When might I get a swarm?
The swarming season usually starts in April or May and this is when the collectors start to get calls. Please remember that a colony will cast a swarm when the time is right for the bees – not when convenient for the hopeful beekeeper. When a swarm becomes available, our volunteer collectors will consult the swarms requests list and start by calling the person at the top. If no answer, they will call the next person, and so on – they probably won’t leave a message as the swarm will need to be put in a hive as soon as possible, and the collector may not have facilities to hold on to it.
When a collector calls, they will check you have a hive ready and waiting, fitted with frames and foundation, and have a suitable location immediately available (the answer should be ‘yes’, or you shouldn’t have submitted a swarm request!). The collector may be able to hold the swarm for a few hours – but if you’re not ready to take it, it’s the collector’s choice to wait or call the next person.
The list is prioritised so those with fewest colonies are above those with more; (competent beginners with no bees are at the top). For safety reasons, we won’t provide bees to beginners unless they’ve attended our practical training sessions.
Will I get a swarm if I wait long enough?
In most recent years, we’ve been able to provide a swarm to all beginners who’ve requested one, and also to others who already have a colony or two. BUT, we cannot guarantee swarms to everyone who wants one, and if you don’t answer the phone, you might miss one and it’s possible that someone gets two swarms before you get your first (but you won’t lose your place on the list if you miss a call). The best swarms come early; those in July (or after) may need a lot of care to survive the winter.
Please remember that all our collectors are volunteers who are providing an unpaid service to the public and they want aspiring beekeepers to get bees. The collection of swarms and the administration of this system is time consuming, so please be patient and understanding if you don’t get bees as quickly as you’d like, or if the collector has a good reason to offer bees to someone below you on the list. The only way to guarantee getting bees is for you to make your own arrangements with another beekeeper or a retail bee supplier.