What to Do if You Find a Bee Swarm
A year or two ago in spring I encountered a bee swarm in my garden. They had been living in an owl house high up in one of my trees, but in spring a large number of them swarmed. Bees proliferate at a rapid rate, thus occasionally a swarm of them congregate and fly away together with their queen to find a new home, usually in spring. I found this particular swarm gathered together like a big ball of bees at the foot of one of my pine trees.
I grew up on a farm so I knew not be afraid of a bee swarm. Bees can interpret fearful feelings and vibrations as being similar to anger. When they sense these emotions they often become agitated, making loud buzzing sounds and flying around more rapidly. But bees have no animosity towards us unless they think we are threatening to attack their hive. African bees are more territorial than European bees. They will attack anyone that threatens their hive, and they often interpret loud machinery as just such a threat. But a swarm is not the same thing as a hive. A hive is a place where bees have settled down to make a home, gather honey, and raise offspring. A swarm is simply a new group of bees on the move looking for a new home. Bees do not attack to protect the swarm unless someone actively attacks them, for example by spraying the swarm with insecticide or even water. Please don’t spray since this may harm the queen. Also, spraying water may make the queen decide she will start laying. Then the bees will not leave. Spraying Africanized bees is highly dangerous. One might even get killed. A swarm is not dangerous unless attacked, but it does require sensibleaction.
When I found the swarm in my garden I knew these bees might very likely be Africanized bees and not European bees. Nonetheless, I did not call in a pest control company because bees are not pests. Pesticide companies kill bees, but good beekeepers catch bees and then they provide them with an appropriate hive and manage them properly. Even Africanized bees become easy to handle if you remove their Africanized queen and substitute a European queen. Once you introduce a European queen they calm right down.
In the case of the swarm I found, I contacted my gardener. He had been a beekeeper all his life and respected the sacred life of bees and would be glad to have the bees. He brought a wooden box to my garden and using smoke to subdue the bees, he took out the queen and put her into the box. The rest of the bees followed and he and took them home to Mexico where he has many beehives and collects and sells the honey.
For those who live in San Diego and environs I suggest you call Pete Holtzen, Honeybee Rescue, 619/286-7258. If Pete cannot help you, he may be able to suggest other beekeepers to catch and preserve bees if you find a swarm on your property. If you discover a swarm that has made a home in an unwanted place such as the eaves of your house, it is imperative that you get them out of there right away before they set up housekeeping. A good beekeeper will come and find the queen, put her into a box nearby, and all the bees will quickly join her. This is the way to get the bees out of your house or shed and not by using poisons.