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Swarming season is nearly here! Don't panic!

As we come into April ,as soon as the temperatures pick up a bit, it will be the start of swarming season which will last through to mid June. Swarming is a completely natural trait of honeybees - it is the way that colonies reproduce.

If you come across a swarm it can be intimidating, there can be up to 20,000 honey bees flying around, however, there is no need to panic. Always give a swarm space unless you know what you are doing, but in general bees are at their most docile when they are swarming - they are focused on finding a new home.

An experienced beekeeper will be able to come and help "collect" the swarm and move them into a hive where they will thrive.

If come across a swarm in West Berkshire you can call us (Isaac and I rescued 12 swarms last year) or call the Newbury and District Beekeepers Association Swarm line and an experienced, insured beekeeper will come to assist you. Swarms collected tend to be distributed to members of the Association who need their first bees or want to increase. Make sure whoever you ask to help knows what they are doing and have insurance in case it goes wrong! Most beekeepers don't charge for collecting swarms, although donations to the Newbury Beekeepers to assist with their promotion of bee welfare are appreciated.

The process of collecting a swarm is fascinating and one area of beekeeping I really enjoy - it can appear to be "bee whispering" but is really about understanding how bees behave and react in different scenarios.

The simple rules are bees like to move up and into darkness, so placing a simple straw skep over the swarm will encourage them to move up and into the basket on their own. A little smoke at the bottom helps encourage the stragglers. If the swarm is hanging on a batch it can often be gently lowered into a box.

Provided the queen is within the main cluster the remaining bees will release a special "follow us" scent into the air which will attract lots all the others to join them.

Once most of the bees are contained the "flying bees" scout bees looking for a new home will gradually come back over the day. Most swarm collectors should come back at dusk to collect all the bees. You should be less with minimal bees the following day. If the swarm is removed from the site whilst the bees are still flying a new cluster can form.

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