Pests of Homes, Structures, People, and Pets

Removing Honey bee Swarms and also Established Hives


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Honey bee.

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Swarm of honey bees on walnut tree limb.


Feral beehive through combs.

Large number of bees swarming in a tree in her garden or roughly your home have the right to be unnerving, especially if they establish a hive within your house. However, punishment swarms and nests deserve to be safely controlled if you follow cautious procedures and also get appropriate help.

WHAT IS A punishment SWARM?

Swarming is the honey bee’s method of colony reproduction. The old queen and about fifty percent of the worker bees leaving their previous nest and also seek a new home, typically in the spring but sometimes at various other times that the year as soon as local conditions permit. To start the process, details worker bees, called “scouts,” begin to canvass the bordering territory for a potential brand-new nesting website even prior to the swarm leaves its original colony.

A departing swarm is composed of a large number of bees paris in a cloud that seems to drift along v the air. Human being not familiar with love husband bees are usually frightened by together a mass, which deserve to contain 5,000 come 20,000 bees, but unless a punishment becomes tangled in someone’s hair, that isn’t likely to sting. The queen is in the group, but not top it. Generally within 100 come 200 yards the the initial hive, the bees alight on things and type a cluster, which looks favor a seething, fuzzy glob of insects. Sometimes bees paris from the cluster to collection water and also food, yet most employees leaving the cluster are scouts that find out potential new home sites because that the swarm. Once they return from a great site, they dance on the cluster to interact the location of their find.

A clustered swarm of plenty of bees may show up frightening, yet most spring swarm clusters of European love husband bees—the typical honey bees in central and northern California—are exceptionally docile. It takes fairly a bit of stimulation, such as being hit by sticks and stones or squirted v a hose, to induce protective behavior. The same might not it is in true because that Africanized honey bees or for any type of swarm of honey bees that has actually run the end of food, together these aren’t nearly as predictable and also can be very touchy, even as swarm clusters.

Honey bees will nest in cavities having a volume the at the very least 4 gallons but prefer cavities around 9 gallons. Honey bees additionally prefer dark cavities with an easily safeguarded entrance that is at least 9 feet indigenous the ground. Hollowed-out tree are ideal sites. However, honey bees may colony in all sorts of cavities such together inside wall surfaces of houses; in or about chimneys; in outbuildings, fences, shrubs, water meters, utility boxes, barbecue grills, and also soffits; or under decks. Within a few hours come a couple of days, the swarm’s scouts commonly reach a consensus around the best obtainable site. Then the swarm takes to the wait one last time to move to the brand-new home.

Once in flight, the swarm is guided by scouts and also arrives at the brand-new site. It develops a cluster about the enntrance gate with plenty of bees fanning your wings and also releasing a chemistry signal to overview the others. Climate the bees go into their brand-new home, somewhat slowly. This is what many people notification when they view bees clustered on a section of a building. Inside, the low humming sound the the bees ventilating their swarm often deserve to be heard.

If the bees don’t find a brand-new nesting location, they may begin producing beeswax and also forming combs in ~ the spot whereby the swarm formed, such as a tree limb, the overhang the a house, or one more unusual place. These “exposed comb” nests may exist until loss (or year-round in warm-winter areas), yet robbing bees, hungry birds, and also inclement weather usually placed an finish to this colonies and their combs.


While they may look frightening, bees that are swarming and also carrying honey from your old hive are much less defensive or most likely to sting than they would be if they to be protecting brood (immature bees) in ~ the old hive. Castle shouldn’t pose much danger if left undisturbed however will sting if provoked. Because that information about bee stings, view Pest Notes: Bee and also Wasp Stings.

Once bees become established, castle will begin to construct combs for rearing brood and storing food. Although swarms may perform no structural injury to the building, sometimes they use water to soften Sheetrock and also remove the in bespeak to increase the nesting area. Residents then will notice an enlarging damp area on their wall. In a few cases, the bees actually open a hole v the Sheetrock so that foragers escape right into the house, stroked nerves or scaring occupants. Finally, if the colony is killed and not automatically removed, honey will ferment and also leak through walls and also ceilings, resulting in damage.


The require for managing bee swarms or hives counts on the location and whether the bees are establishing a hive. Swarms moving on without creating a hive aren’t a concern. However, bees creating a nest in a house need to it is in removed.

