Swarms – Bees, wasps and hornets
ANDOVER SWARM HELPLINE - APRIL TO AUGUST
Bees in the UK are an endangered species, under threat to their environment by building development, farming methods which include the use of ever increasing cocktails of chemicals. It is the roll of beekeepers to redress this imbalance and we within Andover Beekeepers are helping this effort by offering a swarm collection service.
If you see or have a swarm then do not be alarmed but contact our emergency numbers - Andover District only
Outside of the prime swarming period i.e. September through to March please make contact with the following:-
Central Andover - Mic Laird - 07798727755
North Andover - Matt Somerville - 07717 251713
East Andover - Mike Barrie - 07831 139296
South Andover - Jim Stuart - 07981 050927
South East Andover - John Haverson - 07958 051446
During the prime swarming period i.e. April through to August please use the following contact number:-
ANDOVER SWARM HELP LINE
Basingstoke District – 07580 528428 or 07765 338052
Winchester District – 07017 758191
Salisbury District – 01722 501201
Marlborough District – 01380 728089
Newbury District – 01635 44945 or 01672 514506
Romsey District - http://www.romseybeekeepers.com - 07508 716044
To assist us please ensure that you have bees and not wasps or hornets as we are unable to deal with these and suggest you contact a pest controller should the need be urgent. We will ask you a number of questions, below so that we know what we are dealing with.
Questions we will ask
Where are you – address, postcode, phone number, other location details
Where are the bees -easy to get at; height from ground, in tree, bush, in building
Description of bees – round and furry, do they have a waist, do their legs hang down size, estimate of number
How long have they been there – just arrived, an hour, several hours, longer
What are they doing – fly in a cloud, with a purpose or just milling around, have they settled?
Can we have access at dusk or similar?
What should I do?
If they have just arrived a smoky fire – barbeque or similar lit and placed below them so that the smoke might encourage them to move. Extreme care to be taken here!!!!
If coming into the house try and locate the entry point – it might be down a chimney or through a vent. Don’t panic but place a saucer of Dettol or similar disinfectant fluid in the vicinity. Don’t block their entry point but close doors or so that they are contained and if possible pull any nets or similar curtains.
What we will do
We will endeavour to remove a bee swarm for you but cannot offer any guarantee particularly if they have been in residence for more than a day but offer you advice as befits the circumstances. The removal of a swarm will take a minimum of two visits – one at the time of arrival when we will try and capture the queen and a further visit at the end of the same day, at dusk when all the bees have settled.
We, Andover Beekeepers, may charge a flat fee of £25.00 for out of pocket expenses for this service and a fee of £10.00 if on investigation the bees are found to be wasps or hornets or we have to recommend the services of a pest controller who will charge considerably more for a removal. In most instances our beekeepers will attend in pairs as it is most likely that more than one pair of hands is required. To assist with recognition and to avoid incorrect or abortive callouts we have prepared below some descriptions of various bee, wasp and hornet types.
Within the UK we have more than 250 species of bees split into three distinct groups:
Honey bees one species;
Bumble bees comprising of 25 species;
Solitary bees which as their name suggests are not social insects and make up the majority of species.
The explanations below will help to distinguish between the three types.
They are the only bees to swarm and not to hibernate during the winter months but become less active but will become more often observed as the weather warms up and the colony size grows to a point where it is too big and swarms. At this point they are easily observed as a dense cloud seeking a new home. They are often long in size with no waist and have six legs that hang down from the body.
Honey bees are the only bees of commercial importance and able to be collected as a swarm.
Bumble bees will not swarm and only appear in any numbers when mating or disturbed, they are reticent to sting but will if provoked.
Fat and furry rather than smaller and more wasp like bumble bees will be seen earlier in the day and later in the evenings than honey bees and are willing to fly even if the weather is more inclement. Eight species are commonly seen within the UK with many being specialist feeders seeking out particular food plants and adaptations of feeding style to suit.
Queen bees hibernate below ground emerging in early spring and seeks out a suitable nest site – nest box, hole in the ground or perhaps underneath a shed. Once found she starts to construct a nest and lays eggs which when hatched will assist in further development of the colony to a point where there may be up to 600 individuals. The queen does not leave the nest and as the season progresses she will start to lay both male and female offspring which will eventually fly and leave the nest for mating and the next year’s colony.
Whilst not secretive the early season activities of the colony will often go unnoticed and it is only when the mating instinct takes over the evidence of the colony is seen and often mistaken for a swarm, which it is not! The colony poses no real threat being so small in number and are reluctant to sting unless threatened or disturbed.
If possible they should be left alone and only in exceptional circumstances will beekeepers remove them, seeking rather to relocate them in the same vicinity but out of human reach.
With over 200 species in the UK, solitary bees are difficult to identify as they may resemble small honey bees, small bumble bees or wasps and are different from either honey bees or bumble bees as they are not sociable. The female constructs her own nest without the help of worker bees and despite being solitary are gregarious, nesting in colonies in suitable locations. These may be ground dwelling in sandy, light soil or holes in cavities – wood or masonry.
They are widely spread across the UK and dependent upon the type are found only at certain times of the year feeding almost exclusively on a particular food plant such as ivy, indeed a hatching of a colony of Ivy bees in September or October seems to make the ground above the hatch site shimmer as if a mirage and are often mistaken for a honey bee swarm.
Solitary bees pose no threat to the general public as their sting if they have any is too weak to penetrate human skin; they should therefore be left alone, will not be attended to by beekeepers or pest controllers.
Wasps and Hornets
Wasps are seldom seen in large numbers unless disturbed and will readily sting, repeatedly. Hornets are similar but have smaller groups and will sting if provoked.
These are easily identified and unlike bees can sting repeatedly as the sting has no barb. They are omnivorous and will predate on insects including bees. The queens hibernate very often within our own homes and become evident when the spring weather warms up and they emerge and immediately seek out a suitable nest site. The colony builds up and becomes more apparent owing to numbers but generally pose no threat until late summer.
Note: images not to scale
In all instances Andover Beekeepers will discuss and agree a course of action with the property owner or landowner before any attempt is made for the capture and removal of a bee swarm.
Andover Beekeepers will not deal with wasps or hornets advising referall of any such activity to a registered pest controller.
Only under exceptional circumstances will Andover Beekeepers remove or relocate bumble bees and under no circumstances will any action be taken against solitary bees.
Due risk assessment will be carried out on each occasion but where the complexity of the swarm removal might involve risk to health or limb or where the fabric of a building/property is involved Andover Beekeepers reserve the right to advise referall to a registered pest controller.
From a health and safety perspective our beekeepers will not attempt any swarm collection that might be injurous to their health and well being, to the well being of the general public at large.
From a legal perspective our beekeepers will not attempt any swarm that might involve the structure or fabric of a building or where damage might be done to property as result of the removal.