Do you have a Swarm?
People are sometimes confused and are unable to identify whether they have a Swarm of Honeybees or other flying creatures. The most common insects are Honeybees, Bumblebees and Wasps. There is already an excellent article which has been written about the differences, on the British Beekeepers Association website.
A new honey bee colony is formed when the queen bee leaves the colony with a large group of worker bees, a process called swarming. In the prime swarm, about 60% of the worker bees leave the original hive location with the old queen. This swarm can contain thousands to tens of thousands of bees. Swarming is mainly a spring phenomenon, usually within a two- or three-week period depending on the locale, but occasional swarms can happen throughout the producing season. Swarming is the natural means of reproduction of honey bee colonies.
A swarm of bees sometimes frightens people, though the bees are usually not aggressive at this stage of their life cycle. This is principally due to the swarming bees’ lack of brood (developing bees) to defend and their interest in finding a new nesting location for their queen. This does not mean that bees from a swarm will not attack if they perceive a threat; however, most bees only attack in response to intrusions against their colony. Additionally, bees seldom swarm except when the position of the sun is direct and impressive. So-called “killer bees” swarm far more often than regular honeybees. Swarm clusters, hanging off of a tree branch, will move on and find a suitable nesting location in a day or two. Beekeepers are sometimes called to capture swarms that are cast by feral honey bees or from the hives of domestic beekeepers.
What to do if you have a swarm?
The vast majority of beekeepers are enthusiastic amateurs who will give their time and resources to come and help, but it would be unfair to expect them to come and advise you on wasps or similar insect problems, so before you contact them please try and identify the type of bee or wasp you’ve seen, perhaps try and take a picture to send. If it turns out you have a honeybee swarm the beekeeper will need to collect some basic information from you, things like:
- Where is the swarm? In a tree/bush or in/on a building and how high off the ground?
- Is the swarm on your property or someone else’s?
- How long has the swarm been there?