Don’t mess with the queen: What to do if you see a swarm of bees this spring


The worker bee might be the emblem for the city of Manchester, but many would panic if they came across one in the street. However, a swarm of bees poses little danger if you know what to do.

According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), you can see honey bees from spring until late autumn, which usually means from April to October.

READMORE: Incredible moment thousands of bees descend on BMW outside Manchester city center office block

You might come across a swarm of honey bees lodged in trees, in chimneys, on roofs, wall spaces, on the floor and even on cars.

A photo of a honey bee
a honey bee

Sue Fink, a retired hairdresser from Oldham, owns two hives, containing more than 60,000 bees combined.

She describes herself as a ‘gentle beekeeper’ because selling honey is not her only motivation for keeping bees – she has a genuine passion for looking after the winged insects. She has become a swarm remover for people in Oldham, Rochdale and surrounding areas.

A photo of Sue Fink, the gentle beekeeper, in her bee suit
Sue Fink, the gentle beekeeper, in her bee suit

Sue told the MEN: “W hen you see swarms of bees attacking people in a film, that will not happen in real life. Because a swarm of bees is sworn to defend the queen bee, who is in the middle of that swarm. All they’re interested in is protecting their queen. You could walk past the swarm, you could stand and watch them, or sit underneath them, and they would completely ignore you.

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“Remember, worker bees are sworn to protect their queen. And if you disturb them with a stick and if the queen bee moves out, then the worker bees would be frenzied and they would sting you.”

A photo of a bee on someone's hand
Bee swarming season is approaching

Explaining the science behind why bees swarm, Sue continued: ” What happens sometimes is that the queen bee may be aging. She may be failing. “And the bees detect this- their number one drive is the protection of the colony. So some of the bees scout for a new possible place to live in, and as soon as the queen leaves, the bees surround her in this ball.

“And because she can’t fly very far, she may land on a wall, in a tree or on a car or wherever. And the bees will not harm you at all.

A photo of bees swarming on two cars in Rydal Street, Leigh
Bees swarming on two cars in Rydal Street, Leigh

“So that’s when I come along in my suit and with my box. I scrape the bees into the box and as long as I have got the queen bee into the box, the other bees will follow in.

A photo of bees swarming on a sign in Manchester in January 2021
A photo of bees swarming on a sign in Manchester in January 2021

“Swarming is completely natural for a bee colony. Inside a beehive, you have a queen, and maybe 20 to 30 male bees, along with thousands of worker bees.

“The worker bee only lives for about six weeks. The worker bees do all the work and they literally burn themselves out. As they are dying, the queen is constantly laying eggs, which emerge 30 days later as new worker bees.

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“So it’s a complete circle of life.”

When Sue was asked to remove a swarm of bees from a tree branch by a car wash business in Heywood, the customer posted a TikTok video of Sue arriving with her bee suit and carefully dealing with the swarm.

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Greater Manchester was buzzing with swarms of bees last year. In May 2021, a swarm of bees settled on two cars in a street in Leigh, leaving residents stunned and some frightened.

A photo of bees swarming on a car in Leigh
Bees swarming on a car in Leigh

The following month, a huge swarm of bees descended onto a BMW car parked outside an office block on St James Square near Deansgate. Later that week, another swarm of bees were spotted on a sign on Peter Street near St Peter’s Square.

The swarm was one of the biggest that Manchester City Council’s pest control team had ever collected.

A photo of Bees swarming in Manchester in January 2021
Bees swarming in Manchester in January 2021

Similarly, in Wigan, a massive swarm of bees took over a business park last summer, which was described by office workers as “a scene out of a horror film”.

Most honey bee swarms are not aggressive, but people are asked to stay away from them as a precaution.

A photo of a 'massive' swarm of bees which took over a business park in Wigan in May 2021
A ‘massive’ swarm of bees took over a business park in Wigan in May 2021

What to do if you see a swarm of bees

  • leave the bees alone
  • Contact your local beekeepers’ association to have the swarm removed safely
  • A simple Google search will tell you where you can find your local swarm collector
  • If the swarm is particularly difficult to remove, contact a pest control service
  • Don’t poke the bees with a stick, rocks or any object
  • Don’t spray water, liquids or pesticides at the bees
  • Don’t use smoke to drive the bees away
  • Don’t attempt to injure or destroy the swarm of bees
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A photo of Honey bees working hard in the spring sunlight
Honey Bees working hard in the spring sunlight

To contact Sue Fink for a swarm removal, you can find her on Facebook here.

READMORE:The bees are back in town… yet another swarm spotted at popular Manchester city center drinking spot

READMORE:The unexpected places where real bees live in Manchester


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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