Honeybee identification, and dealing with swarms
Are they really, really honeybees?
Beekeepers want to know if you really have honeybees before they make the trip out. It's very important. A beekeeper is not equipped to remove or exterminate other bees. During the springtime especially, a beekeeper is usually happy to remove your honeybees for free... and they are prioritizing other bee removals to come see you. Please help identify your bees and make sure they really are honeybees before having a beekeeper come out. Use the chart below to see the difference between honeybees and other common bees.
Do you have yourself a honeybee swarm?
The images rotating at right are what a typical honeybee swarm looks like. As you can see, they will find the darndest places! It's important to note that when you see a swarm, they could be waiting until the scout bees return and tell them where their new home is. If they are waiting to find their new home, they may hang around for a couple hours and then up and leave all of a sudden. In other cases, they may have already determined their new home is right where you see them and they will bgin building comb.
Honeybees, would not be in a hole in the ground or in a paper or mud nest. If this is your situation, you have a problem with wasps or yellowjackets, and you should call a licensed exterminator. Take a look at these pictures of honeybee swarms and contact one of us at SIBA if you need someone to come and remove them. Just click a pin on this map to find the beekeeper closest to you.
Here are some commonly asked questions about honeybee swarms:
Are the bees dangerous, and will they sting? Not usually. The bees are looking for a new place to call home. If the bees have decided this is their new home, then there is an increased risk of them being agitated as they are protecting their new home. Otherwise, they have no home to protect... and they are often quite docile. However, discretion is advised. Call a beekeeper and have them come get the bees. Don't kill them. We depend on the bees more than they depend on us!
What causes a swarm? An overcrowded hive naturally casts swarms (mostly in the spring) in its effort to populate, and survive. The bees build one or more cells in the old hive, and then the queen and half or more of the bees leave to find and build a new home. These are the swarms that we see in our tree or under our porch... and if left to their own devices, sometimes in the wall of your house!
Can I spray them or burn them out? Please, NO! Honeybees are valuable to humanity... and are the reasons we have fruits, nuts and most of the produce we consume every day. With no bees, we would starve. Beekeepers are already fighting mites, CCD, and a plethora of other problems trying to re-populate the bees. Again, finding a beekeeper who will come and get them, is not as difficult as you might think. Honey bees are not our enemy!
Do you charge to remove the bees? In most cases, NO. We want to get the bees and park them in their new home. Getting bees out of your tree is no problem. Getting them out of your house is another issue. Some beekeepers will do "cut-outs" and that is literally, with your consent, cut open your wall and physically remove the bees. Many beekeepers will not. In all cases, beekeepers, will assume no risks or any liabilities when you call us. You're inviting us the beekeeper on to your property to help you remove the bees. They will tell you the options to remove the bees and always opt for the easiest, cheapest way out for everyone involved. Just know this... a beekeeper wants to take your bees... free. You would pay an exterminator $100 or more to show up and kill the bees.
When a beekeeper takes your bees, he will likely tell you to come see them in the apiary one day... or perhaps even provide you with some honey later in the year, or next season.
Are there cases where you won't take the bees? If the bees are in the wall of a building that we are not allowed to cut in to, then we probably won't be able to get them. Timing is everything. If the swarm has been there more than a day or so, we may have problems getting them. The earlier you call, the better. That's because the bees gorged themselves on honey before leaving home, but once they're looking for a new home, they begin to starve. The sooner we get them, the better. Bee swarms are common only during the spring. By the start of summer they're pretty rare and any later than that, their chances of survival are pretty low.
Here are some questions you should be prepared to answer:
- Are they definitely honeybees? (use the chart above, or click here to see pictures of various kinds of bees, including honeybees)
- Where are they? In a tree, in your house, etc?
- How high from the ground are they?
- How long have they been there?
- How big is the ball of bees? i.e. Basketball, footbal-sized?
- How accessible are they? If they are in your wall, is there a space inside to get at them? Do they have to be cut out? Would you consider such an option?
- Is there electric available near the bees?
- Have you called anyone else? It's frustrating to make a trip only to find that someone else was called and arrived first. If you call one of us, we'll always come and get it. If for some reason we can't, we'll immediately call a fellow beekeeper who can make it.
The individual beekeeper may have more questions as he/she is trying to understand what to bring and be most efficient. Again, use this map to locate a beekeeper close to you and they will do their best to help collect your swarm.