Swarms

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.  It is usually impossible to recover bees from such locations 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 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.  We will not deal with wasps or their nests – if a Pembrokeshire resident call Pembrokeshire County Council’s Customer Contact Centre on 01437 764551.
  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. We will not be able to assist you with a bumblebee 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 convinced you have a swarm contact George Durham on 01437 710056 – 07855 677890.

Bees having just left a hive fly in a tight pattern, here appearing as small dots against the light…

… then they form a cluster check that the queen is with them, scouts will fly out to find a new location then they will fly as a group making a ‘bee line’ for the new home…

… unless collected by a beekeeper in a ‘skep’ (below) who will then move them to a hive in location of his or her choice…