Westerham Beekeepers' Association

Swarms

Swarm in a tree
Prime swarm 2m from the ground

Swarming is a natural process that enables the bees to reproduce colonies and at the same time replace an ageing queen with a young one.Swarms usually appear from mid April to late July. About half of the bees and the old queen leave the hive to search for a new home. Usually the swarm will hang in a cluster on a suitable branch while the ‘scout’ bees are out searching for a suitable cavity for their new home. It may take a few hours or even days before they move off to the selected site.

Swarm at Bough Beech
Small swarm on a post

Before leaving their hive the bees will have gorged themselves with honey for their journey, so the bees in a swarm are usually docile and will sting only when threatened. However it’s a good idea to keep children and pets at a distance and to provide a warning for passers by if it is near a public footpath.

Waspand bees on comb
Honeybees and a wasp on comb Photo Claire Waring
Bumble bee
Bumblebee Photo Celia Davis

Bumble bees, solitary bees and wasps do not swarm and are sometimes mistaken for a swarm of honeybees. Dozens of bumble bees flying out of their nest from a hole in the ground or a discarded bird box is not a swarm. Some species of solitary bees often nest in the same area as others so there may be a few seen emerging from the ground or from walls. Wasps can easily be identified by comparing them with the pictures.

Swarm that's easy to collect
Small swarm that's easy to collect

Most experienced beekeepers are willing to help anyone who is concerned about a swarm that has arrived in their garden or nearby. Your local authority or police station may have a list of local beekeepers that can help. If the swarm is in the area of the Westerham Branch you should contact by telephone the swarm coordinator Robert Dudgeon or Carol Taylor in the first instance or one of those below if Robert or Carol are not available or unable to help.

Edenbridge Robert Dudgeon 01732 864486
Brasted Carol Taylor 01959 562355
Crockham Hill Jane Skinner 01732 864916
Oxted Nick Withers 01883 722194
Tatsfield Mark Stokoe 07957 353880
Toys Hill                  Diana Pickard 01732 750463


It will be helpful if you can provide the following information when you telephone.

1. Are you sure it is a swarm of honey bees?
2. Situation, (for example, on a branch, or attached to the eaves of a shed).
3. Size of the swarm? (For example, compared with a rugby ball).
4. How far is the swarm from the ground?
5. When did it arrive?
6. How accessible is the swarm?
7. Location of swarm. Post code / address.
8. Your name, address, and telephone number.

Most swarms leave their hives around mid day and the beekeeper will try to collect the swarm in a straw skep or cardboard box as soon as possible. The swarm in the skep or box will be left nearby for the returning scouts and foragers to find as they return during the remainder of the day. The beekeeper will normally collect the swarm at dusk when all the flying bees have returned.  

Swarms sometimes alight high up in a tree or find a suitable new home in a cavity wall or other part of a building. It may be impossible for a beekeeper to rescue such swarms but they will usually be able to give you advice. Swarms that are rescued may involve the beekeeper in costs for equipment and perhaps for feeding as well as his time and travel costs. Some will make a charge for the service. If no charge is made a donation for a charity concerned with helping beekeepers in developing countries such as ‘Bees for Development’ or ‘Bees Abroad’ will be welcomed.
 

Related: Swarm