Ziegler Beekeeping and Honey Supply

Have you spotted a swarm?

While a honeybee colony can swarm during most warm months, mid-May through the end of June is considered swarm season for my area (NW Illinois.) The swarm splits off from an existing colony in search of a new place to setup their hive. The swarm will stop in an intermediate location, such as a tree branch, fire hydrant, car tire, or the soffit of a house while scouts are off checking for adequate habitat. A resting swarm is often seen hanging in a large cluster, or beard of bees. The bees often do not stay long once a scout has returned from a prospective cavity or other protected area that is suitable for setting up the new hive. Before the bees cluster together, people often see and hear the large frenzy of bees flying around as they prepare to land. If you have spotted a swarm, please get in contact with an experienced beekeeper immediately. This will increase the chance of a successful swarm capture.

While swarms are often gentle and non-reactive, it is best to avoid exposing yourself to the swarms without experience and adequate protection. Sometimes poor weather or other stimuli can cause the bees to treat nearby animals and people as a threat.

Identify the Swarm

Some of the calls I receive are in response to yellow jackets and bumble bees. If the insects are coming in and out of the ground, or if they have a "paper" like nest in a tree, chances are very high that these are not honeybees. I have found it beneficial when folks have taken a picture of the "possible swarm" and sent it to my email address.

Other information is also helpful. Some of the questions you might consider when contacting me or another beekeeper:

  • Where is the swarm located? What is your address? Can you provide me a link to google maps?
  • How large is the swarm? About the size of a "Softball" or "basketball?
  • What has the swarm landed on? How accessible is it? Is it high in a tree, or hanging on a low fence?
  • Did you see the swarm land? How long has it been since you noticed the swarm?
  • Have you called other beekeepers? (it is a bit awkward showing up to watch another beekeeper working on the swarm capture!)
  • Has anybody sprayed, hit, or done anything to the bees?
  • Do you have any special concerns? Are you allergic to bees? Are they near children or pets? Is there a sporting event taking place near the bees?
  • Can you take a picture and email it to me?

Colony Removal

Sometimes a swarm will take up residence on your property. Bees do not consider the property owner's preferences before choosing this location. Once the bees have found a cavity in a birdhouse, in a decorative planter, in the kids old tree house, in the hollow of that old cotton wood... or in "your home", capturing becomes a challenge. Removal of an establish colony can be time consuming, and take some advanced planning. You will likely need to hire a carpenter to perform any repairs to a structure after a colony has been removed, so this cost needs to be considered. If you intend to have the bees removed, do not spray the bees with insecticide, and then call a beekeeper. You are likely to create a mess for yourself, and for the beekeeper doing the cutout. Be sure to provide as much information as you can when you contact me or another beekeeper.