Swarm clusters

Swarm clusters—the exactly term because that swarms as soon as they aren’t flying—are ephemeral by nature and also therefore normally don’t must be managed. Whenever the bees find the proper new nesting site, the swarm will fly turn off to the new location. The bees commonly leave a little of beeswax at their clustering location, for this reason appearances of added swarms at that very same place can be suspect in the future.

If the cluster needs to it is in removed, call a beekeeper. Experienced beekeepers frequently remove clusters simply by brushing or shaking the bees gently into a cardboard box and carrying lock away. Ideally package should have actually an enntrance gate that enables the paris bees to join the already-captured group. Location the box in the shade till nightfall climate seal and remove it after dark. The beekeeper need to be prepared for defensive actions by dressing in a bee suit, however dealing v a swarm is usually fairly easy. The becomes an ext difficult, however, once the cluster is tough to reach, such together up in a tall tree, intermeshed with the branches of a shrub, or wedged right into the edge of a building.

preventing Establishment of a nest in Your house

Sometimes it’s daunting to recognize whether a honey bee cluster ~ above the side of a structure is simply resting there or moving, one by one, with a hole right into an inner section of a building. If the cluster dimension is shrinking yet hasn’t flown away, chances are they’re moving in. When the bees first arrive, lock are quick on food and have to develop combs native wax they create from the love husband they room carrying. Castle must proceed to go outside to forage for nectar because that the swarm to survive.

in ~ this point, they can be “locked in” their new home with screen, steel wool, or something else with which castle can’t chew to escape. If sealed in, they will certainly die in place over the following week or two. However, trapped bees will search about between the walls trying to uncover a new way out. Few of them are most likely to discover their method into the life quarters, specifically by following beams of night room lighting. Bees don’t paris in the dark, but they will certainly fly to the home windows the following morning and stay there most of the job while they die of dehydration. You deserve to safely suck up this bees through a vacuum cleaner hose. Mental there might be live bees in the bag because that a couple days ~ they’ve to be vacuumed up.

Removing Established colonies from Your residence

Extracting honey bees from buildings is substantially more challenging than collecting swarm clusters. When the colony is very first established, just a couple of pounds of adult bees room present, however these bees rapidly construct combs, collect honey, and also begin to rear much more bees. A well-established colony may have up come 100 pounds that honey, countless pounds the adult and developing bees, and also many beeswax combs. Removing together as swarm is a challenge. The first step is to identify the exact location the the combs and size the the colony.

Although love husband bees deserve to be eliminated in location inside structures by using pesticides that room labeled because that killing bees inside of structures, this removal option frequently leads come undesirable consequences. (Note: this chemicals are available only to license is granted pest regulate operators.) If the adult bees autumn into a large pile, they may organize their body moisture and also rot in place, creating a very bad odor. Fluid from the decomposing mass typically penetrates the structure, causing costly replacements.

If the colony is fine established, over there are further issues associated with killing the colony. Unattended brood can additionally rot and also become really odorous. Unattended honey stores can absorb moisture and also ferment, producing gas that causes the cappings holding love husband in the cell to burst. Gravity will certainly start relocating the honey down attached surfaces until it encounters a horizontal impediment, such as a window frame, doorframe, firebreak, ceiling, or floor. Honey climate seeps with the drywall, top to big amounts the cleanup and also expensive replacement. If pesticide were supplied to death the bees, then the honey, wax and, dead bees room contaminated and must be tackled as hazardous waste.

A better procedure than applying insecticides, specifically if you have a beekeeper that is willing to help, might be to eliminate the bees without killing them. An initial the beekeeper will need to locate the nest by tapping the wall and listening for the hum the the colony. Part beekeepers count on stethoscopes to uncover the edges of the nest. Rather drill extremely tiny holes in the wall surface and insert a fine wire to find the periphery of the nest. To take honey bees and their combs indigenous the nesting spot requires opening a fairly large hole in some section of the building. That is best done by a experienced contractor so that the hole deserve to be conveniently closed after ~ the bees space removed.

If the bees space to be saved, the beekeeper gently gets rid of them and their combs. If the bees aren’t walk to be saved, they have the right to be gotten rid of from the void through a vacuum an equlasignoralaura.coment such as a Shop-Vac. This process tends to stimulate the bees to release an alarm pheromone that smells prefer bananas and increases protective behavior, for this reason everyone nearby must be fully clothed in a punishment suit. Many beekeepers have baffles and also collection containers in their vacuum currently to shot to protect and save the bees. If the homeowner has actually a lot of patience and also knowledge, the bees deserve to be “trapped” out of the structure using a one-way cable screen maker that forces bees the leave the structure to relocate into a beehive placed adjacent to the original entrance. For more details see Removing Swarms and also Established nests from personal Property (PDF).

