Beekeepers take great care to avoid letting their bees swarm. To the beekeeper, a swarm represents a loss of bees resulting in less or no honey production, and a reduced ability to over-winter colonies due to a smaller colony size. Swarming may also disrupt plans to split hives and increase colony numbers. Swarming is something that most, if not all, beekeepers will suffer from and seek to control through swarm control or prevention.
Identifying honey bees
If the insects are not honey bees, this part of the website shows you how to recognise other insects and gives some advice on what to do.
Bumblebees are often confused with honeybees. However they are rounder, larger and furrier and come with a variety of coloured stripes across the end of their tails. Are they in a bird box, under the decking, in the compost?
Bumblebees are important pollinators. Leave the nests alone if possible. They will die out at the end of summer and will cause no further problems. Bumblebees rarely sting or attack people or animals and should therefore not be disturbed. There are 24 different types of native bumblebee, all of which vary in size and colour.
For more information about bumblebees go to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust website, or the Buzz About Bees website.
Beekeepers are unable to assist in the removal of bumblebees.
Are there lots of small bees popping in and out of the wall or very small holes in the ground. Do they have a “reddy/brown” bottom? Are they almost black?
These are solitary bees, of which there are 225 species recorded in the UK and they post no threat or harm to you, your family or pets. Solitary bees are important pollinators and should be left alone. Their numbers will decrease over the summer and their nests should be left alone.
For more information go to Wild About Gardens.
Beekeepers are unable to assist in the removal of solitary bees.
Is it bright yellow with black stripes? Very smooth, mainly yellow with black stripes? Is it in the roof of your house? Are they coming from a round nest in a tree? Is there a nest in the shed? Do they have a high pitched buzz? Are they after all things sweet? Then these are probably wasps.
For more information go to BWARS.
Beekeepers are unable to assist in the removal of wasps.
Are they very big with a loud buzz? Are they black and brown with a hint of orange? Living in the roof or shed? Do they have a very big curved tail? These are European Hornets and are valuable pollinators usually found in wooden areas.
For more information go to BWARS.
Beekeepers are unable to assist in the removal of hornets.
I still think they’re Honey bees
Honey bees are small and vary in colour from golden brown to almost black.
If you have honey bees in the structure of your property click here
Does your swarm look like this?
Bees in a swarm are at their most docile and are highly unlikely to sting anyone.
A swarm is a result of the natural process of expansion by bees with swarms leaving established nests or hives to set up home elsewhere. Bees have been doing this for millions of years. They have laid a new Queen in their previous colony and the old Queen is accompanying her old bees to a new home. It’s ‘holiday-time’ and prior to swarming the honey bees will have filled up on honey from their stores and are totally content, prepared for a longish wait.
Honey bees typically swarm (in the UK) between early May and late July. An early, warm spring may cause bees to swarm a little earlier in some places. The timing of swarming will largely depend on the availability of food and the bees will respond quite quickly to an abundance of spring forage.
Because the bees are so full of honey they will be relatively passive and less likely to sting. They will hang in a cluster, usually on a tree branch, whilst they send out scout bees to look for a new home. If left undisturbed the swarm tends to remain calm and tightly massed, while scout bees fly off to find a suitable, permanent home. Depending on how quickly the scout bees find a suitable hollow, the swarms may remain in place for 2 days or so.
However, the scout bees may decide that their perfect new home is your household cavity wall, chimney, rabbit hutch, gas meter box or somewhere where you really do not want them.
Many amateur beekeepers will collect swarms in their local area as a community service. The beekeeper will need to know the exact location of the swarm, its size and how long it has been there.
Beekeepers will only deal with honey bees – Wasps and Bumble Bees do not swarm, for wasps etc. call you local pest control department. Remember that most beekeepers are private individuals, they are not qualified or insured to carry out “works” on properties, such as removing swarm from cavity walls, and are not pest control experts.