Fringe Box



Beekeeper’s Notes: ‘Yes, We Have a Stoughton and Worplesdon Swarm Collector!’

Published on: 1 May, 2023
Updated on: 1 May, 2023

Hugh Coakley keeps bees in Worplesdon

There were swarms galore on the first warm day of the year a couple of weeks ago. We had three phone calls within about an hour calling for help.

A swarm in a bush in Stoughton probably weighed between one and two pounds which works out at about 5,000 to 10,000 bees.

There was a swarm in a bush in Stoughton, one on a tree overhanging a public footpath in Worplesdon and then one near a school.

Why do the bees do it? Well it’s the way they reproduce, how they multiply and keep up a healthy genetic line.

This swarm had arrived a couple of hours before the photo was taken and there were lots of bees still flying around.

The queen can lay as many eggs as the workers can force out of her but she still presides over just one colony. Swarming divides one colony into two or more.

On a secret signal, generally around the middle of the day, the queen and about half the hive swarms away to start a new colony in a new home.

But before they go, they cunningly set off the process in their old home to make new queens. The remaining half left behind has unborn queens just waiting to hatch, mate and start afresh.

So, hey presto, one colony becomes two or more.

The swarming season is generally from May to July so this burst of bee activity is on the early side. It is a magnificent and can be a frightening sight watching and hearing 20,000 bees in flight.

They will swarm if they are short of space or if the queen looks to be a bit weak and they want to be rid of her. Beekeepers try to give the bees lots of room, extra boxes before they need them, to try to ward off their bees leaving them. Good strong queens are helpful as well.

If the queen is inside the box we put the swarm in, bees signal she is inside by lifting their rear and fanning out a pheromone for the other bees to join her.

I love doing the collecting. People are interested to see how we will pick them up, will we get stung, and what will we do with the bees once we pick them up. We are delighted to give a running commentary as we work.

A lovely comment on social media from the neighbour who alerted us to this swarm in Stoughton. It is in our garden now and seems happy enough.

I’ve been to mansions, up ladders and onto rooftops collecting bees from the most unlikely places.

The easiest to collect is if they land on a tree branch at about head height. The hardest is if they are in the middle of a holly bush or 30 foot up in the air.

I am a bit selective nowadays, I rule out high ladders, but other than that, if the bees are accessible, I’ll give it a go.

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