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 Wendy Langley (01444 892103/ 07789 463764) or another a local honeybee swarm collector via the British Beekeepers Association website.


2A Honey Bee in flighthoneybee for swarmhb swarm

Honeybees are slender insects that are about half an inch 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 above). 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 permanant structure such as a chimmney 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.

Please do not attempt to kill the bees. Even if you manage to kill them you will leave behind honey which will attract other Honeybees as well as Wasps so you will be back to where you started. Any residual pesticide used to kill the colony will be picked up and could be transferred to managed colonies of Honey Bees and kill them too.  
If the origin of the poisoning can be identified, the householder could be prosecuted and fined.

Please note that he so called 'Killer Bees' (Africanised) DO NOT occur in the UK.

Honeybees, bumblebees and solitary bees are protected and may not be destroyed other than in exceptional circumstances.


swarm bumblebee

These are very commonly mistaken for honeybees. They are however larger and furrier.  They have two sizes. The Queen bumblebee can be about the size of the end of your thumb and the smaller which is the 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. The bumblebee does not 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. If they are in the lid of a compost bin hanging down, 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. Please do not call beekeepers about bumblebees.

More Information on Bumble Bees can be found here:

Are small bees that usually live in small holes in the wall or 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.


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



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