Honeybee Swarm Information & Help

If you have a swarm of honeybees we would like to help. Before you contact us please read the information below to help make sure they are honeybees. We are not exterminators.

If you have a swarm:

Call 617-699-1760 or

Email swarms@essexcountybeekeepers.org.

Honeybee swarm

Identifing Bees

Before calling an exterminator or a beekeeper, you should attempt to identify what kind bees you have. If they are yellow jackets call an exterminator, if they are honeybees call a beekeeper.

Often people confuse yellow jackets with honeybees:

Yellow jackets often live in the ground, but can live in structural cavities, such as a house soffit. Honeybees never live in the ground. Honeybees live in large above the ground cavities such as hollow tree trunks.

Yellow jackets are brighter yellow in color and are generally more aggressive than honeybees. Honeybees are more brown than yellow and have fuzz on their thorax, while yellow jackets do not have hair on their thorax.

Yellow jackets will eat meat and hang around your hamburger, while honey bees are strict vegetarians.

Yet another bee sometimes confused with honeybees are Bumble bees. Bumble bees are much larger, yellow and have considerable hair on their thorax. Bumble bees, like honeybees are quite docile and probably should be left alone.

The Pollinator.com web site also has an excellent page on identifying bees.


Swarming is part of the natural reproductive life cycle of honey bees. The swarming season in Massachusetts usually begins in June and can last through August. Warmer weather, combined with an abundance of nectar and pollen stimulate the colony to increase in population. This causes over-crowding which prompts some bees to swarm so they can reproduce. Swarms usually emerge from the colonies between 10:00am and 2:00pm on warm sunny days. The old queen together with about half of the bees from the colony, leave the hive and cluster on a nearby object such as a fence or a small shrub. The swarm may remain for a few hours or one to two days while scout bees search for a permanent nesting site. Once found, the swarm will move to this site and establish a new colony.

Bee swarms are NOT normally aggressive because they are gorged full of honey and homeless, which reduces their defensive behavior. A swarm will become increasingly defensive, if provoked, the longer it remains in a given location. In the original colony, a new queen emerges and continues to maintain the parent colony.

Please be aware that in some instances the physical location of the swarm may present challenges. For example, if a swarm is too high in a tree, retrieval may not be a reasonable or safe option. Swarms located in structures or otherwise concealed may require the skills of qualified craftsmen to dismantle and rebuild portions of that structure. The manpower and equipment necessary to complete this type of retrieval is an expense that the property owner is expected to bear.

Honeybee swarm