A Large Bee Swarm

Earlier on this year, we received a lot of calls regarding bee swarms. These can be pretty scary and everything happens really quickly, which does cause some concern.

So what causes all this activity? Basically, this is how bee colonies become established and is part of the cycle of life of a bee. As a colony grows, it produces more queens, which decide to leave the main colony to form a new one. As the queens emerge, a number of worker bees or followers chase the queen and form a new swarm. Some of these followers are sent out to find a suitable place in which to create a new colony – this can be a hole in a tree, a crack in a wall, under a roof space or worst still a chimney.

Whilst these scouts are out looking for a new home, the queen may settle in a bush to rest. She is immediately protected by the workers who form a living protective layer around her of bodies. These can hang off the most small of bushes, washing lines, bird tables – you name it one can be anywhere. Once the scouts return with information on a suitable spot, the swarm will lift and fly off once more. Quite often you see large clouds of bees just flying around in the sky, just waiting to land.

The problems occur when a swarm takes a fancy to a chimney. Unless moved on, it will be there for good and cost a lot of money to remove in time to come.

20,000 bees can be quite daunting

I work with several bee keepers to remove swarms, but one of the best is Mark Luckhurst. Mark is from Kenta so is used to dealing with African Bees – far more aggressive and dangerous to our UK native bee. I like working with Mark because he practices natural bee keeping – unlike some who “force” the bees to produce honey (and this really is reflected in the taste of the honey and the health of the bees).

One such swarm we were called to this year was perfect to film, so I though I would share this with you.

Firstly, you need to get everything ready – if you are fully prepared then it will go smoothly. The collection box was assembled, the smoker was lit and ready and the suits were all on. First job was to remove the outer branches so we could get the collector directly under the swarm. Then Mark got me to place the collector under the swarm and slowly move it over the mass of bees. Once in position, Mark gave the branch a smart tap and the whole lot fell into the collector box. 20,000 bees is surprisingly heavy, and they literally swarmed all around us – I could not actually see anything as they were all over my visor – and the noise was also deafening!

Once the majority of bees were in the collector, we placed the lid on and stood back to let the swarm get the scent of the queen and follow her in. After about an hour or so, nearly all the bees were in and the entrance was sealed, ready to transport them to a new home.

Last few bees in the collector

Happy bees produce higher quality honey and I am looking forward to getting a few jars later in the autumn.

Swarming usually lasts about 4 weeks and generally starts in May or June but you still get some in July, so if you do come across a swarm, just leave it alone and call Rapid Pest Control on 01635 247192 to get rid of your bee swarm naturally.