Swarm Recovery & Removal

  • REPORTING A SWARM

WHAT TO DO If YOU SEE A SWARM OF HONEY BEES? 

Call the Swarm Dispatch at (707) 496-9707

If you have sighted a swarm outside or have bees within a wall or other structure, please read the following information and either call the dispatch or contact a beekeeper from the geographical list below to come and collect the swarm.

Please do not spray the bees with anything! No water, especially no pesticides!

This will endanger the bees, yourself and the beekeeper. Honey bees are usually calm and not aggressive when they swarm. It is important to give them space until the beekeeper arrives.

If you find honey bees clustered outside….   Call the swarm dispatch or check the list (by location) to find a beekeeper on the Swarm tab of the Swarm/Wasp List to remove them free of charge. If the bees are not on your property, notify the owner. The beekeeper cannot enter a property to remove a swarm if the owner is not present or aware of situation.

If you find honey bees in a building wall or other enclosed space….Find a beekeeper on the Cutout tab of the Swarm/Wasp List who can remove them. Be aware that there may be a cost to extract the bees from inside a wall or other structure and may involve deconstructing the space. If you have wasps, find a person who will remove them on the Wasp tab of the Swarm/Wasp List.

The HCBA Swarm/Wasp/Cutout list

This list includes individuals who are available to respond to honey bee swarms and also has lists for those able to handle building cutouts/extractions and wasps. This is a community service for our region, facilitated by the Humboldt County Beekeepers Association to reduce the mortality of honey bees that swarm as the majority of managed bee colonies that swarm have low survival rates.


Why do Honey Bees Swarm?

The Bee's Perspective
In the springtime, abundant flowers produce nectar and pollen that provide nutrition for growing domestic honey bee colonies. As the colonies naturally expand their numbers, they will eventually outgrow their hive or tree hollow and a swarm with the old queen and about two-thirds of the bees leave the original hive. Swarming is a natural event in the life of a bee colony It’s a good sign, indicating that the colony is strong enough to divide. In this way, the bee colony reproduces. Unfortunately, when managed honey bees swarm, there are risks and they often do not survive. It can be difficult for them to find a safe location. When the swarm finds a place to rest or settle, it is often in the gardens or buildings of the local community and can present a problem for people. Experienced beekeepers can intervene, rescue the swarm and rehive the bees, providing them with a safe home. As for rescue, time is of the essence as cold weather, rain and other threats can be fatal to the exposed bees. The swarm itself typically consists of 20,000-40,000 female worker bees, a number of drones and a queen and they are intent on re-establishing their colony.
The Beekeeper's Role
The tactics of a beekeeper can usually manage a hive to acommodate swarming by splitting the hive, providing additional space and shifting the original queen, worker & nurse bees along with frames of brood (eggs, larvae and capped pupae) from the thriving hive to establish a new hive. Splitting or dividing a hive has similar effects of a natural swarming. The part of the colony remaining without a queen can be re-queened with a commercially or locally bred queen, or they will create their own queen on their own from eggs or young larvae left in their care. This is the art and science of beekeeping. Understanding the life cycle, and acommodating the growing colony just before it reaches its limits within the managed hive. Annual swarming or controlled splitting of hives is thought to help prevent certain diseases and parasites. But conditions are variable, timing can be essential, and sometimes the bees can get ahead of a beekeeper resulting in a swarm that may show up in the community. The very best outcome for the bees is to capture the swarm and safely re-house the bees as the mortality rate can be as high as 80-90% for a swarming colony.

The Humboldt County Beekeepers Association (HCBA) provides the swarm list and dispatch as a service to the community. The beekeepers responding to swarm calls or performing cutouts or extractions from structures that require special skill are independent operators and are not agents of the HCBA. Be sure to clearly communicate to the beekeeper your expectations, and likewise, beekeepers should be very clear about their intent.