Honey bees can swarm at any time from mid-April to August. A swarm of bees can be a worrying sight, but swarming bees rarely sting: their objective is to find a new home as soon as possible. Where safe and practical to do so, Pembrokeshire Beekeepers’ will attempt to recover Honey Bees and place them in a hive.

Note that due to the COVID-19 emergency, it may not be possible for us to deal with a swarm collection request!

For advice, contact our Swarm Co-ordinator – Jeremy Percy on 07799 698568

Please ensure that what you have found are Honey Bees and not Bumble Bees or Wasps, before contacting us by using the following guide:

1. Honey bees

are about the same size as a wasp but are duller in colour – if you see a large cluster of thousands of insects hanging on a branch or fence post this may be a swarm of honey bees. 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 – this is a pest control problem – honey bees are not protected, so do not be put off if you are told this. If a Pembrokeshire resident, call Pembrokeshire County Council’s, Customer Contact Centre on 01437 764551 and ask for Pest Control.

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.

If you have bees in your bird box, they are probably the Tree Bumblebee (Bombus Hypnorum) (see picture below), which have come over from the continent in recent years.  They aren’t particularly aggressive, but are likely to defend their nest if they feel threatened.

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

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 or footpaths 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 above checklist, think you have a Honey Bee swarm and need advice, please contact:

Swarm Co-ordinator – Jeremy Percy on 07799 698568

N.B. – Due to the COVID-19 emergency, it may not be possible for us to deal with a swarm collection request.

Note also, that we will not deal with bumble bees, wasps or their nests – if a Pembrokeshire resident, we suggest that you call Pembrokeshire County Council’s, Customer Contact Centre on 01437 764551 and ask for Pest Control.

Do you really have a swarm of bees?

At this time of year we get a lot of queries from members of the public about swarms of bees. One noticeable trend, has been the number of reports concerning bees found in the roof or facias of buildings, bird boxes, etc. This may well be the Tree Bumblebee (Bombus Hypnorum) which is a recent visitor to the UK, but is becoming more common.

Unlike other bumblebees which tend to nest in the ground, the Tree Bumblebee (see picture below) likes to live higher up, typically in bird boxes and roof spaces. In general, they are not aggressive unless disturbed and will naturally disappear later in the summer. Most of the flight activity outside the nest is by the males (Drones) which do not sting and are trying to mate with a virgin queen.

Please note that we do not remove bumble bee or wasp nests. For more information on swarms please click here.


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

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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.

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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.