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What to do if you find a bee, wasp or hornet nest on your French property

The Local France
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What to do if you find a bee, wasp or hornet nest on your French property
Asian hornets on a nest. (Photo by ALAIN JOCARD / AFP)

The last thing you want to discover is that bees, wasps or hornets have made a nest in or around your French property - and this is often a problem for second-home owners whose properties are empty for long periods.

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It is especially worrying for those who are allergic to stings. But, as always, the first - and most important - thing is not to panic, there are well-established systems in place to deal with an unwanted nest.

Bees (les abeilles)

Almost everyone likes bees and the insects themselves are both endangered and vital to prop up our ecosystems.

We’re mostly used to seeing their nests on TV, or similar, in man-made hives, with honeycombs built on frames inside a wooden box. You might not necessarily see a natural ‘wild’ beehive, as they tend to be inside a hole or cavity, so the most obvious clue that there’s one in your property is a massive increase in the number of bees at a certain spot.

If you see a single bee hovering around a hole, don’t worry. There are more than 1,000 species of bee in France alone. Most of them are solitary.

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If you can see the hive itself, it will consist of a number of vertical wax ‘cakes’, which contain thousands of larvae, and will be covered in bees.

If you have a wild bees’ nest on your property, the best thing to do is leave it alone, if you can. A nest in an inaccessible hollow tree at the very far end of the garden probably isn’t going to bother anyone. 

But if you find one indoors or one which you cannot leave alone for other reasons, contact a local beekeeper or a bee protection association - because bees are both vital and endangered, they always try to collect the colony and place it in a hive a different location. 

In certain circumstances, if it cannot be collected for safety reasons, the hive may have to be destroyed. In this case, some professionals will find a way to compensate for the destruction of the nest by creating a new swarm and allowing it to settle somewhere safely.

Wasps (les guêpes)

Wasps like to build their nests in sheltered areas with easy access outdoors, like roof spaces, wall cavities, bird boxes, hollow trees, under eaves, garages or sheds.

They look like they’re made of paper, which they pretty much are, as the wasps create them using chewed-up wood.

Unlike bees, few of us actually like wasps. But the irritating stripey little gits do also have an important role as a pollinator and also as a pest controller, so if you can leave the nest alone, it’s best to do so for environmental reasons.

However, as with bees, this is sometimes impossible. So the safest course is to call a professional pest control company for advice. Costs vary between €80 and €150 depending on how easy it is to get to the nest.

Remember, also, and again as with bees, some wasp species are solitary. One or two wasps hovering about aren’t cause for concern. 

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Hornets (les frelons) 

Hornets normally build their nests in hedges, bushes, or high in trees - but they are also known to set up home in garages, attics, and under the eaves.

Home owners are advised to check (at a safe distance) bushes and hedges in their gardens, especially if they notice hornets in the vicinity. 

Do this carefully, however. Hornets - especially the invasive and dangerous Asian hornets - are known to attack if you come within just a few metres of the nest.

A single sting is painful but not usually dangerous for anyone who isn’t allergic. But Asian hornets can attack in groups, leaving victims with multiple stings.

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If you discover a nest on your property, the safest and most sensible course of action is to call a professional to destroy the nest. An easy way to find them is to search online for “frelons asiatiques nid” and your location. 

The cost of destroying a nest on your property depends on how accessible it is, and where you live, but expect to pay in the region of €120 to €180. Again, depending on where you live, local authorities may help with the cost, so contact your mairie.

You should also contact the mairie if you see a nest, or several hornets, in a public area, especially if it is located somewhere that might be a danger to humans.

Be aware, nests are abandoned at the end of the summer, so it is not usually necessary to destroy a nest - for example in a tree - that you see when it sheds its leaves in the autumn.

You can also report the presence of Asian hornets to the Fédérations Régionales de Défense contre les Organismes Nuisibles (FREDON). 

Useful vocabulary

Abeille (roughly pronounced a-bay)  - bee

Guêpe (gepp) - wasp

Frelon (frey-lon) - hornet

Frelon asiatique (frey-lon ayz-ee-ya-teek) - Asian hornet

Nid (nee) - nest

Il y a un nid de frelons sous mon toit - there is a hornets’ nest under my roof

Il y a un nid de guêpes dans mon jardin - there is a wasps’ nest in my garden

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Comments (1)

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Mick Gray 2024/05/27 18:09
If you have a hornets nest close to the ground then a good way to disperse them is to blow up a paper bag and hang it close to the nest. The hornets think another swarm has moved in and so they go elsewhere. It may sound crazy but a friend of mine had a hornets nest in her shed and so she hung the paper bag close by and within a few days they had gone.

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