Honey Bee Swarms
A page to help you identify honey bee swarms for collection or removal or give guidance on other insect encounters.
Swarm of Bees: What Do You Do?
First, don't panic. Seeing a swarming hive of bees can be a surprising, even disconcerting, but take solace that swarming bees, or ones that have collected as a swarm, are seldom a threat. When swarming, honey bees typically collect on a branch or find something to hang on along with their queen. At that point they are simply staging for a period of time while the designated scout bees look for a new home.
In most cases the bees only remain in this place for a short time to make a decision about a suitable new home in a tree or cavity in nature that they will locate. The first option you have is to leave them alone and in time the problem resolves itself with no harm to you. Keep your distance and they will leave on their own.
If they have collected or made residence in an unwanted area, see “Asking for a Removal” below.
Swarm Sighting or Bees to Remove: Which do you have?
SWARM SIGHTING: Do you have a swarm? Have you seen a swarm? Want Someone to come get them?
If you have encountered a swarm of honey bees that are flying or have landed...
Jump to the Swarm Sighting/Swarm Collection instructions below
BEES TO REMOVE: Do you have honey bees in your home, in your yard, in a pile, or somewhere near you where you don’t want them?
If you want to report bees to be removed, please take a moment to review our guide for honey bee removal.
Jump to Honey Bee Identification and Removal
For a known swarm that is gathered at a location, and can be collected, visit the New Jersey Beekeepers Association Swarm Collection/Removal Page
Be prepared with the following information:
Where is the swarm (closest street address)
How high is the swarm? On or near the ground? Reachable from the ground? Requires a ladder? High in a tree?
How big is the swarm?
Are you there? Can you provide contact information or even directions?
If possible: Consider if you can safely get a photo of what you are seeing to share with the beekeeper.
Removal from Structure or Property
Honey bees will take up residence in places that are suitable to host a colony. If you have bees that have moved into a space and need them to be removed, beekeepers can help.
First things first: Are they honey bees?
How can you sure what you are looking at are honey bees? It is quite common for beekeepers to be called to remove honey bees only to learn that they are something else.
If you are not very clear that they are indeed honey bees, we suggest you take the time to review our bee identification page. The person you speak with will likely ask you for information to confirm that prior to going through the effort for preparing equipment to your home to collect the bees.
If you are positive they are honey bees, you can visit the Swarm Collection/Removal page and find someone to help. Bees that are not in the open require different skills to collect, especially if they are in a dwelling. For that type of work, be sure to choose someone from the bee collection list that has indicated that they will do a “cutout” or ”removal from a structure.”
What if they turn out to be something else?
Some beekeepers will come and help in these situations, but many will also tell you to call an exterminator. One key thing: there are times when they simply could be left alone and the problem will resolve itself. See next section for more information on the nesting habits of bees, wasps, and other beneficial insects.
Other Insects: Wasps, Bees, and Hornets
Nuisance... But Beneficial Insects
We are sympathetic to those who are having problems, but while sometimes insects of all kinds can be a nuisance, they often provide unseen benefits.
It has to be recognized that honey bees, sweat bees, bumblebees, mud wasps, yellow jackets, bald-faced hornets, European hornets, and more are all beneficial for the environment. They help with pest control (yellow jackets eat stink bugs) and pollination, and provide other benefits. If they are in a place where they are not a problem, many times they can be left alone to great benefit to humankind.
Sometimes they provide challenges when they take up residence and defend their space. They can damage structures, sting, and generally make a nuisance of themselves, but if they are not a problem, they can often be ignored.
It is really when they get close to our living space do we take notice. If they are a threat, they should likely be eliminated (with the exception of honey bees). A licensed exterminator can provide an eradication service and they are trained to handle any challenge you have.
It is illegal to kill honey bees. Please call for a removal.
Do READ on to consider the timing factor.
Many wasps and hornets are one season and done in their nests. They only use a nest once and will often not return to that same location. If they are in a place where you have no threat, or you can steer clear of them for a period, we hope that you’ll consider leaving them be and weigh the threat against the beneficial work of these insects. For instance, you discover them in the fall, then perhaps in a few weeks they will abandon their colony and the nest will become inactive.
Wasps and hornets hibernate in the winter. The queen leaves the colony in the fall. She burrows underground for the winter while the rest of the nestmates perish. She reemerges in the spring and starts a new colony where it suits her and many times old nest sites are not reused.
Use your best judgment and when they do pose a risk consider calling a licensed pest control company and following their guidance or make use of their services.