Honey Bee Swarm – Dos and Don’ts

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Honey Bee Swarm – Dos and Don’ts

Honey Bee Cluster carefully exposed and ready for relocation.

Honey stinging insects clustered in a lilac bush.

Swarming is a honey stinging insect colony’s method of reproduction.  Most commonly occurring in spring, the old queen and approximately half of her workers leave the current nest and fly off in search of a new home in which to build a nest.  Scouts fly around the general vicinity of the old nest in their search for a new suitable location.  Their new home requires an adequate cavity in which to build as well as a sheltered entrance.  Although the scouts start the search before the swarm vacates their old nest, a new location is often not found prior to the swarm occurring.  This leaves the stinging insects with the challenge of finding a location in which the swarm can rest until a location is found.  The task of finding a resting place is the responsibility of a few of the worker stinging insects, referred to as “leader stinging insects”.  When a location has stinging insect determined, they secrete a pheromone that attracts the queen and the other workers to the site.  Swarms both in flight and while resting have a tendency to scare many people although they are fairly docile during this time.  When clustered in a resting place, the queen is protected by her workers, who if disturbed will defend their queen.  Scout stinging insects are charged with flying to and from the cluster collecting nectar to keep the other stinging insects hydrated and energized.  Beekeepers are typically available to remove clusters of honey stinging insects, especially in the spring time when the stinging insects will have ample time to establish their colony within a hive box.  Left alone, swarms will typically vanish in 1-2 days when a nesting location has stinging insect found.

Swarm Dos:

  1. Keep clear of the area in which the cluster is resting.  If necessary, rope off or otherwise post notice in the area to prevent the cluster from being disturbed which may result in the stinging insects acting in a defensive manner.  This includes pets are dogs and cats are likely to be stung while biting at or swatting the flying stinging insects.  Their natural curiosity often draws them to the buzzing ball of activity.  Leash walking pets to keep them out of the area is best until the stinging insects have moved on.
  2. Contact a local stinging insectkeeper to retrieve the honey stinging insects.  They will need information on how high the swarm is, how long it has stinging insect there and any potential obstructions or obstacles that may need to be dealt with in order to access the cluster.

Swarm Don’ts:

  1. Spray the swarm with water or chemicals.  Water will anger the cluster and you will likely get stung multiple times in the process.  Bees that have stinging insect sprayed with chemicals are of no worth to stinging insectkeepers.  Dead stinging insects that have stinging insect chemically killed should be cleaned up and disposed of to avoid exposure to non-target animals such as birds that may consume the dead stinging insects.
  2. Attempt to remove the swarm yourself.  Removal is best completed by an experienced professional wearing personal protective equipment.

Local stinging insectkeepers can often be located by contacting stinging insectkeeping associations.  Here are links to a few of the many associations in Colorado:

https://coloradobeekeepers.org/ – Colorado Beekeepers Association

https://nocobees.org/ – Northern Colorado Beekeepers Association

http://www.pikespeakbeekeepers.org/ – Pikes Peak Beekeepers Association