For many people, walking outside to find a massive group of bees hanging out is a terrifying prospect. However, that’s precisely what can happen during swarming season. Don’t panic just yet! Honey bee swarms are harmless, especially when you know what they are and how to react to them. With a little knowledge and a calm attitude, you can get rid of a honey bee swarm—or hire a professional to remove it—without harming yourself or the bees. Stay safe and informed with this rundown of everything you need to know about honey bee swarms.
When and Why Do Honey Bees Swarm?
Honey bee swarms are a natural response to overcrowding in a hive after the spring population boom. If a honey bee colony outgrows its hive, the bees will make a new queen. This new queen will stay at the current hive, while the old queen will fly off with half the colony’s population to start a new hive in a different location. However, the laying queen can’t fly long distances. Most of the honey bees will stop somewhere to rest while scout bees look for a good place to make their new hive. This is the swarm that most people see during spring and summer: hundreds or even thousands of bees resting on a tree branch or picnic bench while they wait for a new home.
Spotting a Swarm
If honey bee swarms are natural, why is it a problem when you run into one? Many people get nervous around bees because they don’t want to experience a painful sting. If one bee makes you nervous, running into a bundle of them can be alarming. The good news is that, like many animals, honey bees only sting to defend themselves. Plus, a bee swarm is even less aggressive than your typical beehive because they’re not protecting any brood. If you spot a swarm, your best course of action is to leave it alone. Within a few hours, the scout bees will return and lead the swarm away to its new home. Never approach or bother a honey bee swarm unless you’re a professional.
Removing a Swarm Safely
Sometimes, the honey bees choose a less-than-desirable place to rest while they wait for their scouts to return. They might hang out on a park bench, in a doorway, or beneath a corner of your roof. If a swarm is in your way, you should still do your best to avoid it. Instead of tackling it yourself, call a professional to help. Local beekeepers are a great resource for safely removing swarms. Many beekeepers catch swarms to bring back to their own apiaries in swarm traps. Even if that’s not the goal, the beekeeper will be able to remove the swarm without anyone—humans or bees—getting hurt.
With this list of everything you need to know about honey bee swarms in mind, homeowners and beekeepers alike can navigate swarm season safely. If you’re a beekeeper on the lookout for local swarms this spring, make sure you protect yourself with a hat and veil, a beekeeping suit, and other essential beekeeping equipment from Mann Lake.