SWARMS! call 510-898-6696

Swarm Help!  For help with bees call 510-898-6696

About Swarms: Swarms, Extractions:  Live Removal and the Benefits to Beekeepers and to You

© 2012 A. Azevedo
© 2012 A. Azevedo

For most people, a swarm of bees looks scary, we know, but trust us, there is no need to worry.

Established hives throw off a swarm of bees when it has become too crowded, so a group of bees from the colony, with a queen bee in the center, take off from the crowded hive and swarm to look for a new home. This group may be as small as a golf ball or as large as a couple of basketballs, but is generally the size of a football, and before finding a place to re-hive itself and establish a new colony, they come to rest anywhere from five minutes to a week in one location, clustering on a branch, bush, tree or massing together some kind of other structure like walls, chairs, fences, sometimes even cars!

If a swarm has recently arrived in your yard, they aren’t going to bother you, if you don’t disturb them. They are tired, hungry and probably as least aggressive as honeybees will ever bee. So please—don’t spray them with anything, don’t throw anything at them. As beekeepers, our interest is specifically in honeybees, and if you are seeing a large mass of bees in a classic swarm formation, like in the picture on this page, more or less, yes, these are honeybees!

Established Colonies & Extraction

If the honeybees you see are not hanging in a large cluster outside but are instead flying in and out through a small opening or hole in a tree trunk or from a structure on your property—the wall, eaves, or other feature of your house or place of business—this is not a “swarm.” It is instead what we call an “established colony” of bees that will need to be removed by way of a process that we call a “structural extraction.” Though an extraction is slightly more involved, requiring more work, time and expense than the removal of a swarm, nevertheless, bees in an established colony can be often be removed live as well, and ACBA does have beekeepers experienced in doing such extractions.

Getting Help

The Alameda County Beekeepers Association maintains a list of members who are available to the community to educate, manage, and capture swarms. If you need help, call 510-898-6696.

Helpful Links to other organizations around the Bay Area that have swarm capture and extraction services: 
Alameda:           Alameda County Beekeeper Association
Marin:                Marin County Beekeepers
Monterey:         Monterey Bay Beekeepers (ABC)
Napa:                 Beekeepers of Napa Valley
San Fransisco: San Francisco Beekeepers Association
San Mateo:       Beekeepers’ Guild of San Mateo County
Santa Clara:     Santa Clara Valley Beekeepers Guild
Santa Clara:     The Gilroy Beekeepers
Santa Cruz:      Santa Cruz Beekeepers Guild
Sonoma:           Sonoma County Beekeepers’ Association

For More information on Identifying Honeybees click here: Identifying Honeybees and wasps

An Important Message from ACBA President

 Dear Alameda Beeks!
I hope this finds you and your ladies in fine health. As of today a cold, yet sunny day, my bees are happy for the chance to fly after the rainy lost foraging days.
Recently, an issue came up which took the board by surprise. And after much discussion we want to clarify what the board position is and also what we believe the club position is.

Regarding SWARM COLLECTION and also colony EXTRACTION, please understand that the Association takes NO RESPONSIBILITY for ANY loss or injury incurred to a member OR to the client you “contract” with. ACBA maintains the swarm list as a referral service ONLY. Meaning when you agree to a swarm removal, or extraction, you accept responsibility. Agreeing to an extraction or a swarm collection is a contract or agreement between you and the person asking for these services.  It is not an agreement between the club and client. There are risks involved, including time lost when a swarm moves off and you are in transit. The environment may not be as described from the initial contact. Stuff happens. Always keep in mind that bees are stinging insects. Be protected and make sure onlookers are advised and protected too! They will swarm onto difficult if not dangerous locations. An extraction can and will create enormous headaches for the structure owner as well as the beekeeper. Have confidence in your abilities. If you feel for any reason the job is too big for you, pass it on graciously(!!) and most importantly, communicate with YOUR client regularly if needed and make sure they can reach you, until BOTH of you are satisfied that job is completed.

Thanks, and happy beekeeping!

George McRae, President Alameda Beekeepers Association