Swarm Collector

Wiltshire Bee Removal

Firstly if you see a swarm, don’t get too close, get any pets and the kids indoors, observe from there, preferably from behind a closed window. Bees are not usually aggressive when swarming but it’s always best to play it safe and contact a honeybee swarm collector. For swarms around the Marlborough, Calne, Devizes and Pewsey areas of Wiltshire click here, or for a list of local swarm collectors in other areas click here, this will also save you a call out charge from a pest control company who often won’t touch them anyway.

When you call a swarm collector to come and retrieve a swarm of honeybees, there are a few key things we first need to know so we can be sure to bring the right equipment for the job, and to know that the swarm are actually Honeybees and not Bumblebees or Wasps. A swarm collector is only able to collect honeybees, bumblebees are usually best left where they are (but don’t worry, they probably won’t come back next year anyway), whereas if you have a wasps or hornets nest in very close proximity, you need a pest control company who will come and destroy it for you.

What a Swarm Collector Needs To Know

  • Where are the bees? I mean geographically. I collect swarms in Wiltshire but mainly around the Marlborough, Calne, Devizes and Pewsey areas. Or if I’m not available I can always ask someone else to come out.
  • Are they accessible? Are they in your garden? Are they low down in a bush or at the top of a tall tree, or even hanging on the side of your chimney stack? We need to know so we can bring the right equipment.
  • What do they look like? A swarm of honeybees will usually be outside in a tight cluster with a few flying off and returning. Either that or if they are in transit the air will be full of them, swirling around but all heading in generally the same direction. If they are out of view I can probably ascertain what they are by asking a few brief questions.
  • How many are there? ten, hundreds, thousands? If you can’t actually see them can you see many coming and going?
  • How long have they been there? If they were there when you got home from work it doesn’t matter that you don’t know exactly, but are we talking about hours, days or weeks?

By having all this information I can assess if they are honeybees and decide what equipment to bring. It’s essential that you call as soon as possible as swarming honeybees are on the lookout for a new permanent home.  They have left the parent colony and stopped mid way to assess where they will eventually move into, if they are left to their own devices, they could find a hole in the wall or a gap in the eaves of your or your neighbours house and move in there which could be costly if you want them out.

Collection Methods

swarm of honeybees - nest of beesThere are typically four main scenarios involved in a honey bee removal, these are:

Shaking the swarm into a box

When a swarm is hanging from a branch within reach from the ground, we will hold a nucleus box or skep underneath the swarm, give the branch a sharp knock and the whole cluster will dislodge and fall straight into the box, the entrance is left open and the bees fan pheromones which attract any stragglers, it’s then closed up and taken away. In an ideal world every swarm would be this easy, but unfortunately it’s not the case.

Smoking the swarm into a Skep

If it’s not possible to get a box under the cluster, or if they are on a solid post which can’t be knocked, we can place a skep immediately above the bees, then using a few small puffs of smoke we can encourage them to walk up into it, this can be quite a long process.

Brushing the swarm

Sometimes the bees will have settled on a flat surface such as a wall, in this case we can usually brush them gently into a box, some will go in the box, others will fly off, but as long as the queen goes in, the workers will soon follow. Again, the box is left for a while until the stragglers have found their way in.

Using a frame of honeycomb

Occasionally the swarm is so inaccessible that none of the above methods work, in this case we can sometimes encourage them out using some drawn comb from another colony. The bees tend to prefer to be on comb than anywhere else, so by placing the corner of an existing comb close to (or preferably touching) the swarm, they will often start to cover the comb, they can then be moved to a nucleus box.

Hiving a Honeybee Swarm

Once we have collected the swarm of bees, boxed them up and driven them away, we need to put them into a new permanent hive. Most honeybee swarm collectors will have an isolation apiary, this is somewhere collected swarms can be housed while we check them and treat for diseases and parasites such as Varroa mites, before they are introduced to an apiary full of healthy honeybees. Once we know the swarm (now a colony) are fit healthy and raring to work they are then transported, in their new hive to it’s final spot.

Swarm Collectors Equipment

honey bee removalThis list is as much a reminder for me, so I don’t turn up and realise that I forgot something important.

  • A bee tight container This is usually a nucleus box (a small bee hive), a skep or even a cardboard box, really anything which the bees will fit inside and that they be able to grip the surface of.
  • A sheet because if using a skep, it’s needed to put around it to take them away.
  • Swarm catching bag and extension pole for any which are really difficult to reach.
  • Steps or a ladder to reach the bees if they are high up off the ground.
  • Veil, gloves and smoker I don’t want to get stung either!
  • Water sprayer which helps keep the cluster together
  • Bee Brush if they are on a flat surface
  • Rope to pull branches down to within reach if suitable
  • Secateurs in case I need to clip a bush back slightly if they are difficult to reach.
  • Camera so I can post some pictures up on here

Whilst I can collect a swarm for free, it’s occasionally impossible for me to remove the bees, this is usually only if the swarm has moved into their permanent new home somewhere inaccessible, such as in your cavity wall or up a chimney. In this case I do know someone with appropriate experience and suitable insurances to cope with this situation, that being said he does charge for the service, however it may be covered by your home insurance policy.

Swarm collector Wiltshire, days and evenings, weekdays and weekends to the following areas –  Wootton Bassett, Marlborough, Lyneham, Calne, Devizes, Pewsey and anywhere there about.

Please remember that swarming is what bees do naturally and whilst they tend to be less aggressive at this time, there are still tens of thousands of bees who will sting if they feel threatened, so keep well back and call one of your local swarm collectors, or me for the Wiltshire area.

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