Beekeeping Information Centre

Bee Craft Timely Reminder 18th May 2016

swarm hedge may2 MLC

Do you know what to do if you get called out to a swarm? If you’re lucky, as a beekeeper you may get called out to collect a swarm of honey bees, just sitting there waiting for you to put them in a box and re-home them. More often, you will get calls from confused members of the public who are not quite sure what it is they are witnessing. The swarm may not be accessible, it may not be a swarm at all and it may not even be honey bees.

Have a list of questions to ask and keep it beside your phone to help you decide whether to attempt collection.

  • Are the bees settled or are they flying around? Foraging bees concentrated on one bush in full flower can often be confused with a swarm.
  • If they are settled, how big is the clump? The size of a rugby ball, a grapefruit, a tennis ball?
  • Where is it?
  • How high is it?
  • What is it attached to?
  • Do you have access to the land – both physically and legally?
  • Did anyone see it arrive?
  • How long has it been there? Swarms are often overlooked and may have been hanging around for a while. They are only noticed when they start getting active again and this could be a sign that they are just about to fly off.
  • Are they flying in and out of a hole in a wall/tree/compost bin? It could be an established nest.
  • Where is the hole? Bumble bees often nest in holes in the ground or in a compost heap.
  • Are the bees round and furry or shaped more like a wasp? Bumblebee colonies will die out in the winter, they are much smaller than honey bee colonies and not usually a problem, especially if you know where the nest is and can avoid the entrance. They cannot usually be successfully re-homed. Far better to let them be. There is more information available on the Bumblebee Conservation Trust website: http://bumblebeeconservation.org/
  • What colour are they? They could be wasps rather than honey bees. As with bumblebee nests, they will die out in Winter, and they do have a part to play – they are great pest control for gardens. If the nest is in a place where they can be left alone, that may be the best option. There is only too much on the internet about how to have a wasp nest destroyed.

The information on these two sites is refreshingly different:

http://www.rspb.org.uk/makeahomeforwildlife/wildlifegarden/atoz/w/wasp.aspx

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/do-we-need-wasps-1311568.html

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