If friend can’t uncover a beekeeper come help, contact a insect control company with experience with bee removal. Be conscious that pest manage companies normally will kill the bees before removing them. Don’t try to eliminate the colony yourself unless you have actually experience and proper equlasignoralaura.coment.

staying clear of Future invasions

Following extraction of honey bee combs from any type of site, the odor of beeswax remains. Because honey bees have an extremely acute sense of smell, the odor will certainly be noticeable from a long distance and also highly attractive to any kind of future honey punishment scouts seeking new nesting sites, lengthy after the vault bees have actually been removed. Therefore, after ~ bees have actually been removed from a building, every holes big enough come insert a pencil, or larger, that lead to spacious cavities in the building must be sealed. Although love husband bees can chew the end of a building through caulking, castle won’t chew in with it. Bigger potential gates can be covered with display having six or much more meshes per inch. Cavities deserve to be filled v expandable foam to make huge spaces unsuitable for nesting. The area requiring examination and servicing contains the whole side that the building approximately the previous entrance or both sides of the building, if the entrance to be on a corner. If bees can find access to a void adjacent to the vault nesting site, they’ll relocate right in.

During the exploit process, part bees are likely to escape. Also, part honey bee foragers spend the night away from the hive in the summer, so over there is most likely to it is in a swarm of bees forming around the enntrance gate after the bees and combs have been removed. That small variety of bees can be vacuumed increase or got rid of with an aerosol spray labeled for usage on wasps and also bees outside the home. Be sure to check out the label and follow the indict exactly.

Finding professionals to aid with swarm Extractions

It is fairly easy to remove a swarm cluster but a many work to eliminate bees in a cavity. Beekeepers can be willing to collection swarms because that free, yet generally that isn’t worthwhile because that them to eliminate established swarms without charge, and in some areas your only option will be to rental a structure pest control company. This is particularly true in locations colonized by Africanized honey bees, consisting of all southerly California counties.

Both contractors and also some beekeepers perform their solutions in the Yellow Pages ar of the phone call book and also on the Web. Crucial words incorporate “beekeeper”, “beekeeping” and also “bee removal.” Beekeepers available for swarm calls and extractions likewise tend to put their name on perform of punishment clubs to which lock belong. Those clubs usually have Web sites the list locations, such together the Sacramento Area Beekeepers Association.

County agricultural commissioners also have documents of beekeepers registered in your counties. Registered apiary locations are confidential, yet the name of beekeepers that are knowledgeable in functioning with the public are frequently released from county offices.

When arranging a punishment removal, be sure you have actually an knowledge of what will be done. Will the bees just be killed in place—not the finest idea, yet cheaper—or will the cavity it is in opened, cleaned out of bees and combs, filled with insulation, reclosed together with all possible entrances, and also refinished? A definitive task includes all of these steps however can come to be expensive.

When it deserve to be done, that is finest to have actually the contractor and also beekeeper cooperate in opened the hole, removing the bees, and sealing the hole. Recognize a contractor who likewise keeps bees would certainly be the best choice of all. For an ext information, see Removing Swarms and also Established nests from personal Property (PDF).

WARNING ~ above THE usage OF pesticide


Franks, N. R., and A. Dornhaus. 2003. How could individual honeybees measure enormous volumes? Proc. R. Soc. Lond. 270(Suppl 2):S181–S182.

Mussen, E. C. Sept. 2011. Insect Notes: Bee and also Wasp Stings. Oakland: Univ. Calif. Agric. Nat. Res. Publ. 7449.

Mussen, E. C. 2004. Removing Swarms and Established colonies from private Property (PDF). Schmidt, J. O. And also R. Hurley. 1995. An option of swarm Cavities by Africanized and also European love husband Bees. Apidologie 26:467–75.

Seeley, T. 1977. Measure of colony cavity volume by the honey punishment (Apis mellifera). Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 2:201–227.

See more: Saying Goodbye To Your Dog: How To Help A Dying Dog Die Naturally At Home

Villa, J. D. 2004. Swarming actions of love husband Bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) in Southeastern Louisiana. Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. 97(1):111–116.


insect Notes: remove Honey bee Swarms and Established Hives UC ANR publishing 74159

Author: E. C. Mussen, Entomology, UC Davis

Produced by UC Statewide Program, university of California, Davis, CA 95616