Swarms

Honey Bee SwarmWhat is a swarm?

Swarming is a natural process caused by congestion in the hive. Early in the spring, the population of the honeybee colony can explode, creating overcrowding. As a result, the colony makes a decision to divide – what biologists call “colony-level reproduction”. The colony begins the magical process of producing a second queen. Once the development of a new queen is well under way, the old queen and approximately half the colony will depart the hive and begin looking for a new home.

Who should I contact to have a swarm removed?

If you have a swarm and would like to contact a beekeeper for removal, you may contact someone from the swarm capture volunteer list.  Please note the area each of the swarm collection volunteers is willing to service before calling.  Also, review the items listed under “When calling be prepared to answer the following questions” before contacting one of the volunteers.

Click here to view the swarm capture volunteer list.

Be advised that some swarms may be located such that it is next to impossible to remove them. A good example would be if the swarm is located high up in a tree. If this is the case, the beekeeper will advise you of the situation. Leave the swarm alone and they will be gone in a few hours, or a few days.

When calling be prepared to answer the following questions: 

  1. Are you sure they are honey bees? Yellow jackets and wasps are often mistaken for honey bees. See this identification guide for help in identification
  2. How big is the cluster and what does it look like? Honey bees cluster as one big mass of bees as shown in the picture at the top of the page. If they are a small cluster around a knot in a tree or hole in a wall they are no longer a swarm but an established hive which is much more difficult and time consuming to remove. If the ‘ball’ has a gray color or papery look then it is a wasp nest.
  3. Where is the swarm located? Is it hanging under a picnic table, or in a tree?
  4. How high is it? Height usually adds to the difficulty of removal and requires ladders or special equipment.
  5. How long have they been here? Swarms that have been there for more than a few days are probably an established hive. While many beekeepers will handle swarms, far fewer are prepared to handle established hives, especially those inside trees, houses or other structures.

Are swarms dangerous?

No. A swarm of bees are homeless bees and, as a result, only interested in finding a new home. They have no hive or honey to defend and tend to be non-aggressive and docile. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t defend themselves if someone hits the swarm with a stick!

Should I spray the swarm with gasoline?

Never! Honeybees are an important member of our environment and ecology. We need the honeybees to provide pollination of the food we eat and to provide us with honey.

What if I just decide to ignore them?

Once the scout bees have discovered a new home for the colony, they will be on their merry way. Normally, a swarm will depart in a few hours, sometimes a few days.

Are swarms of any value to beekeepers?

Absolutely! A captured swarm is a new hive for a beekeeper … and best of all, it’s free!