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Swarms

WHAT DO I DO IF I SEE A SWARM OF BEES ?

The first thing to remember is that bees in a swarm are almost always in a good mood, as they have gorged themselves on honey, and are unlikely to sting you, even if disturbed.    There is therefore no cause for panic.

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A swarm collection service for the general public is available, but is only able to collect swarms of honey bees from accessible locations.   Swarm collectors are volunteers and therefore may be otherwise engaged and not able to come immediately.  Also, they cannot be expected to risk life and limb, climbing up or crawling into hazardous locations.

If you see a swarm in your garden or outside in a public area, and would like to have it removed, then contact your nearest swarm collector via the British Beekeepers Association website to attend your swarm.

Before you ring however, it would save considerable time and effort if you could consider the answers to the following questions (you may like to write the answers down) -

 
  1. Are you sure that they are honey bees ?    (See photos on this page)   If you are not sure, make a note of the number, colour, and behaviour so that the beekeeper can make his or her own assessment.

  2. To the best of your knowledge, how long have they been there ?

  3. How big is the swarm ? - the size of a tennis ball, coconut, football etc.

  4. Where is the swarm located ? - up a tree, in a shed etc.   
    If in a tree, how far off the ground ?

  5. If in a tree or bush, can it be cut to remove the swarm ?

  6. What is their exact location, and will there be somebody to meet the beekeeper when he arrives?

 

Please note.  If the swarm is on your property, you may be asked to make a small donation to help defray the beekeepers costs, or as a contribution to the funds of the Branch.

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The Common Wasp

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A Bumble Bee

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A Honey Bee
(for a larger picture, click photo)

 

 


SOME GENERAL QUESTIONS & ANSWERS ABOUT SWARMS

 
Qspacer_lge.gif (821 bytes)Why do bees swarm ?
Aspacer_lge.gif (821 bytes)Well, in simple terms, bees use swarming to propagate their species.  When half the colony leaves the hive to find a new home, the colony is in effect divided into 2 new colonies, each with its own queen.  The old queen will fly away with the swarm, and the new queen will be left behind in the existing colony.
Qspacer_lge.gif (821 bytes)When do bees swarm ?
Aspacer_lge.gif (821 bytes)Generally in the Spring and early Summer, although swarms can occur right up into Autumn.
Qspacer_lge.gif (821 bytes)Why do you say that swarms are unlikely to attack and sting people ?
Aspacer_lge.gif (821 bytes)Before the swarm leaves their original home, they gorge themselves on honey, as they will need all the food reserves they can carry to survive whilst they build a new home.  This makes them very docile.   Also, bees will generally only sting people to defend their home.  Since a swarm has no home, they have no reason to act defensively.
Qspacer_lge.gif (821 bytes)How long will a swarm stay out of a hive ?
Aspacer_lge.gif (821 bytes)When a swarm leaves the colony, it will settle on a tree, bush or building whilst it sends out "scout" bees to find a new home.    If a new home is not found quickly, the swarm may stay for several days, or move on to a new location to search there.
Qspacer_lge.gif (821 bytes)How does a beekeeper collect a swarm ?
Aspacer_lge.gif (821 bytes)By providing the bees which what they perceive as a suitable home.   This can be anything from a carboard box, a proper hive, or a straw basket (called a skep which is particularly attractive to honey bees).   He may also "bait" the container with honey, beeswax, or frames which have been part of another colony.  He will then shake, drop or coax the bees into the container, which, being dark, will attract the queen inside.    Once the queen has settled inside, all the other bees will gradually return to her.   Normally, the beekeeper will leave the container slightly open, to allow all the bees to cluster inside, and then, after dusk, when the bees have stopped flying, he will wrap the container in a sheet and take them off to their new home.

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