Honey Bee Swarms

Public health and safety issues

Swarming can be alarming to the general public in residential areas.

Thousands of bees are on the loose and flying in a mass before they cluster on a shrub or enter the cavity of a house. It is common for people to become anxious about the possibility of bee stings. A swarm of bees is usually docile and will not sting passers by.

DO NOT SPRAY THE BEES WITH ANYTHING : fly spray, chemicals or water will harm the bees.

Why do honey bees swarm?

Bees usually swarm in spring or early summer. Swarming is the way bees reproduce and make more colonies.

  • In nature, swarming is a response to the impulse to reproduce and, unless managed, is the natural way that your honey bee colonies will reproduce.
  • The queen will leave the hive with about half the worker bees to establish a new colony elsewhere.
  • Swarming usually occurs in early spring through to summer. A thin nectar flow and plenty of pollen to promote brood rearing are the ideal floral conditions that lead to swarming.

What you need to tell the beekeeper

  • How accessible is the swarm?
  • How high is it?
  • Is it in a tree, on a post, or in/on a building.
  • How long has the swarm been there?
  • The location (address) of the swarm?
  • Are the bees getting into the house yet?
  • Please note there may be over 40,000 bees in a large colony.
  • Some beekeepers may charge for this service but most will accept a small donation towards their club.

Types of swarm

  • When the old queen leaves the colony with half the workers – this is known as the prime swarm.
  • The parent colony is left with a number of ripe queen cells to produce a replacement queen for the original colony.
  • At times, another swarm will leave the original colony with a virgin queen hatched from these queen cells. This swarm is much smaller and is called a secondary or after swarm.
  • In other cases, the whole colony, headed by the original queen of that colony, absconds the hive. This is often a very small swarm and is called an absconding swarm. An absconding swarm can be triggered by starvation, invasion of pests or disease.

What do honey bees do after swarming?

  • On leaving the original colony, the swarm will cluster as a group on a shrub , a tree branch or a fence.
  • Prime and absconding swarms headed by an old queen will usually cluster within ten metres of the hive they swarmed from. This is the ideal time to catch them.
  • Swarms headed by virgin queens fly a longer distance and often cluster higher.
  • Then, bees from the cluster will seek out a suitable cavity in which to set up their new colony. They can find a suitable location within a few hours. The cluster leaves their temporary resting place with the queen and goes to the new location to set up their new hive.

If you see a swarm of bees you can contact a member of the Gold Coast Amateur Beekeepers Society for advice.

For bees living inside a house wall or living inside a tree cavity please contact:

 Amateur Beekeepers Association swarm collection service, 

V’s Bees QLD 


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