Thousands of honey bees have just invaded your property or adjacent area and have now settled in a large clump on a tree, a fence or on some other object. The mass of bees, called a swarm, may be as small as a softball or larger than a basket ball. You may feel terrified and think that your family is in great danger and you want them removed as soon as possible. The following questions and answers may help you understand the nature of swarming, how to remove the problem and also help a beekeeper save the honeybees.
Honey bees are extremely important, not only for honey production but also for the beneficial pollination they provide. We can thank the honeybee for helping to provide one-third of the food we consume. The honey bee population has declined dramatically recently due to a number of diseases, parasites and other factors.
Question: Is the swarm dangerous?
No. Honey bees in a swarm are unlikely to be aggressive and sting anyone unless you attack the bees. At this stage they do not have a home to defend and they have filled up with honey in preparation for the flight to their permanent home. If the honey bees stay and construct a wax nest they will become aggressive if you disturb them.
Question: Where did the honey bees in my yard come from?
There is a good possibility that a permanent nest (feral hive) of bees is located close to the swarm that has just landed. This could be in a cavity in a tree, a building, abandoned barrel, etc. This nest (colony) had a large population of honey bees and has run out of room to store honey, pollen and raise new bees. When this occurs the bees will begin to raise new queens and shortly before the new queens hatch the old queen will leave the hive with about one-half of the bees. The queen and bees will usually fly only a short distance, the queen will land on some object and the bees will cluster around her forming the swarm. If the first swarm does not reduce the crowding enough a second swarm may emerge.
Question: What will the swarm of honey bees do next if I don't do anything?
Scout bees from the swarm will fly out to try to find a permanent home. If they find a suitable cavity they return to the swarm and perform a dance within the cluster communicating the location, size and other information about the possible new home. Bees receiving this information will fly to this location to investigate. When a sizable number of bees do the dance for a given location the entire swarm will leave and fly to the new nest site.
Question: How long does it take bees to find a new home?
It could take just a few hours, several days or it may not occur at all. If the scout bees do not find a suitable site they may begin building an exposed nest at the swarm location (in a tree, on the side of your house, etc.) This nest may become a problem to you. If you want a beekeeper to capture the swarm it is important to contact him or her as soon as possible. It is best to telephone the beekeeper.
Question: Is it better to just let the bees find a new home naturally?
This course of action may work out for the bees, but contacting a beekeeper will most certainly give them a better chance of survival, particularly in urban or residential areas.
If the swarm is in Northern NJ, call EcoBee @ (973) 327-3443 or fill out the contact form and we'll send a beekeeper out to retrieve it.