Why do we collect Bee Swarms?
Updated: Aug 25, 2022
Between late March to July we entered swarm season!
What does swarm season mean?
Swarm season is when bees reproduce and discover new places to build their hives. After surviving the winter, a bee colony can expand up to 50,000 worker bees in the warmer weather, living with a Queen Bee which produces a "queen pheromone". With thousands of bees living together, not all of them receive the Queens pheromone signals – and so create a new queen. The old queen and other worker bees then leave their original home to establish a new home. In the wild this is the only method that a new colony of bees can be created. Normally swarms temporarily settle on the branches of trees, bushes, and sometimes even in walls or fences that are 50 to 100m from their original nest. Bees only tend to swarm this far since the queen bee is too heavy to fly long distances.
The swarm stays there until scouting bees have found a new nest site (usually a hole in a tree).
What do they look like?
A swarm looks like a large tear drop that can be the size of a rugby ball or triple the size! People are usually extremely frightened by a swarm of bees but actually during this time they are at their least aggressive. This is due to the bees consuming lots of honey before leaving their old nest for food supplies which keeps them calm and peaceful.
Why do beekeepers want to collect swarms?
50% of the time, bee swarms will not survive unless beekeepers help!
Beekeepers will provide a colony with a safe and warm home, help to increase the bee population, prevent bees being destroyed by pest control and to see if wild bee colonies are thriving.
This is a little post we made which summarises all this information:
Some beekeepers prevent their bee colonies from swarming by clipping the queen bees wings to prevent her from flying out the hive. We believe this is unsustainable beekeeping and therefore we don't do that.
Many other experienced beekeepers, including us, keep a close eye on our hives by inspecting them every week during this swarm season. If we spot a new queen (which is a sign that hive is thinking of swarming) we take this queen cell, a handful of bees and a few frames and place this all into a seperate hive. This is called SPLITTING. This enables the bee population to increase in a way that doesn't involve the bees swarming which risks them possibly dying due to the cold.
How have we been doing so far?
So far we have collected a couple of swarms from around our area. The first one we found had settled on a tree and after three visits the swarm was successfully captured. We had to use a full size hive due to the swarm being so big that it didn't fit into a nucleus box (this holds fewer frames than the full sized hives - typical for collecting swarms).
When we first get there we place a nucleus box down which naturally attracts the bees inside.
After leaving it for a few hours to ensure all the bees are inside we bring it back home and take good care of it.
Last week there were reports of a swarm near a hospital. Drivers said the bees were hitting their windscreens like pellets and they had to slow right down! Luckily a nearby beekeeper was alerted and manage to collect it safely.
What to do if you find a bee swarm?
If you find a swarm, whatever you do, please don't call pest control! Go on the BBKA (British Beekeepers Association) website and contact a local beekeeper. Try to describe exactly where the swarm is and take a photo if possible so they know what equipment to bring. If you are in the Ringwood or Ferndown area and spot one, please give us a ring or drop us an Email.