Bee Swarms: A Beginner’s Guide

“Every spring I see at least one loud mass of honeybees flying in Camarillo… scary!”

A “ball” of honeybees resting after they have swarmed. The queen is in the middle.

Humans are hard-wired to be alert to the sounds of honeybees buzzing — honeybees can sting and we want to avoid that! However, buzzing is not a reliable sign of honeybee aggression: buzzing is caused by a honeybee’s wings moving (to fly, to fan its hive and cool things down, to communicate with other honeybees) and experienced beekeepers learn ro recognize the particular sound an angry honeybee makes. They know that while a swarm looks and sounds scary, it is actually one of the gentlest expressions of honeybee activity!

How can a swarm of honeybees be considered “gentle?”

When a honeybee nest, or hive, becomes densely packed with young honeybees and is starting to feel constrained for space, the colony decides to split. Departing honeybees gorge on their honey stores in preparation for their exodus — in fact, they are so full of honey that it is hard for them to sting, even if they wanted to!

They emerge from the hive in an awesome mass and the air fills with honeybees zinging around. The queen honeybee, a heavier and more awkward flier, emerges and the colony escorts her to a spot between 50 and 100 feet away, where the queen lands and her accompanying attendants mass around her, protecting her in a large “ball” of honeybees. 

Don’t poke: leave the swarm alone!

At this point, the swarm is quite docile — they are on a mission to find a new home and are not interested in anything else. HOWEVER — if you were to go up and poke at them (or throw rocks at them as some teenagers feel compelled to do) they would not take it kindly and might come after you.

They will stay in this ball for a few hours to a few days, protecting the queen as the scout honeybees scour a thirty mile area looking for a new home (often in a tree). Once the scouts have found the home, they communicate its locations to the honeybees attending the queen and the swarm moves up en masse and flies to its new home.

“Help! The honeybees have balled up in my Camarillo back yard and I am worried about someone getting stung!”

A beekeeper gently removes a bee swarm from a bike.

If you are worried about a honeybee swarm being poked at by your children or dog, or have any other concerns, DO NOT SPRAY the honeybees! They are a vital part of Camarillo’s environmental health, pollinating crops, wildflowers and bringing increased fertility to your and your neighbors’ back yards and gardens. Simply keep your children and pets away from the swarm until it moves on.

If you can’t wait until the honeybees move of their own accord, or are concerned that what you may be seeing is wasps or yellow jackets, ask for help:

  • Your local pest control company will help you determine if the insects you see are hornets or honeybees. If they are honeybees, they will advise you about local beekeepers who can help you! The beekeepers will find the bees a new home.
  • What to do when you find honeybee swarms in Santa Barbara
  • Ventura County Vector Control Program

Contact O’Connor Pest Control today if you desire professional and knowledgeable pest control advice or call us at 800-284-7985 for immediate service!