary membership organisation, which represents the interests of its members to Governments and other National bodies, and acts to inform its members about new developments in beekeeping. It is not an employer; it has no staff and does not run any Apiaries. It is not possible to work for the SBA. All the work of the Association is done on a voluntary basis by its members.