Honey Bee Swarm...
Swarming is the process by which honey bee colonies reproduce to form new colonies. When a honey bee colony outgrows its home, becomes too congested, or too populated for the queen’s pheromones to control the entire workforce, then the workers signal that it is time to swarm. The workers begin building swarm cells for new queens. Once the swarm cells are constructed, and the queen lays eggs in them, then the colony changes its behavior. Foraging slows down, and the workers begin erratic movements within the hive.
Meanwhile, the queen quits laying eggs and reduces her weight to be able to fly. When the queen is ready, she leaves the hive and is followed by about half of the workers in a massive cloud of flying bees. The queen will find a nearby tree, land, and emit pheromones that signal the workers to cluster around her. The cluster will remain there for several hours while scout bees explore the area for a new home.
Often the cluster will leave, travel a mile or more, and reform on another branch far away from the original hive. The cluster will remain until scout bees locate a new hive or cavity to occupy. Once a suitable home is found, the entire cluster will take flight and move to the new location where it will begin building comb, developing new brood, and gathering pollen and nectar.
Each year in our region from the start of May, until mid July, honey bee colonies are building up their colony size and workforce. They are diligently working towards ensuring they have enough resources (pollen, honey, population) to ensure the continuation and survival of their colony and species through winter.
As beekeepers, we manage honey bee colony's natural instinct to outgrow their beehive's and swarm, two main ways. One, by gradually increasing the size of their beehive and available space by adding additional boxes (supers) and frames with foundation (preferably with drawn comb). And two, harnessing their reproductive energy by removing surplus strength (removing frames of brood from the hive), and creating a new honey bee colony (a nucleus or nuc).
When these management practices are not employed, or timed poorly, the beehive will complete its swarm impulse and relocate a portion of the hive. Once they leave their parent hive behind, swarms can be observed flying in large clusters, landing high in tree tops, or low on bushes, shrubs, or in tall grass. Sometimes that means that they are in inconvenient locations to home/ property owners, yet still accessible to beekeepers.
During this time, honey bees are generally quite docile, and not much of a threat (of being aggressive and stinging), as they do not have a beehive and resources to protect. This makes safely relocating a swarm a relatively straight forward process.
A beekeeper will suit up, decide on the best method for safely accessing the hive, and work to contain them in a box for transport relative to the size of the swarm cluster. Swarms can be small (the size of a grapefruit) or quite large (enough to fill multiple boxes). Often the beekeeper will take the time to find the Queen (if possible), and cage her to simply the swam catching process. Using frames of drawn comb, and honey the beekeeper will work towards shaking or capturing the bulk of the swarm in the transport box.
Once, caught the beekeeper can establish them as a new bee colony in their own beehive, or merge/ join them with an existing honey bee colony that could use a boost in population.
Each year, during swarm season, we are contacted by locals with reports of an accessible swarm on their property that they would like removed. We appreciate the opportunity to re-home honey bees that are considering relocating into the wild.
We appreciate not everyone has learned the distinct difference between wasps, hornets, bumble bees, and honey bees. As such, it is common for us to receive calls about honey bee swarms to find out they are actually not honey bees. If they are coming in and out of a paper nest, they are usually not honey bees.
If you observe an accessible swarm of honey bees that you would like relocated, please feel free to Contact Us. It helps us out greatly if you are able to provide us with specific information, including; photos and/ or video of the swarm (from a safe distance), the exact location (civic address, geographic markers, etc.), and an estimated size of the swarm. We will do our best to assess your situation and respond accordingly while they are still accessible. If we determine that your 'swarm' is not in fact honey bees, and remains a nuisance or a threat, we may recommend that you contact an exterminator, or recommend other alternatives for removal depending on your situation.
Honey Bee 'Cut Outs' (Wild Beehive Removal)
Sometime, honey bees can take up residence inside a structure (home, barn, shed, wall, garage, roof, etc.), and even be undetected for long periods of time. They may give up their location in May and June with an noticeable increase in traffic as their annual instinct to multiply (swarm) is emphasized.
If you have an undesirable honey bee hive in your structure that you would like removed, please Contact Us to assess your situation. We will do our best to provide a working solution towards a safe removal with minimal change to your structure. Please keep in mind that a honey bee Cut Out/ Wild Beehive Removal may involve light construction to gain access to the honey bee home in your structure, and that re-construction is at the home/ property owner's expense. Depending on the complexity of the relocation, an hourly rate of $25/hr may be included in the relocation expense to cover the beekeeper's time.
Honey Bee Swarms
Usually, swarming activity coincides with the nectar flow in the spring. This is when a wide variety of plants are in bloom, making nectar and pollen resources bountiful.
The primary swarm season is between March and May, but occasionally secondary swarms occur later in the season.
These secondary swarms often are not as successful in establishing new colonies because they are unable to build new combs and collect sufficient resources in time to survive the coming winter.
When honey bees are swarming, they are not nearly as defensive as they are around their hive because they are not protecting brood (developing young bees) or honey stores. They are more concerned with scouting for a new home and staying in protective clusters around the queen. If disturbed or agitated, they will defend the cluster; therefore, it is advisable for people to keep their distance from a swarm of bees to avoid being stung.
This is difficult to answer because it depends on weather conditions and when the scout bees find a suitable cavity to colonize. Typically, swarms only stay in one place for a few hours or maybe a day, but some swarms may remain for several days.
No. We appreciate the opportunity to rehome honey bees, and often find it mutually beneficial to provide this service without charge.
Although the swarm may be alarming, especially to people who are allergic to bee stings, please do not spray the swarm with an insecticide or attempt to destroy it. This actually may agitate the bees and increase the likelihood of being stung. More importantly, honey bees face many perils and have suffered significant declines in recent years. An array of pests, diseases, and environmental stresses have caused significant losses for beekeepers; therefore, bee swarms should be protected rather than destroyed
Honey Bee Removal
If bees have moved into a chimney, column, or wall space in a building, then they are no longer swarming and will remain to build a new colony. They will build wax combs, lay eggs, and store honey and pollen. Sealing the entrance or killing the colony will leave the bees and their hive materials inside the cavity to die and rot, which will attract rodents and pests. The colony and its provisions must be removed before the entrance is sealed. This may require some deconstruction, which may be beyond the abilities of the beekeeper. A few beekeepers around the state are capable of this type of work. Some beekeepers can deconstruct and remove the colony, but repairs will require the skills of a licensed contractor that can clean and restore the damaged structure.
Possibly. Each situation is unique. If the removal is expected to last longer than an hour, involves rental of construction tools, or other expenses to the beekeeper, these costs will be discussed as part of the removal plan, and passed on to the home/ property owner.
No, not at this time. Depending on the complexity of a removal, liability insurance may be considered and required. For now this will be on a case by case basis.