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Do you have a swarm of honey bees?

swarm demo at a UNL Beekeeping workshop

Don't Panic!

You are witnessing one of nature's wonderous pageantries (thanks Dr Baxendale).   This is a honey bee colony's natural reproductive process.  They do not have any food or brood(babies) to protect.  Typically, this is when honey bees are the most docile.   

 

They do not decide where they are moving to beforehand.   So when you see a swarm, they have landed to let the queen rest and scout bees will fly off to look for a suitable new home.   This could be a hollow tree, the wall of an old barn, or even under a covered grill!

What do do:   

  1. Gather information

    • Estimate how high off the ground the swarm is

    • Estimate the swarm size.  (basketball, volleyball, softball)

    • Approximately how long have they been there?

  2. Next you need to relay this info to a beekeeper in your area

    • If you know a beekeeper, contact them​

    • You can call your local extension office

    • You can call your local police or fire dept.  They should have a swarm call list

    • You can contact us and we will try and put you in touch with someone:   nbaboard@nebraskabeekeepers.org

Swarm at Barnes and Noble in Lincoln, NE

What NOT to do

  • Don't panic!  You are getting to witness something cool!

  • Do not spray them with water

  • Do not spray them with any insecticides

A swarm may stay in the location for only a few hours or several days.   This is dependant on many factors including weather, time of day and most importantly, if the scout bees have all decided on a suitable new home to move into.

Swarms vs Feral Colony

feral honey bee colony bearding from a tree in Fremont,NE

A swarm of bees hanging in a tree is different from a feral (wild) honey bee colony living in a hollow tree or the wall of an old barn.  A feral colony is an established colony with combs, food stores and brood.   These are handled differently.   Typically removing these is called a "Cut Out".   Not as many beekeepers do cut outs, so it is harder to find someone who does.

 

*Note:  You can still contact us and we can try to find someone who does cut outs.    nbaboard@nebraskabeekeepers.org
 

If a colony is in a hollow tree, this usually means that that tree has become weakened on account of it being hollow.  But be aware that a honey bee colony only takes advantage of a hollow tree.   They will NOT damage trees.  If the tree does need to come down for safety reasons, the beekeeper will work with your arborist to get this done.   Usually a cut is made below and above where they think the colony is so as to retain the area where the colony of bees lives.   Then it's up to the beekeeper if they just want to take the log or if they will split it open and remove the combs and rubber band them into frames that are then placed in a hive.

Cut out photo by Matt Lance

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