Q: What do I do if I see a swarm?
Swarming is a natural way of honey bee colony reproduction. Once a colony becomes crowded and the space is too tight, a portion of the colony's individuals will leave with the old queen to seek a new nest. Swarms are generally docile because they are seeking out a new home rather than defending brood and honey supplies. Swarms will generally move from a temporary location (tree canopy, bushes, water meter, etc.), which is likely where you noticed the swarm, into a permanent home identified by bees called scouts. If you see a swarm approaching you, seek shelter indoors if possible, covering your face and neck for protection. Notify others of the swarm’s location and leave it alone or place a warning sign nearby. If you see a swarm forming a cluster on the sidewalk, side of a house, or a tree, they generally are resting and will move on in 24-48 hours. If the swarm has not moved within a reasonable amount of time, you may consider contacting a licensed pest control business, a swarm removal company, or your local beekeepers' association. For California, a good place to start is the California State Beekeepers Association. For a list of local bee associations and clubs see the Bee Clubs document at the bottom of the page.
Q: I think my bees are sick or have died from a disease, where can I get them tested?
For testing of various pests, parasites and pathogens USDA Honey Bee Lab Maryland allows beekeepers to send samples and they will provide these services, free of charge. To learn how to prepare samples for submission for analysis please visit their "How to submit samples" page.
Bee Informed Partnership (BIP) also currently provides pest and disease services analysis and can provide you with an Emergency Test Kit or Diagnostic Test Kit for sample collection.
Q: What do I do if I suspect my colony died due to pesticide exposure?
If you suspect your bees were exposed to pesticides, we recommend you document everything with photos and videos. Collect samples according to the recommendation of the service you are planning to use and samples of the bees from both surviving and dying colonies. Collecting a small amount of bee bread could also be helpful for pesticide testing. Any suspected pesticide kills should be reported to your County Agricultural Commissioner's Office (map of counties).
California Department of Pesticide Regulation has multiple options for assisting beekeepers. They have recently created an app to allow users to report pesticide incidents in California 24 hours a day. The link for this program can be found HERE.
Bee pesticide testing is also offered by the National Science Laboratories.
IN A PESTICIDE EMERGENCY INVOLVING HUMANS PLEASE CALL 9-1-1 IMMEDIATELY.
Q: I believe my hives now contain Africanized bees, what do I do?
In the state of California it is illegal to keep Africanized and/or overly defensive honey bee colonies, or allow them to occupy any equipment left out and available for such a colony. UCANR offers excellent resources on what to do if you suspect that your bees are now Africanized, and UCCE San Diego outlines the steps on how to re-queen a hive in an easy to follow video.
If you are interested in testing your bees for Africanization via mitotyping, please contact the Queen and Disease Clinic at NCSU.
Q: How do I get honey bees on my property removed? (e.g. water meter, mailbox, attic, fountain, etc.)?
It is the responsibility of the property owner to remove a swarm or nest of bees on their own private property. If you are renting a property, contact your landlord or property manager for assistance. The property owner should call a licensed pest control company, swarm removal service, or beekeeper experienced in removal to have the bees removed. If bees are on public property, contact the city or county in which the bees are located.
Q: How do I get my neighbor to remove honey bees on their property?
If the bees are a swarm or established nest, not in a managed hive box, let your neighbor know that the bees are bothering you and you would like the property owner to remove the bees for public safety. Bees may cause structural damage to property if not removed or if removed after the bees have established a colony. Established colonies may attract other pests such as mice, rate, ants, moths, and cockroaches if not removed properly. The property owner is liable for any harm bees may do to others.
Q: Are bee removal service providers required to have a pest control operator’s license?
If any bee removal service operator uses pesticides, they are required by the State of California to be properly licensed and report any pesticide usage. You can check HERE to see if the company you are contracting is licensed. Companies or operators that remove swarms without using any pesticides are not required to obtain and maintain a pest control operator’s license.
Q: Is it illegal to kill bees?
It is not illegal to kill honey bees, provided they are on your property. It is illegal to intentionally destroy any managed hive of honey bees on anyone else’s property without prior permission from the property owner and/or hive operator.
- It is illegal to use pesticides not in accordance with label directions and only a licensed pest control business can legal apply pesticides for bee removal.
- It is unlawful to use any product that is not labeled for use on bees.
- It is not illegal to kill bees by suffocation, solarization, or sealing the hive entry with steel wool or other means.
- It is unsafe to have honey bees hives, managed or unmanaged, in close proximity to human activity unless they are managed honey bees of known genetics maintained by a beekeeper in appropriate boxes. Honey bees with Africanized genetics or exhibiting overly defensive behavior should be eliminated by an experienced professional.
- Eliminating or removing wild honey bee colonies or swarms will not negatively impact the overall bee population in your area.
Q: Who can I contact if I want honey bees on my property removed but not killed?
There are some pest control companies who will perform live bee removal, as well as local beekeepers who are interested in removing swarms while alive. What to consider is contracting someone who has experience removing bees, and preventing their return to the removal site. Also note, in Southern California up to 70% of swarms or wild bees contain overly defensive genetics and are not recommended to be kept by beekeepers and are best eliminated to protect public safety.