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6 May 2020: Swarming beesA cartoon of a smiling bee carrying two baskets of pollen

On Monday one of our next-door neighbours phoned to say that a swarm of honey bees that had settled for a while in one of their flowerbeds had now flown over the fence and was swarming in our back garden. When I looked out I could see winged insects flying about, although they were too small and too fast to make out what they were.

After a short time they settled into one of our flowerbeds, on the north side of the garden in the sun. A few minutes later some of them started flying around that area. I went out to look at them as honey bees aren’t usually aggressive unless you get too near.

They stopped flying as soon as the sun moved off the spot where they had settled, which was around the base of some of our plants.

They were still there on Tuesday morning, in a large mass with just a few moving on the outside. They again started flying when the sun got to where they were and stopped when it moved round. I remembered a swarm that had come into the garden of our previous house and hoped that, like that one, they would soon move off.

When they were still there this morning I phoned a local beekeeper. Given where they were, he thought they would move off around midday. “But they will be hungry by now,” he said, “so don’t go near them.”

His forecast was pretty accurate. At about 11:15 they swarmed again and all flew around above our lawn for what seemed like ten minutes. They filled the whole area and the top of the swarm reached to the roof. It was scary to see the bees flying furiously around in such density and such a large volume of air.

Unfortunately when they came to rest again it was on one of our camellia bushes. The swarm hung there in the sun with a few bees flying around nearby.

A couple of hours later they swarmed once more. This time they flew above our lawn in a more compact group for a minute or so before all zooming off at speed over our garage, where I lost track of them.

I know nothing about beekeeping. I can only guess that the first couple of days they sent out scouts to find a suitable permanent home and then warmed themselves up on the camellia before following the scouts to the place they had selected.