Don't forget, waste collections will be a day later than usual all this week after the spring bank holiday.
Recycling and rubbish collection days are also changing for some households in Mendip and South Somerset. Read about the changes and how they may affect you.

Introduction

The council does not provide a service for the removal of insects – including bees, wasps and ants – or birds and small mammals.

If you would like to report a bee swarm, for more information please visit the British Beekeepers Association website.

You should contact a specialist provider. DIY pest control treatments are often available from good DIY shops, ironmongers, garden centres and pet shops. Always follow the instructions very carefully.

You can find information about a wide range of pests on the British Pest Control Association (BPCA) website.

Laws and regulations

We have a duty under the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949 to ensure that, so far as it is practicable, the area is kept free of rats and mice. We can serve notice upon the owners or occupiers of infested land requiring that they get rid of any infestation.

Types of pests

Rats and Mice

The adult common rat may weigh between 100 grams and 500 grams. It has brown fur on its back and grey underneath. Its tail is shorter than its head and body. The common rat is the most abundant and widespread species and can be found anywhere that offers shelter and food, including sewers. Rats are active mainly at night but may be seen in search of food and water during the day.

The life expectancy of rats is around one year during which a female will typically breed up to 5 times. The average size of a litter is 7 to 8 young. Breeding occurs throughout the year but especially in the spring and autumn.

Rats can be a hazard to health. They spread many forms of disease, some of which can be fatal to man such as Weil’s Disease. They may eat food which is intended for human consumption and they often damage much more which has to be discarded. Through their gnawing habit they also cause considerable structural damage to woodwork, water pipes, electric cables and so on.

Treatment

If rats are nesting and breeding on your property and you want to destroy them, you may wish to consider one of the following options:

  • If you remove all food sources rats should leave within 2 weeks
  • You can treat the rats with rodenticides – rat poison – which can be bought from most hardware stores or agricultural suppliers. Always follow the manufacturers advice.  Take particular care over the location and quantity of rodenticide used. Where possible remove any food supply to which the rats have access before and during treatment.  Such sources could include excess bird food and food waste in compost heaps

Rats in your property

If any rats have gained access to your property we advise you to consider having at least one smoke detector fitted at the top of the stairs or hallway if you don’t already have one – rats may damage wiring hence the potential risk of fire.

Warning: When using rodenticides (rat poison) – always follow the instructions on the label and, importantly, search for and dispose of any dead rodents in a safe manner.

Mice

Mice can be found in buildings as they seek the warmth and shelter for nesting sites and food.

Signs of mouse activity include:

  • Mice droppings – often black, rod-shaped and 3 to 6mm long. Fresh droppings will be soft and moist. Each mouse can leave approximately 80 droppings per day. Common places to find mouse droppings are under the kitchen sink, around central heating boilers and in roof spaces
  • Smear marks – dark grey marks left on surfaces by repeated contact with the oil in mouse fur
  • Nests – mice gnaw continually on materials such as wood, carpets, paper, pipe cables and furniture. Check for damage to foodstuffs in cupboards

Treatment

If you decide to carry out the work yourself, you can buy poisons and traps from a hardware store or garden centre.

Warning: When using rodenticides (poison), always follow the instructions on the label and, importantly, search for and dispose of any dead rodents in a safe manner.

Wasps and Hornets


Wasps

Wasps can be beneficial in a garden as they eat insect pests. But, they can be quite aggressive and will come out to investigate if you get too close to their nest.

If you have a nest, consider one of the following options:

  • You can leave the nest alone if it is not really causing you a problem. Wasps’ nests will die off in the first frosts of autumn and will never be re-colonised
  • If you feel confident, you can treat the nest yourself. If the nest is in a hole, under tiles or in an air brick, you can use a wasp nest destroyer puffer pack
  • If the nest is hanging in a hedge or garage and is clearly visible, you should use a wasp nest destroyer aerosol
  • Do not use a puffer pack for a hanging nest
  • These products are available from most hardware stores or garden centres. Always follow the safety and environmental instructions
  • Where the nest is in a roof space and bats are present or likely to be present, you must consult Natural England before any treatment

Hornets

Hornets are relatively rare and are usually only found in southern England. They are banded with yellow and brown and slightly larger than the common wasp.

Whilst not aggressive when encountered far from the nest, they will vigorously defend the nest if provoked. They have a painful sting and can cause anaphylactic shock to people with an allergy to wasp venom, a condition which can be fatal.

Because the hornet is rare the nest should not be destroyed unless absolutely necessary. If you decide to treat the nest yourself, special precautions must be taken. You must cover your body completely, wear long, gauntlet style gloves and suitable headwear that covers your face. Further advice will be available with the poison you use.

Please note – wasps and hornets do not swarm. If you have a swarm, it will be bees.

For advice about Asian hornets and what to do if you spot one, refer to the Asian Hornets: UK Sightings – GOV.UK

Bees

Bees are generally not aggressive unless handled or their nests are disturbed. In most circumstances, bees can be left well alone and do not need to be destroyed.

