What is a swarm?
Basically a swarm is the mass movement of honey bees from one home to the next. The most common reason for the bees to do this is when a colony gets to a certain size and splits into two colonies, this is normal behaviour and is just the bees way of expanding.
A swarm can be quite a frightening sight when ‘on the wing’ with possibly thousands of bees swirling around. Once they land and group together they appear much calmer, and you could almost walk past without noticing them.
Bees grouped together hanging from a branch
Beekeepers are normally happy to come and collect a honey bee swarm and rehouse them in a safe and appropriate site. This helps alleviate the possible problems caused when the bees decide to make their home in your house, outbuilding or somewhere else equally problematic.
To avoid contacting a local beekeeper in error when you see a large number of flying insects that are not honey bees, we have some identification tips below:
Take a look at the above images to see if the insects you have seen are actually honey bees and not another similar insect.
Some types of bee live in colonies in places like air bricks in your house, or in holes in the ground. You'll see them coming and going, but normally just a few at a time. Wasps will make their home in the most awkward places, the corner of your garage or shed, even in your loft. These wasp nests will have the appearance of a football hanging from the roof or a beam and you’ll see many more insects flying. Wasps also make their home in holes in the ground and it can be difficult to identify where they’re coming from, normally you’ll see large numbers of these wasps flying around the area of their nest.
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?
If you still think you have a swarm then click here to visit the association pages to find your nearest association who will be able to advise you further.