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How to recognise a swarm of Honeybees and what to do next

If you think you have a swarm of Honeybees, please firstly read the information below to determine if what you've spotted may actually be bumblebees or wasps. If you still think that they are indeed honeybees, please get in contact with EGBKA's Swarm Coordinator Becca Burchill - 07749 476106 / swarm@egbka.org.uk - or another a local honeybee swarm collector via the British Beekeepers Association's website where you can enter your postcode to find the nearest registered collector.


2 A Honey Bee in flight honeybee for swarm hb swarm

Honeybees are slender insects that are about half an inch (just under 2cm) long mostly brown with lighter bands. They can vary in colour from almost black to golden brown. If a swarm is in progress you will see a lot of flying bees milling about and the air will appear thick with bees. Eventually they will settle into a cluster on anything from a tree branch to a man made object. This swarm can usually now be collected by a beekeeper (see links above to find your nearest collector). They are usually very calm in this state and unless antagonised will not normally sting. These swarms are needed by beekeepers who try their best to keep the honeybee population alive and well.

If the honeybees have taken up residence in a permanent structure such as a chimney breast or under your eaves it can be very hard to remove them and professional help might need to be sought. Please get in touch with our Swarm Coordinator for advice.

Nb. Beekeepers are not able to collect, remove or destroy wasps, bumble bees or other insect pests - contact your local Council in the first instance for advice.

Please do not attempt to kill honeybees as they are an endangered species - local beekeepers will be happy to help you by collecting them.

A swarm of honeybees is relatively harmless as they are not protecting their nest or their young.  Please note that the so called 'Killer Bees' (Africanised) DO NOT occur in the UK.

Honeybees, bumblebees and solitary bees are all endangered so should not be destroyed other than in exceptional circumstances and then only by a professional pest controller due to the risk to other nearby colonies.


swarm bumblebee

These are very commonly mistaken for honeybees. They are however larger, more rounded and furrier.  They come in two sizes: the Queen bumblebee can be about the size of the end of your thumb and the smaller worker is about the size of the end of your little finger.

They can sting but do so only very rarely and are very, very difficult to provoke. Bumblebees don't swarm. They may nest in small cavities in walls but are most commonly found in holes in the ground or under sheds. If you find bees when stirring up your compost heap, they will most probably be bumblebees but if they are in the lid of a compost bin hanging down then these will probably be honeybees. Bumblebees do not like to be disturbed and will only stay for one season, moving on in the autumn or sometimes in the early summer. Beekeepers are usually unable to help remove bumblebees and are likely to encourage you to live with them until they disappear in the autumn.

More Information on Bumble Bees can be found here:  http://bumblebeeconservation.org.

Solitary Bees

These are small bees that usually live in holes in the wall or the ground. They often have reddy/ brown bottoms. They are harmless and should be left alone. Please do not call beekeepers about solitary bees.


swarm wasp<

Wasps are slender with black and yellow stripes. They are often confused with Honey Bees but are much more bright and yellow. Their nests are usually spherical and are made from paper substance  chewed from soft wood. They can also nest in the ground.  You should NEVER try to destroy a wasp nest yourself as this is dangerous and could even prove fatal. This must be done by a LICENCED Pest Controller. Please do not call beekeepers about wasps.


swarm hornet

Hornets are like big wasps and have a loud buzz. They are usually black and brown with a hint of orange, with a big curved tail. They often reside in sheds and roofs. LEAVE WELL ALONE and treat as wasps. Please do not call beekeepers about hornets.


There are many other less common types of bees and insects that are harmless and best left alone as they do no harm and are good for the environment.

Swarm Collectors

Collecting a swarm? Here's the BBKA's Swarm Collector's Protocol (opens in a new window).

Thank you for reading this and if you still think you have Honeybees please contact a local honeybee swarm collector via the British Beekeeping Association's website.

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