Although tending to a honey bee swarm doesn’t fall under the duties and actions of an Animal Control Officer, the honey bee technically falls under the Kingdom Animalia, so here I go with delivering some honey bee knowledge!
Yesterday we received correspondence at the Police Department from the Middlesex County Beekeepers Association
that included educational material and a flyer regarding honey bees and what to do if we come upon a swarm. A swarm of bees can incite panic and our public safety dispatchers are likely to receive the call. But there is no reason to panic if you happen upon a honey bee swarm.
A little history about my honey bee past.
Many moons ago at a previous employment, I had been on the job a very short time when I was dispatched to a high traffic location for a swarm of bees. My first thought was…what am I supposed to do with a swarm of bees, put them in my cat carrier??? I soon realized that none of us from the town knew what the heck to do in such a situation so I did some quick on the fly research from my vehicle. I was somehow able to reach a beekeeper who was so nice and helpful but I could tell he was a bit flustered with my alarming tone (kind of like me when someone calls in a panic to report a racoon sleeping in a tree!). Basically, he instructed me to leave the swarm alone, rope it off and they will be on their way within 12-24 hours. I advised the police and public works departments in this town and this task was completed. I spent the evening soaking in all the knowledge I could regarding honey bees and was excited to wake up early to go check on and admire the cluster of pollinators down in the square. Unfortunately, this situation does not have a happy ending.
My morning excitement quickly turned to dread when I arrived to a sidewalk full of dead and dying honey bees. They were being sprayed by a potent insecticide. Myself and the audience of breakfast goers at the adjacent diner were frozen in our steps and bites. Eventually the crowd started yelling to stop but it didn’t stop. I got close but was told to move away as the bees were "dangerous." Although at that time the plight of the honey bee was known to some, it was not known to most. The distinction between the honey bee and those similar looking yet harmful species was not made at this moment in time. I believe that all these years later there is definitely more awareness about honey bees but still not enough.
How to know what a swarm is and what to do when you see one.
The Association states that a swarm "is a term used when half of the hive’s worker bees, a queen, and possibly a few drones, leave and look for a new home due to overcrowding and congestion." The problem seems to be they are unlikely to find a new habitat that can provide them with the food and resources they need to survive. The urban agriculture craze of the last several years gives credence to this as many of the colonies started by amateur beekeepers did not survive their first year.
If you encounter a honey bee swarm do not panic
and call an experienced bee keeper, such as the Association
. They will relocate the swarm to a lush new habitat chock full of flowers and nectar. And to put my more traditional ACO hat back on, while you wait for the bee keeper, please keep your animals (and kids) away from the swarm to protect against the rare honey bee sting.
I encourage all to read the bee swarm facts and free removal information
from the Massachusetts Beekeeper Association website. And one last very important quote from the Association - "By most accounts, 70% of all U.S. crops depend on pollination by honey bees."
More information on honey bees and pollinators.
If you are looking for more information on honey bees and how to protect them, the Weston Plant Pollinator Alliance
has a lot of information on how to create and protect sustainable landscape for a diverse native pollinating species.
If you are interested in keeping bees but aren't so sure you can handle the hive yourself, The Best Bees Company
will tend to a hive for you in your own backyard. Of course, if you want to learn how to do beekeeping yourself, the Middlesex County Beekeeping Association
will teach you how.
ACO Karen O’Reilly