Every Spring and Summer from late April until late July and sometimes into August, Honey Bees swarm. This is a natural part of a colonies life and happens for one of a few reasons, the main being they have split off to produce a new colony.
As Beekeepers we try to control this as part of our inspections of the hive. By controlling the swarm we can produce a larger honey crop, or split the colony by artificial swarm so as to increase the number of colonies we then have under our control.
Sometimes this process goes wrong and we miss them swarming or there are local wild colonies that are producing natural swarms. In this case we have members that will happily come out and collect any swarms that are accessable to them for the benefit of the bees and general public.
Please see below for Swarm Co-ordinator details.
Honey Bee Swarm
When Honey Bees swarm they initially form a clump of bees hanging off something suitable such as pergolas, tree branches, hedges, lamp posts and other street furniture, walls or even sometimes cars and bicycles.
At this stage the colony is headed by a queen that is either mated or a virgin and a large number of worker bees, from a few thousand to 20,000+ depending on the size of colony they came from.
This is the time Beekeepers find collecting them the easiest and they will collect them in a container, depending on the size of the swarm, either some sort of box or skep. The bees are then left on site until early evening when all the flying bees are back and they can all be taken away together. Sometimes due to where the swarm occurs this is not possible and they are taken straight away. The bees are normally quite docile and tend not to sting so it is safe for people to walk past. If not collected the bees will find themselves a new home, this can be somewhere like a hollow tree or chimneys/house soffits -not ideal for the house owner and difficult for the beekeeper to collect.
There are two main wasp species that cause problems in the UK. The German Wasp, Vespula Germanica and the Common Wasp, Vespula Vulgaris. German Wasps normally nest in the ground or in bushes, whereas the Common Wasp is more often found within structures created by man however, is also found in the ground and bushes. Dealing with wasp nests can be dangerous as they can sting multiple times unlike the bee and will attack anyone that ventures too near to their nest. A nest begins life the size of a small ball and after several months of growth the nest can get as big as several beach balls clumped together.
Beekeepers are not able to deal with Wasps as they tend to need to be exterminated and Beekeepers are not licensed to do this. Contact a pest control company or the Local Council.
Wasps have benefits to nature, they eat green and black fly helping gardeners and farmers.
Bumble Bee Nest
Nest sites vary between species, the more common preferring dry, dark cavities such as lofts, bird boxes, others prefer to nest in trees and bushes whilst others nest underground, all however avoid direct sunlight as that could cause overheating. Generally, the nest size is smaller than that of a Honey Bee nor is it organised into hexagonal combs but rather messily clustered together.
Bumble Bees absorb heat from the weakest of sunlight due to their thicker insulation and therefore are active when Honey Bees will stay within the hive.
Bumble Bees are social insects, forming colonies with a Queen, with the exception of the Cuckoo Bumble Bee, that invades nests killing the resident Queen and laying her own eggs.
As with wasps the nests break down in the autumn and the queens go on to hibernate.
For more information contact the Bumble Bee Conservation.
Often people fear the Hornet even more than they do wasps, probably due to its size. They are also branded as being an aggressive species with a dangerous and very painful sting.
Hornets build communal nests by chewing wood to make a papery pulp. Each nest has one queen, who lays eggs and is attended by workers.
Most species make exposed nests in trees and shrubs, but some (Vespa Orientalis) build their nests underground or in other cavities.
Nests die over the winter, with lone Queens hibernating in leaf litter or other insulated material until the Spring.
Beekeepers are unable to assist with the removal of Hornet nests.
Please see below for information on the Asian Hornet and identification sheet
Asian Hornet Vespa Velutina
Please see Information below along with a video from the BBC News
DANGER! This hornet stings. Do not disturb an active nest. Seek advice using the details below.
An invasive non-native hornet originally from Asia. Suspected records should be reported immediately. A highly aggressive predator of native insects, posing a significant threat to honey bees and other pollinators. Accidentally introduced to France in 2004 where it spread rapidly. A number of sightings have been recorded in the UK since 2016.
Distinctive hornet, smaller than our native species. A key feature is the almost entirely dark abdomen, except for the 4th segment which is yellow. Bright yellow tips to legs (native hornet more orange) and entirely brown or black thorax (native hornet more orange).
DEFRA is recommending monitoring traps in all areas of the Country even where there is no Asian hornet incursion known of at present.
Once an Asian Hornet has been positively identified in an area then kill traps should be used.
This is in the expectation that if Asian Hornets are in the area then they will be trapped and identified.
The by-catch in these traps will be small compared to the damage caused by the Asian Hornets if the nests are not found.
Asian Hornets are active between April through to November, with a peak in July through to end of September
but, of course, may be seen at any time.
Click here to download the Asian Hornet Identification sheet.
Each BBKA branch or Area Association is being asked to set up a team that can assist with local requests for help in identifying Asian Hornets, known as AHAT. Please see BBKA Asian Hornet Team Map for contact details.
Alternatively, if you have an iPhone or Android, download the free recording app Asian Hornet Watch
Honey Bee Swarm
If you are certain you have a Honey Bee swarm please see BBKA Swarm Collector Map for local beekeepers in your area. Some local beekeepers and swarm co-ordinators include:
Debra Edwards 07900553364 - Shoreham by Sea and surounding area
Please remember that we keep bees as a hobby and may not be able to answer our phones due to work or other commitments, so please keep trying. Members may ask for a small fee to cover travel expenses if needed.