Text back: Wish I could go with you! Can Andrew take photos?
He called. "Andrew is in town, running errands."
Keri: "Where are you headed? Who called? How exciting!"
Mark: "They're probably our bees. I'm going to Mel's." (Our neighbor who owns a tomato farm down the road.)
Keri: "Oh." (Imagine a balloon deflating.)
Bees swarm. It's a fact of life. The big build-up in population results in the rearing of new queens, one of which will triumph over the others. The original queen bee will be prepared by the workers for leaving (in a rigorous process explained in fascinating detail in Honeybee Democracy). Then the "mother" of the usurper will swarm away with thousands of worker bees, leaving the hive to her offspring.
So, what do you do if you find a swarm of bees hanging around your home or yard? Please don't call an exterminator!
Options for Dealing with Swarms
- Call a local beekeeper. If you're using local honey (like you know you should!), call your honey provider!
- You can find information online at Honey Run Apiaries using your zip code. (I just submitted our info.)
- Call your local County Extension office, NRCS office, co-op, or farm supply store. They usually have a list of local beekeepers interested in catching swarms.
- If you live in Southern California, you can call the Backwards Beekeepers Bee Rescue hotline: (213) 373-1104.
- Leave them alone and let them relocate on their own. They know what they're doing, and given time will move on. It just depends on their location and your level of tolerance.
Advice on Preventing Swarms from Taking Up Residence in Your Walls
If you are a homeowner, be sure to seal up any small holes in the exterior of your home as well as any outbuildings you have. Bees love to find sheds, barns, old buildings, etc. and build comb in the spaces between the frames and sheet rock. This is a good time of year to do some home maintenance and avoid having bees take up residence in your walls. Some beekeepers will do "cut outs," meaning they will remove whatever walls are necessary and take out the bees, comb, etc. This is messy, time consuming, and may require the payment of a fee, but is much better than killing the bees, leaving the mess in the walls for mice and other bugs to try to eat, etc.
Update on Today's Swarm:
Mark: "I've got the bees and we're headed to the Barhams'. They weren't in a spot I could shake them off into the box, but I'm pretty determined now to get some swarm catching boxes."