Swarm season is upon us; what to do when you find a cluster of bees

JOPLIN, Mo. – Spring is just around the corner and that means swarm season for honey bees is beginning. If you see a cluster of bees hanging on a limb or other object, it is typically best to leave them be until they vacate on their own.

But if the swarm is making a home on your property or located in a high traffic area, beekeepers urge individuals not to exterminate or harm the bees in order to remove them. Stay calm and contact a local beekeeper.

“If they’re going to eliminate them, then these colonies will never have a chance. The population won’t increase like it should,” said local beekeeper Sean Allen of Allen Family Farm & Apiaries. “We need those pollinators.”

Swarms of bees are simply bees without a home. They are not defending a hive and therefore typically docile – their only task is to protect their queen.

Why bees swarm; what to do and what could happen

Local beekeeper John Smiles of Hive2Honey farm explains how the swarms come to be.

“Swarms are the natural reproduction of a bee colony. When the hive has been filled, the bees begin looking for more room. Queen cells in the hive form and a new queen is laid. The old queen then leaves with roughly 60% of the colony to start a new location. This is the cluster we see hanging in trees, on fence posts,” said Smiles.

Allen adds that the swarms of bees are just resting until they find their next destination.

“They’re just getting everybody together, giving the queen a rest because she hasn’t flown for a long time. Then from there, they start heading wherever they have planned to go until they find their new home or until a beekeeper comes along and gives them a new home,” said Allen.

Another reason bees swarm is called absconding – when bees completely abandon their hive. This is due to reasons like lack of food, parasites or problems with the queen.

Swarming behavior in honey bee colonies increases between spring and early summer. Swarms can often be found in tree branches, clumps of vegetation, fences, mailboxes, walls or even on the ground.

Bee swarms can be temporary. Smiles says that in most cases, the bees will fly off if left alone. But other times, they can take up residence in your property.

“Then they become a problem and need to be removed as soon as possible before the colony has time to build much comb and begin growing in the walls,” said Smiles.

It is best to have the swarm removed before it becomes in need of a cut-out, a more extensive removal, which could damage your property.

“We do not do the repairs, but we get the bees,” said Smiles. “The home needs repaired by a licensed contractor. So it saves to call a beekeeper as soon as you see them hanging in that tree.”

Who to contact

To get in touch with local beekeepers for swarm removals and more, you can contact the Joplin Area Beekeepers Association.

The association hosts classes, events, meetings and more if you are interested in learning about beekeeping. You can join their Facebook group which has over 1,000 members.

You can also contact the MU Extension in Jasper County at 417-358-2158. They have a list of beekeepers and will get you in contact with one available for a swarm removal.

Smiles also welcomes residents to contact him at 417-622-8549 for swarm removals and cut-outs.