What do you do when you walk outside your house one day and discover thousands of bees covering your favorite maple tree? This might seem like a bizarre problem but it's not an uncommon one. It actually occurs quite often in the spring. While maple trees don't have the exclusive on bees, they do seem to be a favorite target, probably because flowers on the maple trees will provide the bees with a source of food. Once you understand why this occurs, you'll be able to take the appropriate action to keep the bees from becoming permanent residents.
Bees swarm when a hive becomes overpopulated or a second queen is about to hatch. The current queen then takes about half of the worker bees and leaves to find a new home. Depending on the size of the colony, this may mean a few hundred or a few thousand bees traveling together. The bees will form a huge ball with the queen in the center to protect her. The bees will then find a temporary resting spot like a maple tree as scout bees look for a permanent home. Swarming usually occurs in the spring.
If you have a swarm of bees resting on your maple tree, you have two options. You can ignore them until they relocate, which may be a few hours or even a couple of days. Keep in mind that there is a possibility that the bees will make their new home within the walls of yours, so you may want to choose the second option, which is to call a beekeeper to remove them. The beekeeper will relocate the bees to a new home.
Finding a Beekeeper
You may be able to find a beekeeper listed in your local phone book under "beekeeper" or "honey." Most states also have a state beekeepers association that would have listings of beekeepers in your area. You can find them by doing an Internet search for "beekeepers association" plus your state. Your county extension service, fire department or police department may also have listings of local beekeepers. BeeCulture.com also has a listing of beekeepers by state. Keep in mind that the bees have no economic value, so you should consider reimbursing the beekeeper for her time and trouble.
The one thing that you shouldn't do is to kill the bees. Bees are essential to the environment as pollinators. Without bees, about one-third of the planet's food would not be produced because the trees and plants did not get pollinated. More importantly, bees have been on the decline over the past few years due to a number of causes, including environmental pollution, disease, parasites and pesticide use. It is much better for everyone involved to relocate the bees rather than exterminating them.
- WCSH 6 Portland; Bee Swarm Season is Here; Bill Green; May 2010
- SouthShoreNow.ca; Bees Swarm on Main Street; Stacey Colwell
- American Beekeeping Federation: Unwanted Bees/Bee Removal
- Fox News.com; The Importance of Honey Bee Health; Deirdre Imus; February 2011
- Bee Culture: Who's Who in North American Beekeeping