SWARMING

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.

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.

 

IDENTIFICATION

 

Is it a honeybee? Or is it a wasp or a bumblebee?  Try our simple guide to help you to identify that flying insect.​

As beekeepers, we can only deal with honeybees.  Honeybees swarm, other bees and wasps do not.  A honeybee swarm when clustered, looks out of place.  It will be in a tree, or a bush, on a fence or some other place you wouldn’t expect to see a cluster of bees out in the open.  If the bees are flying and not clustered, not much can be done about them other than to keep out of their way.

SWARM COLLECTORS

 

So ... you have identified that you have a honeybee swarm.  What now?  You need to find a swarm collector so check out your nearest swarm collector at this link:

 

British Beekeepers Association - Swarm Collectors

 

Please remember that these swarm collectors are simply unpaid individuals trying to help you.  They are often unappreciated and occasionaly 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.

 

© 2017 by Barkston Ash Beekeepers (BABKA)

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Background Photo By 

William Gray

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