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to

Barkston
Ash
Beekeepers
Association

Supporting Yorkshire's honey bees and beekeepers

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Swarms

ABOUT SWARMING

 

During the spring and early summer, there is a dramatic increase in the number of bees in a colony.  This can lead to overcrowding which may trigger the colony to swarm (split).  The old queen and about 60% of the bees belonging to the colony leave the hive in a large, noisy cloud of swirling bees.  The airborne swarm usually settles into a dense, oval shaped cluster of bees within about 20m of the hive.

 

The cluster may hang like a pendant from a branch of a tree, form within a bush or cling to a wall or fence post.  In fact, anywhere at all that suits them.  The size of the cluster can vary but typically it is the size of a rugby ball.  The swarm may remain in this cluster for two or three days, during which time scout bees will be searching for a suitable cavity in which the swarm can set up a permanent home.  In this state, the bees are usually very calm as their stomachs are full of honey in readiness for preparing a new home.  Check out this video to see how calm they can be.  Once a new site is located and agreed by the scout bees, the swarm will again take to the air and proceed in a beeline to their new home.

A swarm of honeybees

Depending on the availability of swarm collectors, and if the swarm is a honeybee swarm, then we may be able to help collect the swarm.  However, if the swarm is in a dangerous location or too high up for the safety of the swarm collector, then your local pest control company should be contacted for help and advice.  Additionally, a swarm collector will not attempt collection if this would involve structural alterations or damage to a property.

 

Barkston Ash Beekeeper Association info for general public.

APPEARANCE
Bumble bees are robust, large in girth, have more hairs on their body and are coloured with yellow, orange and black. Their wings can be easily seen since they are darkish in colour & the tip of their abdomen is rounded.
Honey bees are more slender in body appearance, have fewer body hairs and wings that are more translucent. The tip of their abdomen is more pointed.

AGGRESSIVENESS
In general, honey bees and bumble bees are not overly aggressive when protecting their nest. However, both will readily sting to defend themselves or their colony. The primary difference in their stinging behaviour relates to the greater number of honey bees that sting when compared to bumble bees. Whilst a honey bee only stings once, a bumblebee is capable of stinging multiple times. 

LONGEVITY
The bumble bee Queen lives for one year and over winters at the nest site. Other members live for only a few months.The honey bee Queen and her off spring live in the hive year round. The Queen may survive for three or more years.

COLONY, NEST or LOCATION
Bumble bees typically make their nest underground, but some species will nest above ground.Honey bees typically make their nest above ground in sheltered locations.

NEST POPULATION SIZE
Bumble bee colonies are much smaller with a normal population of less than a few hundred individuals.Honey bee nests may number into the tens of thousands.

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SWARM COLLECTORS

 

So ... you have identified that you have a honeybee swarm.  What now?  You need to find a swarm collector 

 

Barkston Ash Beekeepers Association do have some members who might be able to help.

You can contact us By following this link

When we get in touch with you we will ask for photos of your swarm.

This is to make sure it is a swarm of honey bees, as we have been called out to loads of bumble bees in the past and with the price of fuel going up it can be an expensive trip to find out they are not honey bees.

 

Please remember that these swarm collectors are simply unpaid individuals trying to help you.  They are often unappreciated and occasionally abused if your swarm turns out not to be a honeybee swarm.  If they have travelled a long way - you may need to reimburse them for travel expenses.

 

If a swarm collector is not available, you can just leave the swarm alone and don't disturb them.  Don't worry - they won't stay there for long. Depending on the weather and the scout bees looking for a new home, it can be anywhere between a couple of hours and a couple of days.

 

SWARM COLLECTORS PROTOCOL

 

Swarm Collectors are bound by a protocol that has been laid down by the British Beekeepers Association to which we belong.  You can  view the document here.