Dear Member

The swarming season always throws up an interesting array of phone calls about bees and this year has been no exception despite BBKA’s improved information about what constitutes a swarm. Most of the calls I have had this year have been from people with bees already lodged in the fabric of buildings, or bumble bees. Several swarms were reported, but by the time I was ready to collect they had also departed, hopefully not into someone else’s chimney.

One particularly frustrating experience was after a message left on my answer phone while I was collecting my husband, from Walsgrave hospital. We finally arrived home at 9.30pm so I decided to phone about the reported swarm first thing the following morning. The caller then informed me that the swarm had already been collected by another beekeeper which I was grateful for. However a few hours later she again rang to say that there was another swarm in the same place - in the hedge bordering a public footpath, and there were now bees all over the footpath as well as buzzing in the hedge.

It seemed unlikely that another swarm would alight in exactly the same spot but I said I would come to investigate. It was clear that the ‘swarm’ of a sizeable number of bees was part of the swarm that had been inadequately collected the day before, but I felt I couldn’t leave them as they were on a public path way. I knocked the caller’s door and she said ‘Oh come in I have (…) on the phone - he collected the bees yesterday - do you want to speak to him?’ I asked (….) If he could come and collect the remainder the bees he had left the day before, but he blithely informed me that he was collecting 3 (!) swarms that day and didn’t have the time!

Being public spirited, but rather annoyed, I captured the remaining bees in a box and left warning notices around. Returning later I saw many of the bees were entering the box, but I decided to leave them till dusk to ensure that all the flying bees were in the box. That evening I arrived to collect the box to find the caller, another woman and a boy, standing near the path, the box dislodged and bees flying everywhere. The young lad had decided to give the box a kick. So… half a frustrated hour later I took the large melon sized group of bees and threw them into one of my hives with icing sugar and crossed my fingers that no fighting would ensue.

The point of this rambling story is that if you collect a swarm, do make sure you leave the box/skep on site and collect it when most of the flying bees have returned - particularly if it is in a public space. Also, it illustrates that swarm collecting can sometimes be a time-consuming and frustrating experience. Sometimes you think you have captured a swarm only to discover when returning to collect it, that it has scarpered.

One of the misconceptions about swarms is that you still need to observe the 3 mile rule - no, when bees swarm this goes out the window, so you can collect a swarm from one of your hives and re-hive them in your apiary - but not back in the original hive… then they will just swarm again.

Make a note of the dates for Fetes and Fairs on our Events page, where we have a marquee and live bees and provide public information sessions. Do come along to help if you can, or just show support. Let Rowan know if you are able to help.

Margaret Holdsworth


Beebase News Web feed
  • Update on Small hive beetle in Italy
    13 September 2019
    Following the new case of Small hive beetle (Aethina tumida) confirmed in June in the province of Syracuse in Sicily the European Commission published safeguard measures on Tuesday 10th September. Further details of the surveillance in Italy can be found on the Italian National Reference Laboratory website.

    UK authorities remain active in preparing and monitoring for the Small hive beetleand this summer a contingency training exercise was run by the National Bee Unit (NBU) in Wales with the Welsh Government to train Inspectors on plans and protocols.
  • Asian Hornet nest destroyed near Tamworth, Staffordshire and a new sighting south west of Ashford, Kent.
    09 September 2019
    The National Bee Unit destroyed an Asian hornet nest near Tamworth, Staffordshire on Friday 6th September. A further sighting was reported in a new location by a member of the public of an Asian Hornet south west of Ashford, Kent, this single hornet has been captured. Surveillance continues in both areas.

    This week is the British Beekeepers Association’s Asian Hornet Week and we encourage Beekeepers and members of the public to watch for Asian hornets in their apiaries, on fallen fruit and on flowering plants such as ivy.

    A summary of all Asian hornet sightings in the UK during 2019 can be found here, along with how to report sightings.
  • Asian Hornet confirmed near Tamworth, Staffordshire
    02 September 2019
    The National Bee Unit has confirmed a sighting of an Asian hornet near Tamworth, Staffordshire, after it was reported by a member of the public.

    We continue to ask beekeepers and the general public to remain vigilant and report suspect sightings using the iPhone and Android app ‘Asian Hornet Watch’, by filling out an online report formor by emailing .

    Further information can be found here.