Why do bees swarm?
Swarming is the act of colony reproduction. This process is entirely natural but does not necessarily occur every year. Swarming mostly happens due to congestion within the hive, about half the worker bees in the hive will leave, together with the old queen.
When bees swarm the air is full with thousands of excited bees searching for a place to cluster and trying to keep track of the queen. After a short flying distance, the swarm clusters together temporarily in a suitable place while scout bees look for a new nest cavity.
The parent hive is essentially queenless for some time after the swarm has left and it may take a week or more before the first new virgin queen emerges from her queen cell.
I have a swarm, what do I do?
If a swarm has decided to cluster on your property do not panic and do not try to harm or move the swarm yourself. Bees only sting for self defense and will only do so when threatened.
As mentioned earlier, swarms cluster temporarily until they can find a suitable new home. This can take a couple of hours or a couple of days. If the bees are not bothering you can leave them and they will normally remove themselves once a new home has been found.
If however you or a family member, including your pets, are allergic or could be allergic to bees, try to remain indoors until the swarm has left or has been collected.
How do I get a swarm collected?
Getting a swarm collected is the best thing you can do for the bees and the environment.
Again, do not try to collect the bees yourself or destroy them as you could cause yourself serious harm.
Although Mossop’s do not collect swarms, we can certainly put you in touch with someone who does, or follow the link to find a swarm collector close to you.
SWARM COLLECTORS LIST – CLICK HERE
I would like a hive for my garden, can Mossop’s provide one?
Unfortunately Mossop’s does not provide hives for domestic use.
I am a hobbyist beekeeper and want to start a hive, how do I collect a swarm?
If you would like to be made aware of swarms to collect in your area, you can call us and be put on our swarm collectors list. You should only collect a swarm if you have the correct protective gear and some prior knowledge of beekeeping.
What you will need:
- A strong container such as a sturdy cardboard box or purpose-made container in which to collect the bees.
- A piece of loose-weave material such as an old sheet and some string.
- A pair of secateurs or loppers (if swarm is located on a tree etc).
- A water spray.
- Your protective clothing and smoker.
Swarms can be collected in almost any container but make sure any cardboard box is strong enough not to collapse under the weight of the swarm, which is several kilos. The cloth is used to wrap the container when it is being moved, so the weave must be close enough to prevent the bees from escaping but loose enough to prevent to allow air into the container, and it must be secured very carefully.
Collecting a swarm:
To collect a swarm you need to transfer the queen and as many of the bees as possible into your container. It is essential that the queen is included or the bees will just fly out and reform their cluster. The queen is normally located in the middle of the cluster so if you can get the majority of the bees into your box, the queen is very likely to be among them..
A swarm that has clustered on a branch is usually the easiest to collect.
- Spread out the cloth near the base of the tree, ready to receive your box.
- Lift the box so that it surrounds the swarm, then snip the branch off using your secateurs or give the branch a sharp blow to dislodge as many of the bees as possible into the container.
- Lower the container onto the sheet and turn it over carefully.
- Prop up one edge of the container to make an entrance.
There will be lots of confused bees flying around looking for the swarm. As long as the queen is in the box, the workers will start to send out a pheromone message to attract the rest of the flying bees into the box. You may even need to smoke the branch to disguise the smell of where the swarm had clustered.
If possible wait until evening when the bees have stopped flying around before you remove the prop, wrap the container in the cloth and secure it to prevent the bees from escaping.
N.B – This is a guide only. If you choose to collect a swarm you do so at your own risk. Mossop’s does not accept responsibility for your swarm collecting.