Do you have a swarm?

Please compare what you have seen with the pictures below and fully read this page before contacting us.

Honeybee swarms
Three different honey bee swarms

First, please attempt to distinguish between honey bees and bumble bees. We can attempt to capture and remove a newly clustered swarm of honey bees, but we cannot remove bumble bees from or with their nests for conservation reasons.

We also cannot remove wasp nests.  If this is what you require please contact a pest control specialist.

Honey bee swarms are normally docile and non-aggressive. But, it’s best to be safe and avoid approaching the swarm, and on NO account swat, spray or try to move the swarm yourself.

If you believe that you do have a swarm of honey bees, please phone one of our swarm coordinators for assistance:
Kathy: 07941 891 003

Please be ready to describe over the phone:

  • what it is that you believe to be a swarm
  • its current behaviour (flying, clustered etc.)
  • where and on what it has settled
  • approximate size and shape of cluster
  • when it was first noticed
  • best estimate of height above ground level
  • ease or difficulty of access and precise address/location details.

Note that depending on the location of the swarm it may not always be possible to safely remove it. For example, it may not be possible to remove a swarm which has entered a cavity wall or chimney. However, please call us and we will discuss this with you.

It is important to contact a swarm coordinator as soon as possible; this is because if a swarm is not caught soon after clustering it will eventually leave the cluster point and move to a cavity such as a chimney stack or roof void, where it may quickly build comb for a nest to establish a feral colony. If this occurs it cannot be managed or easily removed without breaking into the occupied structure. A feral colony in such a location may survive for a long time, and may eventually become a nuisance.

We do not charge for our swarm collection service but as a charity that is run by volunteer beekeepers, we do appreciate a donation to help us provide the service.  If you feel able to do this we suggest a donation of £20 to help pay for equipment and apiary maintenance would be very much appreciated.

Why do bees swarm?

Swarming is the honey bee colony’s approach to reproduction: it’s is the colony rather than the individual bee which reproduces itself.

The existing queen leaves the hive together with between a third and half of  the bees in the colony, in a great buzzing black cloud. At this stage, they do not know where they are going, only that it is time to depart the hive. Usually they will quickly settle in a tight cluster within 100 metres of their original location and their resting place is usually a hedge or tree branch; but, in urban areas, they may cluster on buildings, cars, lamp posts and so on. The swarm is tightly clustered protecting the queen bee in its centre and at this stage is normally quite placid – all the bees have filled up their crops with honey before leaving the hive. ‘Scout’ bees are then  sent out to find a new home which they usually do within a few hours (although it can take days). It is a consensual process and when they move again it is usually to their new space where they will in a very short time, build new wax comb to enable the queen to recommence laying eggs.

Back in the original colony the rest of the bees will wait quietly for a new queen to hatch. The ‘hive mind’ had decided one week before  that they would need to  prepare for swarming: the queen bee’s freshly laid eggs had hatched into larvae and been fed a special diet  (royal jelly) so that after the swarm had departed new queens would be born (approximately two weeks later). Only one queen normally survives: the strongest is expected to fatally sting the other young queens usually before they hatch, the ‘dastardly’ act being assisted by worker bees). If all is well and if weather permits, a few days later, the virgin queen will leave the hive on her mating flight and a few days after that she will commence egg laying.

The whole purpose of this seemingly complex exercise is colony reproduction….. two colonies will now exist, each with its own queen!