When people want to know what to do about a bee swarm they call me. I begin by finding out whether they actually have a swarm of bees or a beehive there’s a big difference read further? Then I ask them a few questions, so before you call anyone you might like to read this page to see what your options are and whether you really need a bee removal expert.

  • Is it attached to a tree or building?
  • Are the bees inside something?
  • If inside something, what is the contruction?
  • How many bees can you see?
  • How big is the cluster, as big as a football?
  • Can you see any honeycombs?
  • How long has it been there, weeks or months?
  • How high off the ground is it?
  • How easy is it to get to?
  • How close is it to vehicular access?

If the bees are actually already inside something, it might be your roof, a wall, or something like a trash can or sprinkler control box. This means that they have already moved beyond the swarming stage and removing them is a very different, more difficult process. When people think they have a bee swarm problem because they’ve seen a few bees going in and out of a hole, they believe there’s a bee hive inside. Sometimes they’re right, but often they’re wrong.

When bees swarm they leave their hive, often as many as 20,000 individuals, and hang somewhere temporarily. You’ll see a cluster of bees usually about the size of a football, this is just bees hanging onto each other, there’s no ‘hive’ yet. At this stage there are ‘scout bees‘ out searching for a new permanent location. If your bee problem is that you see 10 or 20 bees flying to a hole, crawling in, coming out and wandering around you almost certainly do not need a bee removal, YET!

These bees are ‘just looking’ they inspect new locations and fly back to the main swarm, which is somewhere nearby, to report. Once enough scout bees have decided on a new place, they all take off and fly there, entering the cavity through a hole which needs to be no bigger that 3/8″ diameter.

Below is a video which shows the difference between bees which are still at the scouting phase, and those which have moved in and are busy building combs.

Within 15 to 20 minutes all 20,000 bees will be inside and work will have started on building their honeycombs. You can usually tell if you have a colony of bees inside such a place. Watch the entrance carefully, especially during the warmest part of the day. If you see a continuous stream of bees flying backwards and forwards to the hole, looking very industrious, when they land they go straight inside, there’s no time for wandering around ‘just looking’. If you see something like this you probably do have a bee hive problem.

You may even see some workers with pollen on their legs entering the hole. This all starts to happen within an hour or so of the swarm actually moving in, they have lots of work to do building a hive, collecting nectar to fuel their wax manufacture and pollen to feed the new young.

I usually think of it like someone looking at houses, literally ‘house hunting’, they wander up the door, look at the outside, go in, come out, look around some more at the neighborhood then leave. This is the scouting phase, no decision has been made they’re still considering all the different locations. Once the ‘house’ has been chosen, the furniture is moved in, boxes are carried in, perhaps there’s builders doing some renovations. There is a real ‘hive’ of industry if you’ll pardon the pun. Once this happens you do have a bee swarm problem and you should call bee removal expert immediately, the quicker you consult someone the better.

Once they have reached this stage they’re here to stay and you have a bee swarm problem, people often tell me they noticed them a couple of months ago and thought they would leave, THEY WON’T!

If the bees are still at the swarm stage, perhaps hanging in a tree, I should warn you that although the swarm will almost certainly leave if it’s left alone, that may be a big mistake! If the swarm moves from the tree into the roof of your house, into the cavity of your wall, or under your shed, it is much more difficult to remove and is usually a good deal more expensive.

long-swarmIf you don’t want to coexist with a bee hive, DON’T WAIT, call someone as soon as possible!

People often tell me they’ll, “leave it for a day or two before I do anything, to see what happens.”, frankly I don’t understand this logic, I know what will happen! The bees almost certainly WILL MOVE, the question is; will they move into your attic? If you think bees in your attic is something you want to avoid, have the swarm removed NOW! A bee swarm problem in a tree is not really a problem, an established colony in your house is a big problem!

Once a bee colony has established itself the situation is not going to get any better so the sooner you consult someone experienced in bee hive removal, the easier it will be.

Sometimes it may not be possible to solve a bee swarm problem by removing a colony alive and it will be necessary to call a pest control company don’t delay this, you need to deal with this ASAP.

Once the swarm or established bee colony has been safely removed there are almost always some residual bees remaining. Click here to download a PDF file describing the situation and explaining why it shouldn’t be a concern.

Click here to find a beekeeper.

If you are considering calling an exterminator please remember that bees are in crisis at the moment. I believe every effort should be made to save them. However sometimes it’s just not feasible to remove bees alive, perhaps because someone has an acute allergy to bee stings, or there is a need for it to be dealt with very quickly.

Remember that if bees in a structure are exterminated, it’s important to finish the job properly and remove the combs containing honey. If these are not removed, once the bees are dead the temperature is no longer controlled and honey can leak from the combs when they warm up, which can cause an awful mess.

2 Responses to “What to do About a Bee Swarm – What is a Swarm?”

  • Drew

    This article should come with a disclaimer, “written by bee keeper drumming up business.” Yes, you don’t want them to establish a colony in your house. Duh. But waiting a day or two to let them move on as nature designed, if not a threat or bother, is the most reasonable course of action, not illogical. Bees are having enough of a tough time as it is w/o dealing with people chasing $$$.

    • Geoff

      Hi Drew

      Yes, that’s certainly one option. Unfortunately you obviously haven’t thought this through. Where will the swarm move to, a roof, chimney or inside a wall? Have you any idea how difficult and expensive it is to remove bees from the roof of a house? There’s also a strong likelihood that the next person who see them will call an exterminator, is that part of natures design?

      I suggest you refrain from commenting about things you know nothing about.


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