Swarms and Beekeepers 2018-04-11T19:44:37+00:00

SWARM COLLECTION (for the Beekeeper)

Members may wish to consider adopting the advice provided below which is based on the BBKA information leaflet L004. The YBKA committee endeavour to keep abreast of all current developments and do our best to pass this information on when appropriate. As with many issues involving bees it is often up to the member to use common sense and sound judgement – those less experienced members can be assured of advice if they require it – this can be obtained by sending us an email detailing what the problem is.

  • If you get a swarm there a few things to be considered.
  • Is the swarm carrying a varroa load?
  • Is the swarm carrying any disease?
  • Has the swarm got a virgin or a mated queen?

Once you hive the swarm you can carry out the following checks:

  1. Put a varroa board under the hive and after 48hrs check the mite drop, more than 10 mites in 48hrs and it is time to treat. The swarm, if newly collected, will NOT have sealed brood. All the varroa will be on the bees (phoretic) so one treatment of an approved Oxalic acid treatment will kill 95% or more of the mites in one shot. The treatment should be carried out in the evening after flying has finished, obey the instructions on the mixing of the product, the usual treatment rate is 5cc per seam of bees with a maximum of 50cc per hive, again check the instructions on the packet.
  2. Clean off the Varroa board and check daily for a few days. The first day will be heavy drop then virtually nothing.
  3. The queen, if mated, will need drawn comb to lay in. There will be a delay while the bees draw comb. Swarms should be housed on foundation. This drawing of comb from foundation will use up any stores in the bees honey sacs and hence most/ all pathogens will not have anything to reside in.
  4. Feeding. After 48hrs if there is bad weather or a lack of forage it is a good idea to provide the colony with light syrup 1lb/pt water. A kilo bag of sugar in a 4pt milk container with 2 pints of warm water will give you about 3 pints of syrup which should be adequate for a start. Swarms will draw comb readily, because they have moved location.
  5. An inspection of any drawn comb should answer the question regarding the queen mating. If you find her and she is unmarked wait until you see eggs before marking. This gives her the best chance of a good mating flight. You might have a prime swarm with the old queen from a colony or you may have a cast with a virgin so she can take up to 3 weeks before she lays. The queen needs at least a week after hatching before she mates. Mating flights need good weather, so can be delayed and after mating there may be a delay before laying starts.
  6. Check the brood once laying has started regularly. EFB affects the larvae which should be pearly white and clearly segmented. Healthy, sealed brood should be regular and clean looking, not greasy or perforated (possible AFB) but if in doubt take advice. The NBU Beebase site has good pictures of both healthy and diseased brood, as well as the procedure for reporting suspected infections. Register your apiary location on Beebase while you are on the site.


Collectors are eligible to ask for ‘reasonable expenses’. These would normally be mileage (normally around 40 – 45p peer mile) plus any other out-of-pockets costs. Any other significant charge would invalidate the insurance cover. It is acceptable to ask for a ‘voluntary donation’ to association funds. We see no reason why beekeepers cannot ultimately sell on a swarm (for a modest fee) once all the checks have been carried out and it is varroa and disease free.


Anyone treating bees can get prosecuted and could get fined up to £25,000 for treating a bee colony and honeycomb. There is a lot of confusion about how to deal with bees in the UK. Often its misunderstood that the bees are protected, when it’s not the bees themselves but the honeycomb they live on. This is because honeycomb can get into the human food chain and cause serious illness when it’s been illegally treated.