The British Beekeepers Association can help you find out what kind of insect you have and what to do about it.

Do you have a swarm of bees?
Find out more information on swarm collection on the British Beekeepers Association website.

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust has lots of useful information.

If you need pest control treatment urgently, you can contact a private contractor who is British Pest Control Association (BPCA) or National Pest Technicians Association (NPTA) approved.

Bumble Bees

Most people can recognise these large furry bees. Bumble and solitary bees are unlikely to sting unless they are handled or their nests disturbed. Bumble and solitary bees die out after summer and only the females survive by finding a suitable resting place, ready to start new colonies in the spring.

Bumble bees will often make a nest in holes in trees, or possibly by excavating in soft sandy earth. Some bees prefer to make their nests in suitable cavities in buildings, and will even excavate soft mortar from brickwork to make their individual nests. The nest is essentially a ball of grass and moss with wax cells inside it. The number of bees in the largest bumblebee nest does not exceed several dozen. Others will make their nests in sandy domestic lawns. They are sometimes mistaken for Honeybee swarms but bumble bees do not swarm. The beekeepers listed below are unable to help with Bumble Bees.

Solitary Bees

There are several families of bees which are solitary by nature, but the commonest group are frequently called mining bees. They closely resemble the honeybee, although the individual species differ in colouration. One of the best-known species is the tawny mining bee, which has a thorax and abdomen richly covered in dark tan coloured fur. Each individual bee will make a nest in a suitable position in the ground, often sandy domestic lawns. There may be individual nests grouped closely together, taking advantage of the ease of excavation in the light soil. They sometimes cause minor nuisance until they disappear in mid-summer. They cannot successfully sting humans. The beekeepers listed below are unable to help with Solitary Bees.

Mason Bees

Their colouration is very similar to the honeybee. They prefer to make their nests in suitable cavities in buildings and will even excavate soft mortar from brickwork to make their individual nests. Although harmless in all other respects, the damage to soft mortar in older properties may be quite severe over several seasons. Their stings are usually unable to penetrate human skin. The beekeepers listed below are unable to help with Mason Bees.

Honey Bees

Honey bees are the only type of bee that will swarm. A swarm is identifiable literally as a football sized (or sometimes larger) ball of bees.

A swarm will often move from place to place until they find a suitable nesting place. If a swarm has settled on a chimney it is advisable to light a smoky fire if you are able to do so to discourage them. If bees enter your property you should contact the council for urgent advice.

Where a swarm of honey bees has settled outside for more than about half an hour, you can contact a beekeeper who will often come and remove the swarm for you.

Details of local beekeepers, who will collect a swarm, can be found on the British Beekeepers Association website. You can contact a beekeeper who is closest to your area.

Brown Tail Moths

The number of Brown Tail Moths and their caterpillars have increased over recent years. The caterpillar is an uncontrollable eater of vegetation and can cause serious damage to trees and shrubs. The caterpillars are also covered in small barbed hairs which can irritate the skin, in some cases severely. Some people may even suffer a type of asthmatic reaction. If you come across these insects you should avoid contact. Minor skin irritations can probably be treated with branded products. For more serious or persistent reactions you should seek advice of a pharmacist or GP.

The caterpillar is a blackish grey colour with tufts of ginger brown hairs and two orange spots near the tail. The moth has greyish white wings with a brown tail. In winter months the caterpillars hibernate in silky greyish ‘tents’ usually found at the tips of branches.

Life Cycle

The caterpillars emerge from their ‘tents’ to forage for food around May to June as the weather warms. They may return to their tents in the evening or during bad weather. They emerge again in September to October and their feeding may cause the leaves at the top of trees and bushes to turn brown. In winter they stay in their tents and these become very visible as the leaves drop.

Control

Infestations can be DIY treated or a private pest control contractor can be used. If DIY treating, precautions should be taken including protective clothing. Chemical products may be purchased from hardware stores and DIY stores and any instructions should be carefully followed.

Seagulls

We do not provide ‘treatments’ for gulls, but the following information is here to help you.

Most people understand gulls are an integral part of the seaside and coastal environment. But, it is clear that more and more gulls are moving into built-up areas to nest.

Gulls are very resourceful and highly intelligent creatures. They are also very social and often form large colonies. While there are many species of gull, only herring gulls and lesser black-backed gulls nest in suburban areas in any significant number.

Some people find gulls can cause nuisance through noise, mess and damage by picking at roofing materials or blocking gutters with nests. Gulls can also be aggressive if they feel that they or their young are under threat, or if their nest is disturbed.

Protection and control

Gulls are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. This makes it illegal to intentionally injure or kill any gull, or to take, damage or destroy an active nest or its contents. But, the law recognises that in some circumstances control may be necessary. Action can be taken to prevent the spread of disease, to ensure public health and safety or to prevent serious damage to agriculture.

