Swarms are a normal Spring or Summer part of the natural life cycle of a honeybee colony. The colony is reproducing by dividing. A queen leaves with thousands of worker bees, possibly up to half the colony. Having filled up with honey, they are docile and normally not interested in humans – but of course children and pets should be kept safely away. The cloud of swirling bees soon settles, condensing into a tight cluster, wherever the queen has rested. They might be hanging from a tree, bush, lamp-post, park bench, gutter, bicycle – or anywhere! They stay clustered only while scout bees go searching for a hole in a tree or a building that would make a suitable permanent home for their new colony. Selecting that new home may take mere minutes, usually an hour or two, rarely a few days. Once chosen, they fly there as a group – but importantly, after they have entered their new (enclosed) home, they are not easily removed.

While the swarm is fairly briefly clustered in the open, it is (usually!) straightforward for a beekeeper to deal with. Because there is no knowing how long they may remain clustered, time is of the essence. The sooner a beekeeper is called, the better chance of avoiding a greater nuisance later. We have club members covering most of East Kent – all around Canterbury from Faversham to Folkestone and Deal, and are happy to arrange for a beekeeper member to collect the swarm and rehome it, often with a beekeeping beginner. 

It is easy to think that a lot of bees attracted to the nectar in the flowers of a tree or shrub are a swarm. However, a swarm of honeybees will form a tight cluster, larger than a tennis ball and more typically the size of a football or even larger. A swarm consists of thousands of bees! Here is a closeup video of honeybees in a swarm cluster – using the waggle dance to communicate a potential new nest site.

Report a swarm to Canterbury Beekeepers here

Individual worker honeybees are about the size and shape of a wasp, but brown not yellow. To help identification, the pictures below (though sadly not to scale) show a honeybee for comparison with other types of insects which do not form swarms and which we cannot help with. We are amateur beekeepers, not pest controllers! If you think you have Bumblebees, if at all possible, please leave them be – they are important pollinators and a threatened part of our ecosystem. Their nests only last a few months before they are abandoned when the next generation of queens disperse to hibernate individually through the winter. All bees are vegetarian, don’t ‘sting for a living’ and, unthreatened, will ignore you. You can contact The Bumblebee Conservation Trust for more advice but they advise against moving bumblebee colonies. The “Tree Bumblebee” likes to use nest boxes – so it’s best not to site these near to your doors or windows.