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Honey bees swarm from the end of April until July. A swarm consists of up to 25,000 bees, headed by the old queen and is part of their natural reproductive cycle. The swarm initially settles within 50 metres of their original hive and then scouts are sent out to find a permanent home and the swarm moves to a new location. The swarm may settle at various sites before a permanent home is found. The permanent site will always be in an enclosed space such as a hollow tree, or more worryingly a chimney, or your loft.
We do not kill swarms of bees; we collect and release them elsewhere. Unfortunately if the swarm goes into a chimney, or other inaccessible area, it is usually not possible to get them out alive. You are able to live with bees living in a disused chimney and our advice is free. It is important to contact us straight away if you want to get rid of them as bees make honey and nothing is more attractive to bees than honey. If you allow a store of honey to build up in a chimney, even after the original colony has been eradicated, every passing swarm of bees will go straight down the chimney. Chimneys which have accommodated an established colony must either be capped off or swept. (sweeping is generally not an option when it is blocked with several hundred pounds of honey comb).
There are a number of different species of bumble bee, most live in colonies of 60-80, but colonies of white-tailed bumble bees can reach 400. Bumble bees are non-aggressive, the die if they sting and the death of a single bee represents a significant loss to a small colony. Most colonies fizzle out after 6-8 weeks; we will take the colony away and re-locate it more than 2 miles away (less than this and they just fly back home), but ideally they should be left alone and only in very very exceptional circumstances would we destroy colonies of bumble bees.
Spring is the time for many solitary bees which are often confused with swarms of honey bees. Many species form mating swarms, which generally appear in the same place year after year, attracted by a sunny wall. Most of these species are stingless and disappear by early June, spending the summer as larvae. Mating swarms of solitary bees are loosely associated and disappear in the evening re-appearing when it gets warm the next day. Swarms of honey bees form a solid mass which does not go away and come back again.
These are only seen in the spring and early summer. They tend to congregate around old and poorly pointed walls. Contrary to what the name suggests, they do not cause structural damage. They are stingless and disappear by about the second week in June.