Honeybee Swarms

Honeybees are social insects. They live in colonies. There is one queen and thousands of workers. The queen produces chemicals, called pheromones. The pheromones control whether new queens develop.

When the colony becomes very large and the nest becomes overcrowded, new queens develop. When the new queens have developed, they compete. The strongest one becomes queen of the colony. The old queen leaves the nest. Many of the workers go long with her. They fly away to find a site for a new nest.

Because there are usually a lot of bees, these migration flights are often called swarms. The swarm of bees flies until the queen decides to rest. Sometimes the swarm of bees stops to rest in a parking lot or in a tree in a subdivision.

People are usually frightened when they see a swarm of honeybees because they think the bees will sting. People have been known to call the fire department, the police, and even the local TV station because of a swarm of honeybees.

In fact, the bees are less aggressive than normal during these swarms. Scientists think this is because they do not have a nest to defend. Scientists recommend that people do not approach a swarm of honeybees. They strongly discourage people from trying to chase the bees away with sticks, brooms, or water hoses. If they are provoked, the bees will sting to protect the queen.

The swarming bees usually do not stop to rest for more than a day or two. They will usually leave if they are left alone. If the bees have stopped near a home or some other occupied building, and the residents are not willing to wait for them to leave, scientists suggest calling a local beekeeper to remove the bees. The office of the Extension Service may be able to provide the phone number of a local beekeeper. Beekeepers are sometimes listed in the telephone directory.