Mrs Burney’s Bee Club and the Fryland’s Wood staff had great fun collecting a swarm of bees this week.

One of the hives at the apiary swarmed. Swarming is how bee colonies reproduce. When the bees in the hive decide they need some more space they use an ordinary worker egg to make a new queen. They do this by putting the egg into a special cell called a queen cup. When the egg hatches, the workers feed the larva with a substance called royal jelly which makes the ordinary worker larva into a new queen.

A queen cup with a larva inside

When she hatches out, the old queen leaves the hive with half the workers and settles in a cluster somewhere nearby. These bees stay in the cluster while they send out scouts to find a suitable place to start a new colony. This is usually when a bee keeper will come along and collect the cluster to put into a hive.

A swarm of bees clustered on an easy to reach tree branch

Our Swarm

Unfortunately, the bees that swarmed at Fryland’s Wood decided to cluster 20 foot up a tree. This made them very difficult to collect. We could have let them fly off and find their own new home but that may have been in someone’s chimney or wall cavity which would be a real inconvenience.

Our swarm was in a much less accessible place

Teamwork makes the dream work! ❤

So on Monday the Mrs Burney’s Bee Club team, along with the woodland expertise and high tech equipment of the Fryland’s Wood crew, set about retrieving the swarm. Well I say high tech… we had a long ladder, some long handled lopers and a really long pole with a bucket taped to the end. Most importantly everyone was suited up with gloves on to protect from stings.

With the bucket on the pole positioned underneath the cluster, we were able to use the long handled loppers to cut off the branch holding the bees.

Then the bees were lowered down to me to be taken to the hive.

Hiving the bees

We had a hive ready to put the bees in within the apiary. One of the fascinating things about swarms of bees is watching them march into a hive. We put a ramp up to the entrance of the hive and tipped the bees onto the ramp. They will naturally walk upwards and into the dark cavity of the hive. This gave us time to spot the queen within the cluster and make sure she had gone inside.

It’s always a joy to watch honey bees marching into their new home.

A huge thank you to all the Fryland’s crew (https://www.frylandswood.co.uk/) who helped and to the rest of the Mrs Burney’s Bee Club team ❤🐝

Remember it is dangerous to handle honey bees without the proper equipment. If you discover a swarm of bees contact your local beekeepers association for help to retrieve it. In Croydon that is the Croydon Beekeepers Association at http://www.croydonbeekeepers.org.uk/ or contact us at Mrs Burney’s Bee Club, we’d be happy to help.

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