While a swarm of bees can be scary, even terrifying for some, it is not something to fear. Here are the easy steps for how to deal with a swarm.
What Is a Swarm?
A swarm of honey bees is a large group of honey bees and their queen that has left their hive in search of a new home. You might see thousands of bees in flight. Or you might find them hanging on a tree, like the photo above.
Before they leave their hive, the bees leave behind a new developing queen and some bees to keep the original colony going. It is the honey bee’s way of making two colonies out of one.
Once the honey bees leave their hive they fly together to a nearby object (usually a tree) to rest. Several scouts leave the group and search for a cavity to live in. Once they find one, the scouts come back and communicate to the group through their “waggle dance” the direction of the cavities and their enthusiasm for the new home. Then the bees decide as a group which one to choose (no kidding, for more on how the honey bees make decisions collectively and democratically, read the book by Thomas D. Seeley, Honeybee Democracy ). Then they all fly off together to the new site. This process could take a few hours to a few days.
What to Do for a Swarm
First stay calm. The bees are not dangerous or interested in harming you; they are simply looking for a new home. Because they do not have a hive to defend, the bees are peaceful. But like any living creature, you want to respect the bees and not threaten them in any way.
Since the first stop is usually temporary, the bees will probably leave. If you see them building honeycomb, then they intend to stay.
If you enjoy eating, please do not spray bees with a pesticide, for we need our honey bees alive.
Call a beekeeper as soon as possible to remove the swarm. Do not try to move a swarm on your own. A beekeeper can capture and remove the bees from your yard without destroying the colony. Beekeepers love free bees and are happy to help. (Generally beekeepers do not charge for this service, but keep the bees as payment.) If you don’t know a beekeeper, your county probably has a beekeeper’s association that can help. You can find the association online.
What to Do if the Swarm Is in a Building
If honey bees find an open cavity in a house or building they may decide to stay and build honeycomb. The swarm of bees and honeycomb should be removed by a beekeeper with carpentry skills. You can also search for “live bee removal” services online as well. A skilled beekeeper can remove and save the colony, while repairing the building and ensuring bees can’t return.
You do not want to spray the colony with pesticides–again we need every honey bee alive. Besides, pesticides will not kill the entire colony. The living bees will return with other bees (attracted to the stores of honey) and suffer from exposure to the pesticides.
Swarms are a sign of the honey bee’s struggle to live on. So if you see a swarm, treat it as a sign of good fortune.
Featured Photo copyright: ZandeUK / 123RF Stock Photo