|Our members would love to help you if you think you have a honey bee swarm or
colony that has taken up residence. Don't panic, just give one of the following
members a call. If you are unable to reach someone who normally handles your
area, try someone that is close. We all would like to see the bees removed
The honey bee, like other social insects, lives two lives. First they live as an individual like other creatures. Second, they are a member of the colony, the social structure that supports thousands of bees as one unit. In a sense this second life is more important than the first as it is the only way that an individual can make sure that their species does not become extinct. Although we many times look at the colony as a large collection of individuals, an understanding of honey bees is much improved by viewing the colony as a living creature. A creature that, like other animals, wants to preserve the species by having offspring. A "swarm" is that offspring.
At some point in a colony the collective urge starts activity that will lead to creating two creatures where there was one. After the split the original colony will continue to live in the old homestead and a new one will be formed in a new location. For this to occur, thousands of bees must leave behind their home in one cooperative action. The actions of individuals contribute to the preparations to undergo this transformation but it is the colony creature that begins to prepare days before the split occurs. Then on the fateful day up to 60% of the bees in the colony leave in mass to find a new home. It is not known how an individual bee, besides the queen, knows to leave as it does not depend on age or their position in the social structure. In fact it has been found that if a swarm starts but does not complete and then reoccurs, the second attempt does not contain the same bees as the first attempt -- again individuals are secondary to the collective creature.
When the swarm leaves it sends out scouts to look for a new home and the remainder settle down to wait for them to find it. They wait by finding some convenient place and form a ball or hanging structure as everyone "piles on" around the queen. Some will be flying around but most will be just "hanging out" waiting for the scouts to return. Since there could be 30 thousand bees in a swam they can form a rather large structure at this time.
For those that have little of knowledge about bees the swarm looks rather dangerous at this point. However, most of the time this is not the case for a couple of reasons. First, since they don't know when they will get their next meal, they have eaten all they can before leaving. This makes them feel contented and be a bit sluggish in flying -- more inclined to remain in one spot. Second, they have no home to defend as they just left it behind. So, unless they feel threatened (e.g., caught in a hand or clothing) they will not sting those near them.
If all goes well, the scouts will find a good location and the swarm will move on to become a new colony. This can take a few hours or it can be days. In some cases, when the scouts find nothing, the swarm will just set up housekeeping where it was waiting. In this case comb will be formed and life as a colony will begin, but in almost all cases it will be short lived. Honey bees need protection for the colder weather of winter and without it the colony dies.
Beekeepers like swarms as it provides bees for a new hive or, if the swarm is small, bees to add to a small hive. Our members will come and collect the swarm and provide a nice home for them. So, don't try to kill the swarm or have a pest control company do it, rather give us a call. If for some reason no one can help you, call a company that removes the swarm for a fee without killing the bees.
A word of warning is in order as not all can tell the difference between a wasp and a bee. Wasps are something that you want to stay away from so if you are in doubt stay clear of the swarm and call to have someone to take a look. Wasps do not form swarms but a large nest that has been overlooked for some time may give the impression of a swarm when one finally does notice it's presence.