What is a swarm?
Swarming is the process by which a new honey bee colony is formed when the queen bee leaves the colony with a large group of worker bees. In the prime swarm, about 60% of the worker bees leave the original hive location with the old queen. This swarm can contain thousands to tens of thousands of bees. Swarming is mainly a spring phenomenon, usually within a two- or three-week period depending on the locale, but occasional swarms can happen throughout the producing season. Secondary swarms, called casts, may also occur. These are smaller than the first, or prime, swarm and are headed by a virgin queen.
Swarming is honey bee colonies’ natural means of reproduction. In the process of swarming the original single colony reproduces to two and sometimes more colonies.
Do you need help with a swarm?
In the past the collection of a honey bee swarm would be co-ordinated via the OBKA’s Swarms Liaison Officer whom you would initially contact. However there is a new process in place managed by the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA). All swarm collectors have made their location and contact details available that are displayed on a map. By putting in your location you can see the details of swarm collectors local to you and contact them directly. Access to the map is below.
However before you consider contacting a local swarm collector please read the ‘Is the swarm honey bees?’ section below carefully and try and identify whether the swarm you have are honey bees as swarm collectors are unable to help remove any other insects such as solitary (bumble) bees and wasps.
Is a swarm of bees dangerous?
- A swarm of bees can appear very alarming, however if you exercise a little caution they are normally of no danger to humans or animals.
Can someone come and collect the swarm?
- Yes, on most occasions a swarm of honey bees can be collected by a beekeeper who wants to increase their stock of bees. The exception to this is when:
- there is no beekeeper available to collect the swarm
- the bees you have are not honey bees – see how to identify honey bees
- the honey bees have settled in an inaccessible place, for example if they are deep inside a chimney – we can advise about this
Please note that no guarantee can be given that someone will be available to attend or that the beekeeper will collect the swarm. The final decision as to whether a swarm is safe or viable to collect lies solely with the attending beekeeper. We only collect honey bees and under no circumstances will we destroy honey bees or any other types of bee/insect.
Is there a charge for the collection of my swarm?
- If a beekeeper is available to collect your swarm no charge is made for collection. Most beekeeper associations will however encourage a charitable donation to go towards the costs of the call-out and their time. The following document describes this for swarm collectors who are members of OBKA:
Swarm Collection Donation 2018v5
What can I do if the bees/insects I have cannot be collected and they need to be removed?
- If the bees/insects you have cannot be collected by a local beekeeper, you can contact the Environmental Health Department of your local district council. Whilst councils don’t consider bees (whether honey or not) as pests they do provide control services, that do vary between councils, should your ‘visitors’ turn out to be pests.
Is the swarm honey bees? – and link to swarm collector’s map
To determine if the swarm that you need help removing is honey bees please follow this identification check-list on the British Beekeepers Association website.
At the end of the identification check-list is the map of swarm collectors. Enter in your postcode and you will see details of swarm collectors nearest to you.