Typically April is the start of swarm season for honey bees; however, our warm winter may result in an early start to the swarm season. Swarm season can be a dangerous time for honey bees because some people may become frightened by the swarm and try to destroy it. Honey bees in a swarm are not aggressive and local beekeepers will remove swarms, often for free.
“When a swarm arrives people will see a cloud of bees. The bees will circle and collect into a cluster that looks like a beard,” said John Benham, former president of the Kentucky State Beekeepers Association.
“They will remain in the cluster until their scout bees have found a new location for them to start a new hive. This usually takes from a couple of hours to a day or two. While in the cluster, the bees are not aggressive. All they are interested in is waiting for the scout bees to find their new home. Once the scout bees find the location for their new hive, the swarm will move on.”
Swarms occur when the queen leaves the original hive with approximately half of the bees to find a new home. The swarm may land on and form its beard-like cluster on trees, bushes, fence posts, swing sets, and many other locations.
“If you find a swarm, call your local UK Extension Office. They have a list of local beekeepers who are willing to remove swarms for free. The beekeepers will collect the swarm and remove it from your property,” said Benham.
Contact information for your local Extension Office can be found at http://extension.ca.uky.edu/county. If the Extension Office is closed, then you can find a list of local beekeeping organizations on the Kentucky State Beekeepers Association’s website at http://www.ksbabeekeeping.org/table-of-local-beekeeping-organizations/. The contacts listed for the local organizations can put you in contact with a local beekeeper who will collect and remove the swarm for you.
Hives that have already established themselves in a building take more specialized skills and equipment to remove. Often a licensed and insured professional removal specialist will need to be called to remove those bees. It is common for these specialists to charge for their services because of the added expenses of licenses, insurance, and equipment.
Honey bees play an important role in agriculture, but their populations are declining. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Bee Informed Partnership, beekeepers across the country reported an annual hive loss of approximately 44% from April 2015 to March 2016. Allowing a local beekeeper to collect any swarms you find helps both the honey bees and local beekeepers.
Local beekeeping organizations offer opportunities for anyone interested to learn about honey bees and beekeeping. Media wishing to do a story about swarms and local beekeepers can contact Tammy Horn Potter, Kentucky State Apiarist (502-573-0282), John Benham, former president of the Kentucky State Beekeepers Association (270-678-7924), or the contact for any of the local beekeeping organizations listed at http://www.ksbabeekeeping.org/table-of-local-beekeeping-organizations/.
The Kentucky State Beekeepers Association (KSBA) is a volunteer-led, non-profit organization dedicated to beekeeping in Kentucky. KSBA represents Kentucky’s backyard, hobby, and commercial beekeepers and local beekeeping associations.
Watch beekeepers capture a swarm that landed in a tree in a residential neighborhood. Video courtesy of Michele Boling.