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Friday, April 15, 2016

Swarm days are almost here!

 Five ways to tell the difference between honey bees and other stinging insects!

I get phone calls every year from people claiming they have a swarm of honeybees that they want me to come and get.  I'd guess 90% of those calls are not honeybees. I've already received a call this was not honey bees.  But in the next few weeks, it's possible you will see a swarm of honeybees.  They have a swarming season, and it's usually the end of April, or the month of May, in our area, depending on the weather.  I would like to show you some ways to identify honey bees.

 Last year I got a call from a friend who thought she had honey bees in her house.  She had something in her house, but these are NOT honeybees.
  They are yellow jackets or wasps and they made a mess in her house. 

1) Honeybees do not make this kind of a mess in a home.  If they get into a house, it's usually in the walls or the attic space and they will build wax comb, not this papery mess you see here.
  I suggested she call an exterminator.  Wasps and yellow jackets are not friendly.
(Look at the wasp on the screen.  The body is more jointed than a bee, and skinnier)

2) This (below) is what we used to call paper wasps.  I'm not sure if that is the official name, because I am not that knowledgeable when it comes to yellow jackets or wasps.  I am not a keeper of yellow jackets or wasps! 

Honeybees do not live here!

3) If you see something like this hanging on a tree, get the H out of there QUICK!  This is probably a hornets nest.  I did not get close enough to find out if it had a live nest in it!

Honeybees do not live here! 

4) Honeybees do NOT live in the ground.  I've had several people swear they have honey bees coming out of the ground, but they don't.

If you look at this picture I got off of the internet, you can see honey bees are a little more muted in color than wasps and yellow jackets and they are a little more fuzzy looking.  I know you are thinking you won't get close enough to tell, right!

5) A honey bee will not sting you unless she has to defend herself or her hive, and once she stings you, she will die.  Not so with a wasp or a yellow jacket.  They can sting over and over again and they don't die from stinging you.
 Most of the time honey bees will be on flowers, they only want nectar and pollen from plants.  Yellow jackets and wasps are carnivores (and junkavores).  They will eat your steak, your ice cream (they are the "crazy bees" that won't leave you alone in the fall) and they will even eat a honey bee!

Most honey bees are not found in the wild anymore.  However......
 If you see something like this (picture below) hanging on a tree, call a beekeeper or your local extension office.   They are honey bees and even though this is what a swarm usually looks like, it is not actually a swarm.  This happened to be a bunch of honey bees that built a hive on the outside of a tree.  They would never have lasted the winter. 

This is a swarm and it's probably the biggest swarm I ever retrieved. Usually they are football in size or bigger, if they are worth getting.
Here I am holding it.  Swarms are not mean.  I did not get one sting getting this swarm.  These honeybees are protecting their queen and looking for a new home.  Look closely and you can see bees flying around all over the place.  I was waiting for them to calm down, then I was going to put them in the cardboard nuc box until I got them safely home and into a hive that I had waiting for them.

This is another swarm.  Sometimes they aren't that easy to see, but you might hear them.  Or, if you're lucky, you'll see a "cloud" flying quickly across the sky and landing in a tree.  

 This is a horrible picture of me!  I think I was painting when this guy called me to come and get this swarm.   If you see a swarm, you have anywhere from three hours to three days to get a beekeeper to come and get the swarm.   SO CALL SOMEONE IMMEDIATELY!

We were standing under she swarm.  Which shows how docile they are when they are in swarm mode.
Here they are, hidden in the tree being all nice and quiet like.
If you are ever in a situation where you aren't sure, it's always best to call a beekeeper or your local extension office.  It's a special day when you see a swarm because it doesn't happen often, and it's very special to watch a beekeeper capture one.

I am connecting with Amy at  Five on Friday!  Click here to see what other bloggers are up to.

Cindy Bee


  1. Thank you for that, it was most informative, hopefully I will be able to tell the difference now.

  2. Cindy, I am not so afraid of honeybees. I know better than to start swatting. :) I hope all your bees made it thru the winter. Blessings, xoxo, Susie

  3. My son is keen to learn about beekeeping, I must remember to show him this post (being a teenager, he is still asleep). How interesting, thank you.

  4. That was very informative Cindy! If I ever see a swarm on our property I am call you! We have a lot of the paper nest types of hornets/wasps around here and ground bees also. And yes they sting more than once, I know that first hand. ouch.

  5. How interesting. We had tree bumblebees take up residence around our guttering last year:-
    They went of their own accord but we also had wasps build a nest inside the wall cavity, we had to get someone out to take care of that as they were getting in to the house and as you imply in your post, they can be quite nasty. Honey bee swarms are fascinating, I've never seen one though.

  6. To bee, or not to bee, that is the question :) I wish you a beautiful day :)

  7. A great post. I hope my bees don't swarm this year! Many of the calls to deal with swarms last year were about tree bumblebees which have been in the UK for about 15 years. I love dealing with honeybee swarms (if they aren't my own) because, as you say, they are so docile.

  8. So happy you're taking care of those little guys. I rarely see them now, and I know how important they are for pollination. When I see one in my yard, I immediately tell him, "Welcome, Little Fellow", and then leave him to his business, hoping he'll have a long, happy, pesticide-free life.

  9. Very interesting :) I plant zinnias and sunflowers in and around my vegetable gardens because I have read that they bring in the bees and help pollinate. Do yellow jackets help with pollination? I have some (yellow jackets) starting to come into my potting shed and I really don't want them there. I don't want to spray in there either . . . do you have any safe suggestions?

    1. I usually buy one of those sprays that shoot several feet away and kill yellow jacket nests. They are carnivores. They will eat honey bees and rob the honey. If a honey bee and a yellow jacket get in a fight, the yellow jacket will win every time and it's a fight to the death. Also, they sting over and over, so you do not want to get near them and make them mad. That's just what I do.

      Cindy Bee

  10. Hey Cindy I nominated you today through my blog for the Liebster blog award, I love reading your blog, thanks for the honest look at your journey!

  11. Such an interesting post Cindy! I love the idea of keeping honeybees. We have had some huge bumble bees in our garden lately. Happy weekend.
    Helen xox

  12. Cindy, Hope all is well....been missy you. xoxo, Susie


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