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Many thanks to John Pyle for submitting this article.
Swarming usually occurs when the honeybee colony has expanded and becomes overcrowded in the hive. Before the colony swarms, new queen bees are produced in special cells (called queen cells -
In the original colony a new virgin queen will emerge and kill the other maturing queens in their cells or she may leave the colony to head another swarm. As these queens may mature at different times, several swarms may emerge from the hive or nest.
Eventually, one queen remains to head the original colony. Swarming bees fill their stomachs with nectar or honey before leaving the hive -
Do's and Don'ts
Seek advice. If you are not a beekeeper -
Do not attempt to disturb or kill the bees.
Swarms in chimneys are difficult to retrieve (if not impossible). If the chimney is open create a draught or maintain a smokey smouldering fire with dry grass clippings or similar. Once established (about 48 hours) the bees are reluctant to move.
Bees within the house will fly towards the light. Open the window. If you are a novice beekeeper remember that bees will readily move upwards, so place your collecting box over the bees. Gently smoke the bees from below.
Take a swarm on the ground by placing a box over the bees (leaving a gap to allow flying bees to join). A swarm on a wall may be taken by sweeping the bees downwards into the box, then place on the ground to collect the stragglers.
Each swarm poses a different challenge. Unusual recent swarms have been taken from post boxes, compost bins, bird nesting box, the seat of a tarmac laying machine and the top shelf of a DIY garden centre (amongst bags of woodchip).
There are few hard and fast rules for this and, as usual, every beekeeper will tell you a slightly different method which works for them. A common practice is to empty the bees onto a sloping board placed in front of an empty hive. It is best to do this later in the day as the bees will be more inclined to enter the hive as the outside temperature drops. The smell of beeswax, lemongrass or brood comb in the hive will make it more attractive for them (see Bait Hives for Honey Bees). It is usually agreed that you should avoid feeding the bees for about 3 days as this can cause them to abscond.
Bees can be seen at the periphery of the main cluster, fanning their exposed Nasonov glands to distribute the pheromone which helps the bees navigate in the direction of their queen.
Submitted by Glyn Davies -
You don’t have to keep bees for long before you discover one of the craft’s greatest challenges is swarm control. Unlike the challenges of bee health which seem to have become obsessive and all consuming in recent years, control of swarming has been a worrying concern for beekeepers since the arrival of the movable comb hive.
Link to the article (pdf)
An Infallible (almost) Swarm Control System
Q = Queen
BC= Brood Chamber
Submitted by: Pollinator -
Assume open Queen cells have been found and the swarm has not left. One super present. The additional equipment needed is a matching brood chamber and crown board with an entrance cut on one side. This brood chamber must contain a full set of combs with foundation or drawn comb.
Swarming hive and super are placed to one side. The new brood chamber is placed on the original floor board, one comb removed.
The original BC is examined and all Q cells removed. One frame of open brood is placed in the space left in the new BC which was positioned on the original floor. Close up the frames; replace QE and super over the new BC. Place the Crown board above the super with entrance at the back. Add the original Q+ BC, inserting the spare frame of foundation to replace the frame taken from the BC below, on the edge of the brood nest . Close up.
Flying bees all join BC below; the Q+ BC is weakened and will lose the swarm instinct.
Seven days later, remove emergency Q cells on the frame of brood in lower BC. Replace it with another frame of brood from the top box; make sure any Q cells are removed and in the rest of the top box.
After 7 more days the queen should be laying well in the top box. Recombine the boxes into a single brood chamber. Swarming has been controlled this time. There should be a brood chamber with spare combs to be used in some way.
(PS If you draw the diagrams you’ll be able to do it for real without the notes!)
This colony has found a place to build its combs in a tree. Not ideal for the bees, but in the absence of a warm hollow tree trunk it will have to do. But all is not lost -
Click here to find out more
Photo Glyn Davies
There is no sight quite like it -
'A swarm in May is worth a load of hay, a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon, a swarm in July is worth a fly'
... reflects the benefit to the colony for swarming early -
Queen cell which has been vacated -
Swarm of bees in a hawthorn hedge, 10 feet in the air -
Is it a honeybee swarm?
Click here to check on this Bee Identification Chart
Bait Hives for Honey Bees by Thomas D. Seeley, Roger A Morse and Richard Nowogrodzki
Click here for free download
Thanks to Holsworthy Branch for letting us know about this Youtube video clip made by Reg Godwin.
I thought club members might be interested in a short video clip I made of a swarm (not my bees!) entering a bait hive.
I had an old Langstroth hive which I converted into a bait box last year. I tried it with lemongrass oil sprinkled inside but never picked up a swarm
all year. This year I set it aside and put some redundant frames in waiting to be rendered down. Within a week a swarm of what look like Italian-
bees descended on it (mine are mostly black bees). I had noticed about a dozen scout bees investigating the box the previous day.
It was a complete fluke that while I was filming the bees pouring into the entrance, I managed to spot the unmarked queen wandering in (check at 1min 22
at the right hand side of the landing board and she enters the hive at 1min 26).
It's not often you catch them swarming into a hive. They are usually going in the opposite direction!
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