Swarm Calls

Swarm Hotline

We are available for swarm calls in the city of Seattle between 10 am and 4 pm most days. If you have a swarm of honey bees within the parameters listed below, we may be able to help. There is no charge for picking up honey bee swarms.

YOUR ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS SHOULD BE “YES”

1) Are you in the city of Seattle proper?
2) Are the critters honey bees? (If you don’t know, see below.)
3) Is the swarm cluster as big or bigger than a football?
4) Are they accessible via a six-foot ladder or lower? (We have some flexibility on this one.)

All YES replies? Then give us a call: 206, seven-eight-six, 5715. We’ll try to get someone from our Bee Team out pronto! If we do not answer or call you back right away, you can try our friends at the Puget Sound Beekeepers Association.

ABOUT SWARMS

Swarming bees are often a symptom of hive health: the colony is strong enough to divide and multiply. The old queen departs with half the bees to find a new home. And this swarm is usually quite docile, as it has nothing to defend. Since we live in an urban environment, however, what bees might think is a good place for that new home might not work so well for you or your neighbor. So we try to collect them and find a place that works for everyone.

HOW A SWARM WORKS

Once bees do swarm, their first stop is usually 50 or 100 feet from their original home. Their objective is simply to get out of the hive and figure out their next move. The bees that had been foragers, instead of gathering pollen and nectar, now look for a permanent space. They inspect new sites thoroughly and report back to the hive, enlisting others to go to sites they like. This investigation can take between one and three days, in which time the bees remain exposed in their cluster. The bees consider all the reports, and — even though most of the bees never leave the swarm cluster — they vote until everyone agrees. Then, following the foragers who know where they are going, they all head to the new site, which can be up to a mile away. Amazing!

HONEY BEES, YELLOWJACKETS, OR BUMBLE BEES?

Honey bees and bumble bees are both from the same scientific subfamily (Apinae), but there the paths diverge. How do you tell the difference? See the photos below, and read this fascinating article from Illinois biologist and photographer Alex Wild.

Yellowjackets and other wasps aren’t even in the same familiy as bees. While they are flying insects with membrane-wings, and have yellow and black markings, they are as different from bees as ants. We don’t collect yellowjackets and find them just as much of a nuisance as you might (since they attack bees)–but to be fair you should know that yellowjackets can be good at eating aphids, and some wasps help set the flavor in wine grapes.

Honey Bee

Yellowjacket

Yellowjacket

Bumble bee

Bumble Bee

 

Honey bees look “furry” (unless you are using an electron microscope), have softer yellows and browns than the bold colors of yellowjackets, may be carrying bright pollen on their legs, and their swarms gather in clusters of 10,000 bees or more on branches (and other sometimes inconvenient places). They don’t eat soda or lunch meat.

Yellowjackets are about the same size as honey bees (1/2″) but they look metallic with a clearly defined “waist” and very clear patterns in their markings. Yellowjackets often live in the ground, while other wasps can build round paper nests in eaves. They are most bothersome in the late summer (although their queens start laying in the spring–so address them early!).

Bumble Bees are usually very large and round. They fly slowly (hence the name) and are almost never seen in a cluster, or if so, then one very small. Their hives only contain a few hundred bees at most. To their credit, they work much harder than honey bees–starting earlier in the season, and going later; they also work in the rain and cold, and are also native to the US. Like honey bees, they are in dire straits with enviromentally-caused disease and should be protected.

REFERRALS

See our Links page for folks who remove stinging insects including yellowjackets and other wasps, and for locations outside our area.