|What is a Honey Bee Swarm?|
Swarming is the natural process in which honey bee colonies reproduce themselves.
With good weather and plenty of forage, usually in early spring, hive populations increase dramatically.
The bees become overcrowded, and they raise a new queen. The old queen leaves the hive,
accompanied by thousands of worker bees. This is known as a swarm. The swarm usually lands
nearby the hive, in a cluster on a tree limb or other object. Scout bees are sent off to search for a new home.
The majority of the bees remain with the swarm, and cluster around the queen to protect her and save energy.
After returning scouts determine a new home, the entire swarm flies off to their new home. Swarms may remain
stationary for only a few hours or a day or two. Swarms are temporary, and if left alone, will eventually move on.
Swarms are rarely dangerous. The bees have gorged themselves on honey, and as such are bloated and have a reduced
ability to sting. They will use the energy from the honey to build comb in their new hive. The bees will generally
not be defensive, as they have no brood or honey stores to protect.
A suitable new home can be a tree hollow or other cavity such as your chimney, attic, shed, etc.
In a human-inhabited area, there are few suitable new home locations for a swarm.
If bees get established in a building or structure, removing them is costly and messy and
often fatal to the colony.
The best time for a beekeeper to retrieve the swarm is while it is resting.
Swarms are valuable to beekeepers because they can be used to start new hives. Bees in a
swarm are generally very healthy, as swarms are cast from prosperous survivor colonies.
Each year, many bee colonies do not survive due to reasons such as diseases and mites.
As such, bees in a swarm are survivors, and adapted to local conditions.
Beekeepers will often come collect a swarm free of charge, especially if the swarm is easy to reach.
Local beekeeper clubs publish phone numbers of beekeepers willing to do swarm captures.
A beekeeper captures a swarm by transferring the swarm into a box. The swarm is coaxed, shaken, or
transferred by hand into the box. Once the queen and a majority of the bees are in the box, the other
bees will enter willingly. The beekeeper will usually wait until dusk, for any stray bees and returning
scouts to rejoin their queen. The beekeeper then closes up the box and takes them away.
|Why save the swarm?|
Honey bees and other pollinators are in decline due to pesticides, monocropping,
diseases, reduced habitat, and other reasons. Honey bee populations have been
declining for decades, largely due to a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse
Disorder (CCD), which is a combination of pesticides, mites, and other problems.
Beekeepers are desperately trying to re-populate the bees. As such, each and every
swarm presents an excellent opportunity for us to help the bees.
Honey bees are valuable because they pollinate a large number of fruits,
nuts, and other produce. Honey bees are important pollinators of almonds, apples,
blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupes, cranberries, cucumbers, forage crops,
kiwifruit, squash and watermelons. In addition, honey bees pollinate the seeds
necessary for many crops (e.g., onions). Without bees, we would have significantly
fewer food options.
|If you find a swarm|
Confirm that they are, in fact, honey bees. Yellow jackets and wasps look similar
to honey bees, but are never found together in a swarm of hundreds.
Contact us (or another beekeeper), and provide the following information:
- Where is swarm located (physical address)?
- Is the swarm on your property?
- Has the swarm landed on an object? If so, what? (tree, hedge, ledge, fence)?
- How large is the swarm? (baseball, football, basketball, or larger)?
- How high up is the swarm?
- Can the swarm be reached from the ground or is a ladder required?
- Is there easy access to the location of the swarm?
- Are there electrical lines or other hazards nearby?
- How long has the swarm been there?
- Are there any special concerns in the area? (children, pets, livestock, water hazards, bees inside the house)
- Have you called anyone else? It's frustrating to make a trip only to find that someone else was called and arrived first.
- Has the swarm been sprayed with anything at all (including water from the hose)?
- Your name and phone number
If the swarm leaves, notify the beekeeper so they don't waste their time and effort
Honey bees are beneficial insects and should not be exterminated.
Although honey bees are not aggressive during swarming, you run the risk of getting stung if you try to spray them.
What to do:
- Keep people and pets away.
- Avoid disturbing the swarm.
- Stay at least 10 to 15 feet away from the swarm.
- Wait for the beekeeper to arrive.
What NOT to do:
- Do NOT spray swarms with pesticides, water, or anything else.
- DO NOT try to move, disturb, nor trap the bees.
- DO NOT call an exterminator before consulting with a knowledgeable beekeeper!
Unless a bee becomes tangled in someone’s hair or trapped inside clothing, it is unlikely to sting.
|What the beekeeper will do|
The beekeepeer will tell you the approximate time that they will arrive.
The bees will be relocated and not destroyed.
There is generally no charge for a simple swarm catch.
However, gas money or a donation to a local bee club is appreciated.
A cut-out (i.e., removal of a colony from a wall or other structure) will
usually involve a fee dependent upon the extent of the work involved.