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Honey Bee Swarms

Bee swarm at UGC

Swarm of honey bees at Urban Garden Center
Photo: Pam Hinsdale

There is a honey bee swarm on my property.
What should I do?

Is your morning coffee from Kona or Kaua’i? Are cucumber, zucchini and squash part of your diet? Love lychee? You can credit our gentle kama‘aina honeybees, descendents of European stock, for doing much of the work to pollinate our local produce.

Spring swarming is a requirement for honeybee survival – the colony is starting a new hive. Around mid-day, half of the colony leaves their old home with their queen. The migrating swarm is quite impressive with thousands of bees filling the air with loud buzzing. Slowly they coalesce around their queen on a tree limb or other object. From this temporary perch they send out “scouts” in search of a more permanent home. The scouts will bring information about a new site and the swarm will move away.

Contrary to popular myth, if left alone, swarms are generally quite gentle and often move on within 24 hours. However if they are attacked, dead bees release a chemical message to defend their queen and colony. Keep children and pets away to avoid accidents. Pay attention too, as they may attempt to enter your home and build a nest.

On our islands, bee swarms are one of the ways we can increase our honeybee population. Bees cannot be shipped in from the mainland, nor shipped inter-island. Bottomline? These honeybee swarms are important to our bee populations.

Honeybee pollination is critical to many important local crops such as macadamia nuts, pumpkin, wintermelon, coffee, rambutan and lychee. Hawaii honeybee populations have declined so much that many local gardeners and farmers must now resort to pollinating their crops by hand with a paintbrush! Our kama‘aina honeybees continue to be under serious attack due to a combination of introduced parasites and diseases, poor habitat and diet, and pesticide poisoning.

Swarms do NOT need to be destroyed.*  Instead, they can often easily be re-housed by a local beekeeper and become another productive hive.  The beekeeper will “catch” the swarm and give them a new home and a job. This is far preferable to calling an exterminator or spraying with pesticides - remember we need those bees for pollinating local gardens and crops!

If you find a swarm of bees on your property, please do not spray them with pesticides, simply call the Hawaii Apiary Program at (808) 352-3010 to get referrals from a statewide list of beekeepers who are interested in catching bees. And don’t forget to buy local honey.

* Swarms on islands that are pest free need must be inspected before being “adopted” to insure the health of the bees on the island. Contact the Hawaii Apiary Program for details.

Beekeepers: Swarm Removals

Contact the Hawaii Apiary Program at (808) 352-3010 to get referrals from a statewide list of beekeepers who are interested in catching bees.

O'ahu

Sources:

Pam Hinsdale & Jody Smith, O'ahu Master Gardeners