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Swarms

Covid 19 – We’re still here to help with swarms!

What to do if you have a swarm in the East Devon area.

Please contact one of our swarm collectors from the list below who operates in your post code area. Alternatively, go to the British Beekeepers interactive swarm page to find the nearest beekeeper.

Post Code Area Beekeeper Home Landline Mobile
EX5 David Palfrey Whimple 01404 823 750
EX8, EX9 Bryan Stewart Lympstone 01395 263 097 07828 675 571
EX10, EX11 Nick Silver West Hill 01404 812 478 07834 483 910
EX10, EX11, EX5 John Badley West Hill 01404 814 852
EX10, EX12 Ralph Cox Branscombe 01297 680 392
EX10, EX12, EX13, EX24, DT7 Richard Simpson Colyton 07900 492 242
EX12, EX13 David Shale Musbury 01297 552 999 07871 846 415
EX12 Ann Pengelly Axmouth 01297 214 43 07979 013 641
EX12 Geoff Pook Beer 07966 490 429
EX13 Peter Field Hawkchurch 07739 936 309
EX13 Simon Foster Membury 01404 881 787 07946 378 794
EX13, EX14, EX24 Alasdair Bruce Stockland 01404 881 589 07479 474 392
EX13 Peter Weller Churchill 01297 325 23 07989 685 983
EX13 David Chambers Hawkchurch 01297 678 686
EX14 Rob Sorrell Awliscombe 07887 710 629
EX14 Nigel Boulton Weston 07730 926 809
EX14, EX15 Stan Wroe Broadhembury 01404 841 323 07925 549 443
DT7, DT6, EX13 Colin Osborne Uplyme 01297 443 915
TA20 Maurice Wakeling Chard 01460 646 53

This is what a swarm of honeybees looks like!

Look alikes!

Other insects can sometimes be confused with honey bees.  Bumble bees, solitary bees, wasps, hornets and hover flies may have similar yellow and brown marking but will not be present in such large numbers as honey bees in a swarm.

Honeybee

The honey bee

This is the honey bee. Note the furry body that attracts pollen grains. The bee brushes pollen into the pollen baskets on the back legs and takes it back to the hive.

Hoverfly

The hoverfly

The small yellow and black hoverfly can be mistaken for a bee as it often frequents the same flowers for nectar. A good insect for gardeners as the hoverfly grubs eat greenfly.

Bumblebee

Bumble bees

There are twenty-two species of bumble bee in the UK, usually large and furry with distinctive bands of coloured hairs. This one is the white tailed bumblebee.

Wasp

Queen wasps

These two queen wasps are feeding on ivy. The worker wasps are smaller with similar yellow and black patterns. They can predate on honeybees.

Hornet

European hornet queen

At 3½cm long the European hornet queen is bigger than any similar insect you are likely to see in the UK. The workers are smaller with similar markings.

Asian hornet

Asian hornet

The Asian hornet is not yet established in the UK but may be in the future. Note the yellow legs and the single broad yellow band near the tail.

 

Honey bees do not nest in the ground so insects coming and going from burrows will not be honeybees. See ‘Bees in Nest Boxes’ below.

Bees in Nest Boxes

We are increasingly finding bees in nest boxes in East Devon.  These bees are more than likely to be Tree Bumblebees (Bombus hypnorum) which are a relatively new species in this area.  They are between 10 and 14mm long, have rust / orange coloured hairs on the upper part of the body and a whitish tail.

Bombus hypnorum

They pollinate all kinds of fruit, flowers and vegetables so, if possible, try to leave well alone.They will vacate the nest box at the end of the season.

 

The Swarming Process
Swarming is a natural process by which bees multiply their colonies. Usually a swarm will emerge from the hive and land on a nearby branch, bush or post, or even under the eaves of a roof, where they will form a large hanging cluster of bees.

They will send out a few scout bees, who will look for a new site to build their home. Whilst waiting for the scout bees to complete their task, the swarm is normally docile as all the bees have taken on stores of food for the journey and they need to conserve supplies.

The swarm will stay in the cluster for a period of time that may be as short as a few minutes, or may be hours or even days. Finally, when the swarm has decided where its new home will be they will take to the air and fly off in the right direction.

If the cluster is within reach then a beekeeper may be able to capture the swarm in a skep or box and take them to an apiary where they can be housed in a hive. Once the swarm has moved off to their new home it may be more difficult to capture them.

‘Hiving’ a swarm

This photo shows a swarm being ‘hived’ by emptying them onto a cloth sloping up to their new front door.

Bees will naturally climb upwards and seek a dark cavity. At first all is confusion, then they turn and head up the slope and disappear into the hive!

If you’re lucky you may see the queen among the throng. Once the queen has taken up residence you can be fairly certain the swarm will not fly off again.