Home » Swarms

Swarms

It is just possible from May to August that you come across a swarm of bees. There will be lots of bees flying around a large clump of bees which could vary in size from a tennis ball to a rugby ball. During August, the swarm is likely to be small, probably too small to last a cold winter. In such cases, they are best left to their own devices unless they are an actual nuisance. If in doubt, the best thing to do is move slowly away and if possible go indoors. Here is a link for you to get some advice on whether it really is a swarm of bees.
http://www.bbka.org.uk/help/do_you_have_a_swarm.php

More often than not, if the activity centres on a bird box, then you are looking at bumble bees. They are also important pollinators and we encourage you to keep them. They do get upset if the box is subject to vibration from, for example, a garage or house door being opened and closed. You can safely move them at night time if you close the entrance hole with a small sock or a large cork, champagne size is ideal! We may be able to assist and there could be a small call out fee to cover travel costs. Quite often, on a sunny day, you will see lots of bumble bees flying around the box but not going in. They are males and are waiting for a virgin queen to come out so that they can mate with her. There is a short video below that you can watch that shows this. Not the mating, just buzzing around.  But the bumble bees move so quickly, they are difficult to film.

If what you see is a swarm of honey bees, then we are able to offer help. Look at the postcodes of our swarm collectors in the table below and contact the nearest to you. Be sure to give exact details of your location and where you have seen the swarm. Remember that bees swarm as a matter of course and are more interested in finding a new home than anything else. Do not disturb them and they will leave you alone. One more thing, there could be 16,000 bees in a swarm so you are well outnumbered! It is best to let the experts deal with them because they know what they are doing.

This is a list of people who will come and collect a swarm. There is normally no charge for this service, but please first be sure that the swarm is accessible and consists of honey bees and not wasps or bumble bees.
Area/post code Name E-mail address Telephone
YO8 Martin Ainsley j.m.ainsley@btinternet.com 01757 288148 / 07842 278695
YO60 Bill Scriven bill.scriven@allsaints.york.sch.uk 01653 618751
YO60 John Thompson john.thompson@zen.co.uk 01904 468466
Escrick, Wheldrake, Fulford, York Bruno Hannemann bruno@sanedesign.co.uk 07854 020879
YO32 Phil Eaves phileaves@hotmail.com 07900 034561
YO41 Margaret Langstaff mel@thebeehive.plus.com 07733 125362
YO42 Kevin Oneill kevinap@btinternet.com 07528 357755
HU15 Paul Denston paul@denstonconstruction.co.uk 07704 540175
Selby and Goole John Hunt helloaloe@hotmail.co.uk 07787 822344
Skelton, North side of York Chris Holland chrisandsueyork@yahoo.co.uk 01904 470113
York and north of York up to Hovingham David Davies dbd60@hotmail.com 07764 682 332
YO32 and surrounding areas Tim Brenchley tjbrenchley@gmail.com 07786 393 059

Dealing with honey bee swarms or colonies in property

Honey bees swarming is a natural event and can occur at any time during the Spring and Summer. When honey bees swarm, a large proportion of the honey bees leave their nest in search of a new location to start a new colony and that place can be anywhere that is warm and dry.

The types of places can include:
• Inside roof spaces
• Behind fascia boards and soffits
• Between the ceiling and floor boards
• Wall cavities
• Sheds
• Garages
• Out buildings
• Compost bins
• And many more places
In other words anywhere that offers honey bees protection from the elements and room / space to expand.

A swarm of honey bees occurs when a proportion of honey bees leave their nest (colony). They usually form a cluster in or on any suitable place, which might be a tree, gatepost or on an object. Even under a trampoline!  When they are organised into a cluster, they will fly to their new “home”.

A colony of honey bees is an established and mature/growing entity which can consist of up to forty thousand honey bees i.e. substantially larger than a swarm of honey bees. It will contain bees, bee’s wax comb and stores of honey and will take up a sizeable amount of space.

Swarms of honey bees can usually be safely removed by a suitably qualified/experienced beekeeper if they are contacted in time. If the honey bees have left their post swarming clustering place and taken up residence in the fabric of a building, that can be more difficult (if not impossible) to be safely dealt with by a beekeeper. Professional pest control personnel will be required to undertake the work either solely or in conjunction with a beekeeper.

If the honey bees are not causing a nuisance or a threat, they can be left alone. Some properties are known to have had honey bee colonies within their fabric for many years without causing any disturbance or problems to the property owner.

If the honey bees are considered by the property owner to present a risk or a disturbance to them, beekeepers will always provide help and advice. Whilst suitably qualified beekeepers are normally able to remove swarms of honey bees and are insured for all normal beekeeping activities, the insurance does not extend to working at heights or undertaking building works to gain access to honey bees. This includes roof spaces and external first floor heights. Those are jobs for professionals i.e. builders and pest control personnel. Beekeepers cannot put any member of the public or themselves at risk by undertaking swarm collection in dangerous or hazardous environments. Nor should they put themselves at risk in any way.

Whilst no one would wish to see a colony of honey bees destroyed, if they cannot be safely removed and they present a risk or disturbance to the property owner, the only option may be to have the colony destroyed by professional pest control personnel and there are many suitable private and Council agencies who can undertake that task. Following the work, it is essential to sanitise the area where the honey bees entered the property by using a strong smelling detergent or liquid similar to Jeyes Fluid to neutralise the pheromone (smell) marker left by the bees.

It is also recommended that the property is then inspected and work undertaken to repair or fill the access point(s) to prevent any more ingressions and where possible the removal of all colony debris. Colonies that have inhabited an area for some time can create a large amount of bee’s wax comb and honey stores which can act as an attractant to other pests and rodents. If that task is difficult or impossible to achieve, then the minimum is to effectively block any access holes that the honey bees were using to enter the property.

Honey bees can gain access to property through the smallest of holes or cracks in the fabric and it is therefore suggested that regular property preventive maintenance is undertaken. Honey bees are more difficult to deal with once they have started their colony inside the fabric of a property.

Whilst honey bees in the fabric of a property cannot usually be dealt with by a beekeeper, honey bee swarms and colonies can also be found in sheds, garages, out buildings and empty compost bins. The main sign is visible wax comb. However, bumble bees nests can also commonly be found in compost bins, compost heaps and under sheds and they also produce wax but the shape is a mixture of nodules rather than combs therefore the identification of the insect is recommended and the information contained within the section of the BBKA website will help in that task.

If they are honey bees and providing they can easily and safely be accessed without necessitating any structural work or causing any structural damage, there is a better chance of them being removed. Again, all actions undertaken by a beekeeper has to be tempered with the assessment of risk and possible damage to property for which the beekeeper is not insured.

As previously stated, beekeepers where possible, will always help or offer advice within these parameters.