How to Remove a Bee Swarm

In this video I show how to remove a swarm of bees. Honey bees tend to swarm around May time in the UK. By this time they’ve survived winter and have been building in numbers. They do this by the queen laying more eggs and the worker bees doing lots of foraging to get nectar (to make honey) and pollen (the bees source of protein).

At some point the worker bees will decide to make a queen and when these hatch (or are about to hatch) the incumbent queen usually takes flight. If there’s more than one queen in the hive (e.g. more than one hatches or the current queen stays) they will fight to the death. The queen is the only honeybee which can sting multiple times without dying.

To remove a swarm take precautions – make sure it’s safe to do so. For example, you’re not about to get hit by a car, fall off a ladder or get electrocuted. A bee suit like the ones we’re wearing help protect from any stings, though they’re usually pretty docile while swarming.

You’ll need the following bits and pieces:

  • Bee suit
  • Hedge clippers/secateurs
  • A large box – this needs to be quite big and ideally not cardboard (though cardboard is better than nothing).
  • A soft brush
  • A large towel or blanket

This is how I approach collecting swarms.

  • Leave the bees to settle for at least half an hour. This way they’ll all be in one place.
  • Place the blanket under the ball of bees.
  • Remove any bits of branch or tree that might get in the way.
  • Place the box under the ball of bees.
  • Give the branch a right good shaking.
  • The ball of bees should largely fall into the box.
  • You’re after the queen ideally as all the other bees will follow her into the box.
  • Use the brush to gently sweep the remaining bees into the box.
  • You’re unlikely to get them all and you make need to do this for 5 minutes as they come back and land on the branch.
  • Pop the box on the floor and either half close the lid or put the towel / blanket over most of the top.
  • Leave for several hours (usually a few hours) but not when it’s dark or if it starts to rain.

Leaving the bees this way allows them to settle and any outliers will come and go into the box.

You can now remove the box and and rehome the bees, or seal the box up and transport. They will be okay usually overnight if you have to travel. They’ll probably start making comb if you leave them overnight.

Good luck.