Swarming season… what you need to know
15th May – SWARMING!!! Please check your colonies soonest. Some colonies seem to be having multiple attempts at swarming – even leaving the hive on wet days. I assume it’s simply frustration with this weather! Controlled split on one favourite colony but then daughter start up colonies both swarmed 3 weeks later between rain showers. Inspection of nucleus shows scrubby supersedure cells and no new Brood – assume poor weather meant failed attempts to mate?
If you see a cluster of bees like those above it is likely that you have a swarm. Don’t worry they are usually docile and their main focus is simply in protecting the queen – whilst some of their number fly off in search of a new home. Although it can appear very dramatic when they arrive with the noise and sight of up to 30,000 honeybees flying in en masse, they are not the slightest bit interested in you. They will form into a ball, as above, within about 20 minutes, all clustering around the queen. Simply stop anyone getting too close and contact your local beekeeper by clicking the link below.
The link will take you to the British Beekeepers Association website, where you can get help in identifying the type of bees you have found. Once you are certain they are honeybees you will be able to find a local beekeeper by typing in your postcode on the map further down on the web page. If possible please send a photograph of the swarm to the beekeeper.
PLEASE remember that the Beekeeper is a VOLUNTEER and will make his/her own assessment on whether they are honeybees that can be safely collected. Removal of the bees is usually free of charge, although a donation towards expenses will be appreciated if several visits are required for more complex retrievals.
Swarming is the natural means of reproduction of honeybee colonies where two or more colonies are created in place of the original single colony. Beekeepers try to discourage domesticated bees from swarming, regardless, it still happens however alert they are. The swarming season occurs most frequently in April, May and June. However, in recent years they have also been seen very occasionally in March.
Many calls received are for bumblebees which frequently adopt homes in the eaves of houses. Bumblebees are lovely friendly insects, that won’t want to harm anyone, and will stay with you for the summer only – they find a new home in the autumn. If you can, enjoy their company, and all the lovely sounds of summer they bring – they will have gone by the end of August. The pregnant bumblebee queen flies off to hibernate for the winter, and will then hunt round for a new home in the early Spring to start a new colony all over again. The remaining bumble bees that shared their summer with you die out in the early autumn leaving very little other than lovely memories of bumble bees in your garden on sunny days!
Please note beekeepers can only collect honey bees – they do not have the tools to remove bumble bees or wasps.