What do they look like?

Honeybees are approximately 15mm in length and light brown in colour. They are social insects in that they live in a nest which may contain several thousand workers.

How do I spot them?

Honeybees often cause concern in late spring or summer when the new Queen produced by the Bee Colony leaves the original colony accompanied by several thousand workers. This behaviour referred to as "swarming" is concerned with establishing a new nest site, so the new Queen can rear her own brood. When she settles on a tree or other support she is surrounded by a protective ball of bees. This swarm usually only lasts around a day or so. Although people may be frightened of a swarm, as long as it is left alone it will move on peacefully.

How do they live?

Bee eggs are laid only by the Queen. She lays one in each cell of the nest. The eggs hatch into tiny larvae, which grow rapidly. Five days after hatching the cell is covered by the adult worker bees that were nursing it. In the sealed cell it changes into a pupae and by approximately 21 days later it will have changed into an adult bee. It will chew through the cap of the cell and emerge.

How do I control them?

Wild bee colonies are under threat from a virus which is passed on by mites (Varroa) living in bee colonies. It is, therefore not wise to destroy bee swarms unless they are considered dangerous. There are alternative methods of control such as seeking the help of a beekeeper to remove the swarm.

Practical advice

  • If a swarm is in close proximity to buildings keep doors and windows closed.
  • Ensure the swarm are left alone and do not try to remove it yourself.
  • If the swarm is posing a danger then contact a local beekeeper (search for beekeepers).

For further assistance, please contact a local beekeeper or the British Beekeepers Association.

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