Swarms

800px-Bee_Swarm

Honey bees can swarm at any time from late April to August.  A swarm of bees can be a worrying sight for the non-beekeeper.  But swarming bees rarely sting: their objective is to find a new home as soon as possible.  A queen and about half the bees in the nest, between 10,000 to 20,000 bees, leave with the intention of setting up a new ‘colony’.  In the old home, there will be left: a new queen who, once mated, will take over the egg laying duties; and enough workers to take care of her and her offspring. Left to their own instincts, bees may move to an inconvenient location; in a roof, or a box in the garden.  Where safe and practical to do so Pembrokeshire Beekeepers will recover honey bees and place them in a hive.

Please make sure that what you have found are honey bees by using the following guide:

  1. Honey bees are about the same size as a wasp but are usually much duller in colour – if you see a cluster of insects hanging on a branch or fence post this will almost certainly be a swarm of honey bees.  Honey bees live in perennial nests made of wax comb in a cavity.  You may see evidence of honey staining on soffit boards or ceilings if the nest has been in place for some years.  Please note that we do not recover bees from buildings etc. for health and safety reasons and because of the structural damage that may be caused. We will also not destroy honey bee nests – you will need to treat this as a pest control problem – honey bees are not protected so do not be put off if you are told this.
  2. Wasps do not swarm. Each year a new nest is built which looks like a paper lantern.  Close to it is easy to distinguish between wasps which are brighter yellow and with a narrower waist than the honey bee.  If insects are flying from a gap in roof tiles near the ridge, it can be tricky. If the nest is visible identification is easy.  Please note that we will not deal with wasps or their nests – if a Pembrokeshire resident call Pembrokeshire County Council’s Customer Contact Centre on 01437 764551 and ask for Pest Control.
  3. Bumblebees do not swarm.  Most people can recognise bumblebees they are much bigger and fewer than honey bees with layer of hairs on their bodies which is usually banded black and yellow (or orange or red) and the traffic at the nest entrance will consist of only a few bees a minute, whereas a busy hive will have almost a cloud of bees at the entrance. A common bumble bee in recent years is the Tree Bumblebee (Bombus Hypnorum) with its distinctive ginger thorax and white tail, which often take up residence in bird boxes. We will be unable to help you with a bumble bee problem.  The bees will disappear over winter and are unlikely to return to the same location so if possible enjoy them for the summer.
  4. Solitary bees again, do not swarm. Since these bees are quite fussy about where they set up their nests, it is not uncommon for many bees to do so in close proximity, and if the conditions are right a large number of nests can mature almost at the same time. In this case a large number of bees will be seen crawling about. One of the most common is the red mason bee, which can often be seen exploiting holes in brickwork for its nesting site.  We will be unable to help you with a solitary bee problem.  Again, if possible, enjoy them.

If you have looked at the check list and are sure you have a Honey Bee swarm and not Wasps or Bumble Bees etc. please contact Jeremy Percy on 07799 698568

Honey_bee_(Apis_mellifera)
Honey Bees
wasp
A Wasp
Bombus Hypnorum
A Tree Bumblebee

Swarming!!

With the warm weather, ample forage and growing colonies, the threat of swarming looms ever larger!

Please ensure that you are inspecting your colonies regularly for swarming activity (e.g. every 5 days for unclipped queens) and do not imagine that by merely cutting out any queen cells you will solve the problem.  You need to take the correct remedial action to avoid losing your queen and half of your bees!!

We therefore recommend that you read the WBKA’s  excellent pamphlet on Swarm Control (click here) and also look at how to create an Artificial Swarm.

Aly Bee Swarm Cartoon

Collecting a Swarm – The Easy Way

Parent (Medium)
Parent Hive

Well actually this was an attempted swarm that I was able to make use of.  Returning home shortly after 12:15 pm on July 8th I saw the unmistakable sign of a swarm, a cloud of bees above one of my hives.  I was relaxed about this knowing the queen was clipped and that this must be a prime swarm attempt as I had seen the marked queen in the hive five days before, but obviously missed the queen cell they were building.  Bees would return to the hive after finding that the queen wasn’t able to fly with them but was instead in front of the hive.

Continue reading

Swarm Prevention

Swarming is a hot topic at the moment and once which causes many beekeeping beginners and novices stress.

Bees can raise a queen from a day old larva (i.e. 4 days after the egg was laid) and the cell will be sealed on the eighth or ninth day after the egg was laid.  So at this time of the year inspections are recommended at four or five day intervals – we all have experience of going back a week after a previous inspection when no queen cells were seen to find that they now have sealed queen cells.  At which point the old queen has usually left the hive.

Clipping the queens wing, or wings prevents her flight and so while she may leave she will fall in front of the hive* and after a time the bees that left with her will return until the first virgin queen emerges when they are likely to leave in a cast (secondary) swarm. But this can give you a few extra days and if the the attempted swarm has been seen then you have confirmation that the bees are intent on swarming and not superseding  the queen.

The Demaree method can suppress the swarming urge – which simply destroying queen cells will not do – and requires the minimum of additional equipment.  The rather good Barnsley Beekeepers Association website has this excellent description of the Demaree method.

The more adventurous beekeepers among you may wish to try using the Snelgrove method – also described on the Barnsley Beekeepers Association website.

*this may seem cruel but remember that survival rates of swarms are very low and swarms can find homes in a location causing problems for householders. So letting them go is not a good option.