There’s something awe-inspiring about seeing a swarm of bees. Some see it as a glimpse into the magnificence of the natural world, but for others the sight is scary. Why do bees swarm? When a beehive or colony becomes too crowded, bees swarm to find a new hive home. In the same way bees reproduce, the colony gets to a size where it, too, must reproduce as more space is needed. The original colony divides into two colonies, and when this happens a large portion of the bees will fly out of the beehive with the queen bee and look for a new location to create a new home.
Here are a few recent swarming stories in the news in the UK:
Four swarms of honeybees, or up to 60,000 bees, settled on top of a smoking shelter on the car park roof at the shopping center The Mall, Blackburn, England. An employee discovered them by surprise. Kath and Simon Cordingley, a husband and wife beekeeping team from “Bee Centre” in Preston, were called in. They took the swarming bees back to their center.
When a swarm occurs and the hive splits off into two colonies, half the bees remain at the hive and create a new queen bee. Kath Cordingley noted that since the weather had taken a turn for the worse, and was cold and wet, the bees would not have survived the night if they’d been left to their own devices. Instead they are warm and dry in quarantine apiaries and enjoying a diet of sugar water so they can regain their energy, build a new nest and forage again.
Andrew Smith, operations manager of The Mall Blackburn, was very happy with the efficiency, expertise and knowledge they displayed, and the speed with which they removed the bees.
Mr. and Mrs. Cordingley have been beekeepers for 12 years and have run Bee Centre in Preston for three years. In addition, they educate by making school visits and attending corporate away days, rescue bees like they did in this case, and work with a Wigan-based company producing beehives.
Here's an unrelated stunning 13-minute video by Honeystead of how Kayla works with a large swarm in a dogwood tree. It's well worth watching it all the way through if you have time:
This report is about a swarm of at least 20,000 angry bees that invaded a postbox in Ulverston. The area was cordoned off with cones, so pedestrians knew there were “angry bees” in the area. They were removed before doing any damage.
Furness Beekeepers (FBKA), a charitable association that supports critical awareness of bees, were called to remove the nest. They cut off the honeycomb and put the bees into bags or boxes. Their secretary, David Walmsley, said this was the first post box and the strangest location he’d ever seen a swarm of bees choose to nest in.
He further noted that bees will go anywhere warm and dark. They naturally live in caves, hollow trees and holes, so a post box fits their preferences. In May, June and July bees produce the most colonies.
Bees vary in temperament, but this swarm contained particularly angry bees. Mr. Walmsley considers it lucky that nobody tried to use the postbox, otherwise the bees might have inflicted a few stings.
The third swarm we’re reporting was spotted in Belfast, Northern Ireland. They were spotted nesting on the roof of Daisy Hill Hospital. They were buzzing under the boards on top of the hospital’s mental health unit. Although they were doing no harm, they had to go because there were complaints about them.
Joanne Fearon, a beekeeper for 20 years, moved them to a new home in County Down. She and her colleague transported the queen and her offspring to her home in Rostrevor, where she keeps 10 hives. Now they, too, are Rostrevor bees.
Joanne said that worker bees know within an hour if their queen is gone, and then they stress out and panic. The objective when removing a swarm is to find the queen and get her out first. It can be challenging to find her, since there are thousands of bees. If any baby bees are left behind, the worker bees would search the hive for day-old eggs and start feeding them differently to turn them into queens, so there would be plenty of queens. She says bees are selfless little survivors.
She used a repurposed vacuum cleaner to get the buzzing bees into a box so she could transport them and put the queen into a separate container in her pocket. Then they removed the dead comb and honey from the hospital roof.
Joanne is a seasoned beekeeper, and says that if swarms are not properly controlled, they can end up anywhere and create a lot of bother. She tricks her own bees into thinking they have already moved by removing the queen bee, so her hives don’t swarm. She is kept busy with her 10 hives and helping to move swarms from places they shouldn’t be and are not wanted.
If you ever see a swarm of bees, or hear someone say they want to get rid of one, please help save the bees by calling a local beekeeper, so the bees will be moved safely and not exterminated. Don't ever try to move a swarm on your own unless you are a beekeeper with experience.