A strong, healthy bee colony reproduces itself in a springtime process called swarming. A swarm is a unit of bees containing one queen and about ten thousand worker bees. After the swarm leaves the home colony, it flies to a nearby tree, bush, fencepost, streetlight, etc, and clusters in a ball, hanging from their resting place. The cluster is homeless; its’ main challenge is to find a new place to live, like a tree cavity, or a hole in another structure. While clustered, the bees engage in a fascinating, democratic decision-making process to choose from one of the many potential home sites that the scout bees have located from miles around. NPR did a great short segment on this process, which you can listen to here. Honey bees in a swarm are gentle. If left undisturbed, a swarm will locate to new quarters within a period as short as a few hours or as long as a few days. When they find a new home, they’ll disappear from your property as quickly as they appeared.
For more information about honey bee swarms and honey bee behavior, see Dr. Tom Seeley’s enthralling videos, produced for NPR’s Science Friday by Carl Flatow, at http://www.sciencefriday.com/about/beevideos.html
This page will help you respond to a swarm whether you are a beekeeper, homeowner, or property manager. Beekeepers will often remove swarms for no charge, without harming the bees, and relocate them to a better location where they won’t be in conflict with humans.
You will also find help here for removing unwanted bees from a building or structure.
To read more about Spring Management to prevent swarms, click here.
Help! I’m a new beekeeper and my bees have swarmed! What do I do?
You may wish to contact a club mentor or board member, or you can send a descriptive email, including contact information, to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll try to help guide you in the right direction.
Are you a member of EMBA? Visit our forum to discuss swarms and ask swarm management questions.