Swarms

Honey Bees swarm in order to reproduce and, if they decide to do so, thousands will leave their hive and fly off to find themselves a new home. Although a swarm looks scary, the bees are only intent on finding themselves somewhere else to live.

Whether you live inside or outside our area, please find a local beekeeper by following this link Swarm removal | British Beekeepers Association (bbka.org.uk) This site will also help you to check that you know the difference between honeybees, bumblebees, wasps and other types of bees. Alternatively, please contact our Swarm Coordinator John Perkins (07766007631), who will use our WhatsApp group to locate a swarm collector for you. Please be aware that our beekeepers are only able to deal with honey bees (in accessible locations) NOT WASPS OR BUMBLEBEES.  Our aim is to remove the live swarm, not to destroy it. Our beekeepers are all local enthusiasts and not pest control officers.

Help with Bee Swarms: more detailed information

Swarm on a swing

Honeybees have evolved swarming as a method of increasing the number of colonies. If a hive gets too full of bees or the queen is old, they will swarm. In the Spring, usually in May and June (around the middle of the day), the old queen bee in a colony will emerge outside, together with thousands of worker bees and fly off, in a whirling cloud, to land nearby on a branch, post or other resting place. They will hang there in a mass, some large and some smaller in size than a rugby ball, while scout bees go off and explore for possible new homes. The decision process may only take a few minutes or may fail, so that the bees remain there for longer. Usually, though, the bees take off again and head for their new home, before the end of the afternoon. The new home may be an empty beehive, a hole in a tree or, quite often, somebody’s roof. 

While the bees are hanging in their first resting place, it is a relatively straightforward job to collect and re-house them in a hive, unless they are out-of-reach. However, once they have got into a roof space, they have stopped swarming and will be organising their new home. Getting them out after that is not easy; and nor is finding somebody to attempt the job. 

Bear in mind that the bees may not be there for long and, if you want them collected quickly, you will need to contact somebody as soon as possible. It will need to be someone local, as a beekeeper is unlikely to want to travel far to collect a swarm. Apart from the cost of travel, it could easily be a wasted journey. If the presence of a swarm alarms you, you should be aware that swarming bees have other things on their minds than stinging. They are rarely aggressive because their stomachs are full of honey, making it very difficult for them to bend to sting. If you just watch and wait, they will probably go anyway.

What to do if you find a swarm of bees

In the first instance, use the BBKA swarm link identified previously or our Swarm Coordinator. Please be aware that we are sometimes very busy during the swarming season, are not always able to answer calls immediately, and have no budget for operating this coordination service. As a result, we are unable to return answer phone messages, so call again later if you do not get through at the first attempt. Please note that many beekeepers also have day jobs and it is likely you will have to wait for a response. Please be patient and understand that we are a group of voluntary, local beekeepers and not a commercial operation providing a 24×7 swarm collection service. 

Advice on other types of bees and wasps

If you have insects coming out of a hole in the ground, then they are definitely not honeybees. They may be wasps, but are more likely to be bumblebees. These lovely creatures are becoming rarer and should be preserved, as they do a great deal of good and are an integral part of nature. Bumblebees are not aggressive and rarely sting, so you have to work hard to upset them. Both they and wasps do not swarm, and neither type of colony will last the winter, as new queens are produced at the end of the summer while the rest of the old colony dies. These queens find somewhere else to hide away for the winter, before starting again elsewhere in the spring. If you can, just fence the area off so children and pets cannot disturb them.

Insects coming in and out of a roof are more likely to be wasps than honeybees. Unless somebody saw a swarm go in, then the chances are they are wasps. The only sure way is to get up close and have a good look, an option that is not always popular. If they are not causing any trouble, then you can just leave them alone. Wasps will die out anyway, and honeybees will probably die out after a couple of years. In the meantime, you get the benefit of a free pollination service. Be aware that beekeepers are not insured to collect swarms from roofs or other parts of the building. To find out more about bumblebees look on the Bumblebee Conservation Trust website bumblebeeconservationtrust.org for descriptions and photos of all the many types