Western Galloway Beekeepers' Association

Galloway's friendliest beekeepers

Help with a Swarm of Honey Bees

If you think you have a swarm of honey bees and would like our help in removing them, please click here to confirm the identification as honey bees.

For wasps and bees of other types that are causing a nuisance, we are unable to help and you could contact your local authority for advice, or a commercial pest control company to vist. If they are not causing a nuisance then let them beeeee

Honeybees usually initially cluster fairly close to where they have swarmed from. If you live in the same street as a beekeeper, chances are that they are theirs. They would almost certainly like them back, so perhaps ask them first.

You can contact our swarm co-ordinator using the contact button below.

If the swarm is very inaccessible or has already settled and colonised within the structure of a building it may not be possible for us to remove them. Please remember that our volunteer swarm collectors are great, but not superheroes, they can’t levitate.

Why do Honeybees swarm?

Honey bees usually swarm during the months of May, June and July, but it is not unheard of for them to swarm either side of these months.

Swarming is a natural process and is the colony’s way of reproducing to ensure survival.  The queen and a large proportion of the worker bees leave their old home and ‘swarm’ to find somewhere new to set up home. The remainder of the original colony stays behind to raise a new queen. The swarm will find somewhere (in)convenient to cluster temporarily and then send out scout bees to find a new home. It’s during this clustering period that the beekeeper has the greatest chance of successfully collecting the swarm. The cluster can be any size from the size of a grapefruit to the size of a large football.

Once a decision about the new home is made, which can take from a few hours to a few days, the swarm then moves on to its chosen location, which may be somewhere great for the bees, like an old hollow tree or disused building, but it also may be somewhere where they cause nuisance to people.

It is always better if swarms can be collected and re-homed by a beekeeper as soon as possible. This avoids the bees taking up residence in someone’s chimney or other inconvenient location and offers them the best chance of survival.

Scary, Scary

A swarm of bees is a truly impressive sight but can be frightening and intimidating if you are not used to bees. A swarm is not likely to be aggressive if left alone. They have no home or honey to defend. Prior to swarming they will have gorged themselves on honey, and this also makes it difficult for them to curve their abdomen down to sting. Don’t go poking them though.

What happens next

Collecting a swarm is usually a two-stage process. Firstly, the cluster is shaken or brushed or otherwise ‘encouraged’ from where it has formed, into a container such as a cardboard box. This is then placed on the ground near the original position, a small opening is left for the bees to enter and exit. If the queen was successfully caught in the box, the majority of the worker bees will stay with her in the box. Not all the bees from the swarm will have been caught and the beekeeper must leave the box in position and return to collect them in the evening when all the flying bees will have returned to their queen and to what they consider to be their new home.

Best practice is to then rehouse the swarm in a new beehive in an ‘out apiary’, away from the beekeeper’s other bees. This period of quarantine ensures that other colonies are not endangered if the swarm is found to be diseased. It also gives the beekeeper time to determine the temperament of the unknown bees. Once the bees have settled in their new home, the queen has started to lay eggs, and the colony is healthy and working, it can be passed on to a new beekeeper looking to acquire their first colony.

Collecting swarms helps to control the spread of bee diseases and parasites and enables the beekeeper to have some control over the reproduction of less desirable genetic traits. WGBA beekeekers are working hard to ensure that the honeybee population in our area is good tempered, healthy and productive.

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