Is a swarm dangerous?
The swarm appears to be very busy and noisy, there is a loud hum and the air is thick with bees. However, the bees are totally focused on finding a new place to live before the food reserve in their stomach is exhausted and do not have the energy for much else.
If I find a swarm what should I do?
If you find a swarm in the early stages of formation with a lot of bees flying about, just keep clear and watch. After about an hour or so the swarm will settle and become almost unnoticeable. During this time, it is clustering to keep warm and conserve energy and sending out 'scout' bees to look for a new place to live. Eventually, the swarm will move to its new home, generally within 24-48 hours.
Are honey bees the only insects which swarm?
Yes. Wasps and bumblebees do not swarm. The so called 'killer bees' seen in many films DO NOT OCCUR IN THE UK.
Do bees swarm all through the summer?
In general, a hive will swarm once in a year, although some do more frequently. In the UK the swarming season now is April to July with the peak in early May- mid June.
Why is a swarm worth more in May than in June or July?
A swarm is of more value in May because the colony has longer to get established before the winter and is more likely to produce some honey in the current season.
What can the beekeeper do?
Unless access is too dangerous or difficult, beekeepers want to collect swarms, for several reasons. Firstly, a swam can be put back into a beehive and turned into a productive colony, Secondly, swarms may act as a means of transfer of disease between colonies, so collection improves the health of bees in the area. Thirdly, many new beekeepers start out with a swarm.
What can a pest controller do?
Pest controllers are licensed to used chemicals to destroy insect colonies, in general beekeepers are not. However, most pest controllers will not destroy honey bees until a beekeeper has confirmed that there is no other approach. This is not a legal requirement, but is good practice. Honey bees are not protected in law.
Can I destroy the swarm myself?
The short answer is DON'T - get help from a beekeeper. In law, there is nothing to prevent you from doing so, provided that you use chemicals that are legal. However, if you do, you will leave behind chemical residues which other honey bees will pick up and take back to properly managed colonies and this will kill them too. Most poisonings of honey bees occur for this reason.
I have bees coming out of a wall, out of the ground, from under a shed and in a compost heap - what are these?
These are likely to be bumble bees or solitary bees. They are harmless and do not swarm. They will die out naturally in the autumn so please leave them alone if you can. Many are becoming very rare. All have value as pollinators.
I have found bees in my chimney. What should I do?
Honey bees sometimes nest in chimneys and other structures. If the chimney is unused (and this is usually the case) then ensure that bees cannot come into the room(s) that it serves by ensuring that the fireplace is blocked up - remember to keep some ventilation. Often, successive colonies of bees will move in over many years. It is sometimes possible to remove bees from chimneys and other structures (such as roof spaces and wall cavities), but this needs to be planned carefully in conjunction with a beekeeper and probably a builder, to ensure safe access. Simply trying to disturb the bees and move them on will only have a temporary effect and will leave behind honey which may attract other bees and wasps, so you will be back where you started.
How do I know if I have a wasps' nest?
Wasps' nests are made of a paper-like material, and hang in rough globes in bushes or undisturbed loft spaces, sheds etc. Wasps are always yellow and black. If the nest is a real nuisance, is can be destroyed by a pest controller, but remember wasps are valuable predators of aphids and greenfly, so they have a value to the gardener too.