Some 15,000 bees swarming at Manchester Cathedral!

Published: 28 May 2015

Manchester Cathedral has bee hives on the roof and on Wednesday 28 May, some 15,000 bees were spotting swarming on a cross at Manchester Cathedral. Luckily, the Canon Apiarist, Adrian Rhodes, was on hand to remove the bees.


Canon Adrian Rhodes explains why bees swarm:

Swarming is the natural way in which honey bees reproduce, usually taking place in the spring, as the colony starts to expand. When the bees sense the time is right, the younger 'nurse' bees start selecting eggs to make into new queens. They extend the cells in which they were laid, and feed them with a lot of special food, called 'royal jelly'. When they get near to the time of sealing-in the larvae - where they continue to develop to become new queens - the old queen, and the older, flying bees, start to make preparations to leave.

The bees send out scouts to look for new potential sites to move into. Then they swarm - the queen and most of the older bees; they usually settle first on a tree or similar, not too far from the hive. They take time to decide where to move - sometimes this is few hours, sometimes up to a couple of days. Then they move into their new accommodation and start building a hive.

Bees that are swarming are not a danger, if they are left alone. One reason is that in order to create a new hive, and have food to live on, during the transition, the swarming bees fill themselves up with honey. This means they can't bend their abdomen - and so can't sting. There will be a few guard and scout bees who retain this ability- but if left alone, they aren't a problem.

A swarm is fairly easily collected and removed by a competent beekeeper. Anyone who sees a swarm of honey bees should contact either the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) or the Manchester and District Beekeeping Association (M&DBKA). Please try to check that they are honey bees and not bumble bees - which are bigger and rather furry.

Beekeepers are in a battle of wits with the bees, to try to stop them swarming. They try to fool them into thinking they've already swarmed, by swapping their accommodation round. Often, it works - but this year the weather has been so poor that the bees have had little to do but stay indoors more and make mischief. However, the weather is due to improve next week - and hopefully, the bees will get out foraging and bringing in the honey crop.


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