Any action taken must be in accordance with the terms of a licence issued by Natural England. You can find more information on the Natural England website. Under legislation, there is a requirement to demonstrate that there is a likelihood of serious damage before any action is taken to remove birds.

Legislation also requires non-lethal measures to be considered. Nuisance – such as noise or damage to property – is not a legitimate reason to kill gulls.

Discouraging gulls can be very difficult. You can help by not feeding gulls and by using physical barriers to prevent nesting. For specific advice, you will need to contact a specialist gull proofing company.

Other information

You can find more information on the website of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)

Document preview
RSPB Briefing Note

PDF, 36 KB

Fleas

The two most common species are the cat and dog flea.

Adult fleas are 2 to 7 millimetres long and brownish in colour. Their bodies are compressed from one side to the other and they have large hind limbs for jumping.

All fleas live exclusively as parasites on warm-blooded animals and although they have a preferred host, both cat and dog fleas can also be found on and feed from other animals and humans.

As well as being found on the host, fleas are often found in the host’s bedding. Cat fleas are by far the most common accounting for 75 per cent of all flea infestations. The flea population reaches its peak in September. Flea bites will be seen as a tiny dark red spot surrounded by a reddened area.

Treatment

If you apply a treatment to yourself, ensure you read all the instructions on the packet before undertaking the treatment, which can take up to 14 days to work.

  • Ensure you clear as much floor space as you can
  • Vacuum all areas including furniture
  • After vacuuming, empty the vacuum cleaner into a refuse bag, secure it and dispose in a refuse bin
  • Wash pets’ bedding in a hot wash
  • Store food stuffs
  • Cover fish tanks
  • Remove pets from the area, only letting them back into the property once treatment has dried and been ventilated, which usually takes 3 hours

You will also need to treat your pet for fleas with an approved product from your vet.

Ticks and Lyme Disease

Ticks are tiny blood sucking parasites that live in woodland and grassy areas. They are often found in tall grass, where they will rest at the tip of a blade and attach themselves to a passing animal or human. The tick usually drops off of the animal when it has finished feeding and is full, but this may take several days.

Ticks have a harpoon-like structure in their mouth area that allows them to anchor firmly in place while sucking blood. Pulling a tick out forcefully may squeeze the contents of the tick back into the bite and often leaves the mouthpiece behind, which can result in infection.

Most tick bites are harmless but, occasionally, the tick carries a small bacterium which can cause Lyme disease. Lyme disease is a serious infection and it is recommended that you see a doctor as soon as possible as the infection can cause serious illness. The disease might show itself as an expanding reddish, round rash in the area of the bite. Usually this will occur within three to thirty days of a bite. Early symptoms may resemble flu with swollen glands near the site, mild headaches, aching muscles and joints, and tiredness. If you suspect that a tick has bitten, inform your doctor. Lyme disease is treatable with antibiotics and the earlier it is diagnosed, the better.

Lyme disease

Most tick bites are harmless but, occasionally, the tick carries a small bacterium which can cause Lyme disease. Lyme disease is a serious infection – it is recommended that you see a doctor as soon as possible as the infection can cause serious illness.

The disease might show itself as an expanding reddish, round rash in the area of the bite. Usually this will occur within three to thirty days of a bite. Early symptoms may resemble flu with swollen glands near the site, mild headaches, aching muscles and joints, and tiredness.

If you suspect that a tick has bitten you, tell your doctor. Lyme disease is treatable with antibiotics and the earlier it is diagnosed, the better.

What to do if you have been bitten by a tick

Don’t panic, remove the tick as soon as possible. It is possible to remove the tick yourself, but it is recommended that you always seek advice from your doctor.

Remove the tick by grasping it close to your skin with a pair of tweezers (or tick remover – available from veterinary surgeries). Apply gentle pressure, twist anti-clockwise and pull upwards. Do not squeeze the body of the tick or attempt to remove the tick through burning or chemicals. Save the tick in a sealed container in case you develop symptoms later.

If the tick is accidentally pulled apart and the head remains in your skin, there may be a risk of infection from other microscopic organisms. This kind of infection is not related to Lyme disease but can still be unpleasant. Consult a doctor if infection occurs.

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Bats, Snakes and Badgers


Bats

All species of bat and their breeding sites or resting places are protected. It is an offence for anyone to intentionally kill, injure or handle a bat, disturb a roosting bat, sell or offer a bat for sale without a licence. It is also an offence to damage, destroy or obstruct access to any place used by bats for shelter, whether they are present or not.

All enquiries regarding bats should be made to the Bat Conservation Trust. You can phone the Bat Conservation Trust on 0345 1300 228.

Snakes

All native species of snakes are protected by law. It is an offence to kill or injure any snake. For further advice, contact Natural England.

Badgers

Badgers are a protected species. Badger advice can be obtained from DEFRA or the Somerset Badger Group where you can also report badger activity. You can phone the Somerset Badger Group on 07850 604585.

Last reviewed: February 1, 2024 by Sophie

Next review due: August 1, 2024

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