Honey Bee Swarms
In our business we work day in day out removing honey bees that have previously swarmed in to places they should not have.
Recently arrived bee swarms hanging from a tree, bush or beneath a garden chair or the BBQ need to be collected as quickly as possible, before they become an expensive problem for someone.
Honey bee swarms are not our speciality, our speciality is getting bees out of buildings.
These easily accessible honey bee swarms need to be collected quickly, I can not emphasis this enough, and its an absolute necessity to have these bee swarms collected.
They are straightforward collections and can and should be done by trained members of your local beekeeping association, before the honey bee swarm takes off and ends up somewhere more difficult to deal with.
The big problem arises when these honey bee swarms are not picked up, and the honey bee swarm takes up residence in a building in an inaccessible or difficult access position.
These recently arrived swarms hanging from a bush are not likely to be aggressive – but like anything treat them with respect, don’t be foolish, and bear in mind that they can cause an anaphylactic shock and possible death.
The local beekeeping associations will have a list of (trained?) members who should be appropriately equipped with both knowledge and suitable equipment honey bee swarm collection.
Unfortunately not all swarm collectors are equal and some clearly don’t know much at all based on the feedback we get from our customers, and some of the advice they offer can be shockingly stupid.
So be very wary of the advice given out about honey bee swarms and check up on it.
If the honey bees are clustered up around some feature of your property and the number of bees appears to be reducing without you seeing them flying off then you need to act as quickly as possible, giving somebody like us a call. The quicker you contact us the better, because the longer a honey bee swarm is in your property the harder it is to get it out, and consequently the more expensive it is to get it out.
Why do bees produce Honey bee swarms
A honey bee swarm is a good thing, it’s a sign of a healthy and growing hive. Swarms usually occur between May and August.
Swarms are a normal part of a honey bee colonies life, it is a process that is planned and organised by the bees ahead of time. Because it’s an organised event the bees are very calm; they have a plan, and they know what they’re doing.They’re not angry or upset. Instead they are congregating and searching for a new home.
Generally the honey bee swarms when their current home is too full. The hive decides it’s time to divide. Half stay behind in the current home and have themselves a new queen. The other half and the old queen leave to find a new home.
So a honey bee swarm is how honey bees reproduce, they are house hunting, they have no wish or interest in stinging or hurting anyone!
The old queen will leave the hive, taking about half the bees with her. She’ll fly to a spot not too far away and the bees will gather around her, forming a cluster. Often they will hang from a tree branch.
The honey bee swarm
Before the bees swarm they eat as much honey as they can which they store in their honey stomach.
While the swarm waits, they send out hundreds of scouts.
These scouts are tasked with finding a new home.
They’ll search within a five mile radius, for a suitable home.
The scout will carefully examine a potential home. Once satisfied she’s found a good spot, she’ll return to the waiting swarm.
Then she dances. The dance tells the bees where the location is. The better the location, the better the dance she’ll do to convince them.
Soon other scouts will go to check it out. Then they’ll return and dance convincingly too. The bees will decide which location to go to based on the best dances of the scouts.
Before long, they’ll decide to move to the new home. That’s when the scouts will make piping sounds. The piping tells all the bees, get ready and to warm up your flight muscles because we’re leaving soon.
When everyone is warmed up and ready to go the scouts will do “Buzz Runs”.
The honey bee swarms new home
Once at their new home, the workers will get to work immediately secreting wax so they can create honeycombs.
Then they’ll regurgitate the honey they brought with them into the freshly made comb. That way they will have food on hand.
Back in the old hive, the remaining bees will create a new queen who will then take over the running of that hive.
A video showing the stages of the honey bee swarm
Dr. Thomas Seeley has created 10 short videos of a swarm in progress which show the various stages of a swarm and explains these stages (we did have a link for these great videos but can’t find one currently, as soon as we do we will post it). In the meantime he has another interesting video (more than an hour long) that is worth looking up about swarm behaviour (search for Tom Seeley “Honeybee Democracy).
Honey Bee Swarm Removal and Re-homing
If you have a bee swarm or bee colony contact a bee keeper.
Call someone that cares, not just a pest controller that will kill the bees and charge you for it. Any pest controllers prepared to do that are most likely not doing it in accordance with best practice and consequently the law. It’s doubtful they will advise you on the extent of the additional problems associated with using an insecticide on a colony or honey bee swarm. See our page on Poisoning Honey Bees for more information on that.
If your bee keeper suggests poisoning the bees then you probably have not come across a particularly knowledgeable beekeeper. Then again if the beekeeper suggests the swarm will pick up & leave once its made itself at home in your property you probably have not found the most knowledgeable beekeeper either.
Honey Bee Swarm Collectors – England
The BBKA has a web page that allows you to find a BBKA swarm collector near your postcode, so if there’s a bee colony hanging in an easily accessible position its worth looking at their page “BBKA – find-a-local-swarm-collector“.
Honey Bee Swarm Collectors – Wales
Similarly swarm collectors in Wales can be found at the Welsh Beekeepers Association
Honey Bee Swarm Collectors – Scotland
For those in Scotland well you seem to be on your own as the Scottish Beekeepers Association does not seem to give much direction on how to contact a local swarm collector.
I did find details of some local associations but was dragging these from the depths of a google search:
- South of Scotland Beekeepers Association – in Dumfries, who have a swarm coordinator.
- East of Scotland Beekeepers Association – based out of Dundee, they have a list of swarm collectors covering an area within Tayside and Angus from the Perth area to Brechin, bounded by the coast North of the Tay extending to North of Montrose.
- Moray Beekeepers Association – offer an email swarm collection service – so good luck on that for those living in that area.
- East Lothian Beekeepers Association – have a list of swarm collectors on the page
- Inverness-Shire Beekeepers Association – have a list of swarm collectors on the page
- Edinburgh & Midlothian Beekeepers’ Association – have a whatsapp phone number & request a photo of the swarm along with location.
- Polkemmet Beekeeping Association – in West Lothian I think you are on your own, they refer you to a site I am not familiar with Beeswarm.uk nor could I find much out about it
For situations in which a beekeeper can’t help, call us 01297 441272 We specialise in these situations.
We cover all of the UK: England, Scotland & Wales & France for the live removal of honey bees from chimneys, wall cavities, roof spaces and any where else they may get to.