Yikes! I see a swarm of bees - what should I do?

Please do not call an exterminator, call a beekeeper! But first, please try to identify the swarm/nest of insects. Are they honey bees, bumbles bees, wasps, hornets or something else.

Yellowjacket wasp

Honey bee

Picture by Jon Sullivan

Honey bee swarm

Swarm, Apiary, Beekeeper, Propolis, Honey, Beehive

Bumble bee

Bee, Bumblebee, Flower, Macro, Garden

When identifying, you might also find the following helpful..  https://www.wikihow.com/Identify-Wasps

If you are confident they are honeybees Email: swarm@richmondbeekeepers.ca 

A few things to note before sending your e-mail…

  • determine if the swarm is honey bees or wasps
  • if you can, take a picture of the swarm and send it to us at the above email address
  • take note of the size of the swarm, its location and height off the ground
  • how long has the swarm been there
  • be ready with the location address and details about access
  • let your neighbors know that you have already arranged to have the swarm removed
  • Please include a phone number so that someone can call you, if needed, before coming there

More about honey bee swarms

Swarms are a step in the natural reproductive process of honey bees.  A colony will initiate a swarm when the hive becomes too congested with new hatching bees in the spring. In Vancouver, swarming behavior typically occurs between the hours of 11am and 3pm during the months of April to June.  (FYI, swarms that happen at dusk are very likely to be chafer beetle.)

A swarm will initiate from a hive and form a buzzing cloud of bees before settling in a cluster on a branch or other rigid structure.  Swarm clusters will typically remain in one location for a few hours to several days before moving on to a sheltered and more permanent hive location.  These clusters can range in size from a tennis ball to a large beach ball.  While this behavior can appear menacing or scary, the bees are usually quite docile and will not typically engage in aggressive or defensive behavior.  A swarm is not to be feared, but certainly respected by keeping a distance and not attempting to dislodge or disrupt the cluster of bees.

Our association manages a volunteer honey bee swarm retrieval service, free of charge. In addition, many municipalities have contacts for local volunteer beekeepers who provide the same service, free of charge. Beekeepers are usually happy to provide this service as it benefits the community and the beekeeper.If you find bees within a structure, for example in your attic or walls, this is usually considered a feral colony rather than a swarm.  A beekeeper or pest control service that recovers bees rather than exterminates them, may charge for their removal.

Are you a beekeeper and would you like to join our swarm list?

Catching swarms is a great way for beekeepers to increase colony numbers or replace colonies lost to disease while benefiting the community by removing unwanted bees.

Our association swarm list is managed by a volunteer who, upon receiving a call about a swarm, will contact beekeepers on the list based on geographic location and availability.  Once a beekeeper has received a swarm their name goes to the bottom of the list, in an attempt to fairly and evenly distributed swarms amongst beekeepers.

A few things to know…

  • Keep your own swarm catching tools ready to go
  • The first beekeeper to both respond to the list manager and arrive on site gets the swarm
  • Do not expect financial compensation for retrieving a swarm
  • Remember you are representing beekeepers and our association
  • Be respectful of people and property, explain what you are going to do and get permission first whenever possible!
  • The selling of fresh swarms is frowned upon and unethical unless you have the swarm first inspected by the Ministry of Agriculture Apiculturist

Register for our swarm list! Note that you will be asked to sign a liability waiver before joining our swarm list.  swarm@richmondbeekeepers.ca