Report a Swarm

If you are reporting a swarm....

To Report a swarm, please call/text: Call/text: 707-387-8799 or 707-483-0426 Email: swarm@sonomabees.org (We will refer you to a local beekeeper who collects swarms).

Photo by Ettamarie Peterson

What is a Swarm?

  • Honey bee swarms are one of the most beautiful and interesting phenomena in nature.  A swarm may contain from 1,500 to 30,000 bees, including workers, drones, and a queen. Swarming is an instinctive part of the annual life cycle of a honey bee colony. It provides a mechanism for the colony to reproduce itself.
  • The tendency to swarm is usually greatest when bees increase their population rapidly in late spring and early summer.
  • Honeybee swarms are not dangerous. A honey bee swarm has neither young nor food stores and will not exhibit defensive behavior unless unduly provoked.
  • By calling a beekeeper to come and collect a swarm, you are helping the bees find a safe home.

What to Do if You See a Swarm

If you have sighted a swarm of honey bees, or have bees in your house or other structure, please read the following information before calling a beekeeper on the list:

  • PLEASE DO NOT SPRAY THE BEES WITH ANYTHING. Especially insecticides, but do not even spray them with water. This is endangering the bees, yourself and the beekeeper.
  • Ensure you are dealing with honey bees and not another beneficial insect (please see our photo gallery below).
  • Please do not ask a beekeeper to take care of a yellow jacket problem - unless specifically licensed for pest control, a beekeeper cannot legally address pest issues. Please contact a licensed pest control operation for that.
  • Note the address (preferably with a nearby cross street).
  • Note the location of the bees. Are they in a tree, on a fence or structure; how far off of the ground? Are there any hazards the beekeeper should be aware of (near a utility line, above a thorny plant, soft soil, steep incline, etc)
  • How large is the cluster of bees, softball, grapefruit, basketball sizes can be referenced. A very small cluster of bees may be stragglers from a passed swarm.
  • How long have the bees been there? The amount of time a swarm has been landed greatly affects the ability of a beekeeper to catch the swarm before they move on, but also affects how aggressive the bees might become - a swarm which has been lingering for a day will be getting restless.
  • If they're not on your property, and in a neighbor's yard, please provide contact details for that neighbor - we can't enter someone else's property without permission. The property owner or tenant should call a beekeeper.
  • If you're greeted by an answering machine when calling a beekeeper, call another. If you choose to leave a message, please be sure to leave contact information.
  • If the swarm is in a yard, please provide access information (how close can a vehicle be brought, how steep is the terrain?).
  • If the swarm is high off the ground, if you have access to a reliable ladder which can be used by the beekeeper, please make the beekeeper aware of this.
  • If you have digital photos of the swarm or structurally inhabiting colony (and the surrounding area), please advise the beekeeper of this. While honey bee swarms are generally docile, you should avoid putting yourself at potential risk to take photographs or get a closer look at the bees beyond basic identification.
  • Not all beekeepers perform structural extractions - if the bees are inside a wall or attic, this is not a swarm, but rather an established colony of bees. In this case, you need to contact a beekeeper who indicates that they handle structural extractions.
  • Some beekeepers provide the swarm capturing service for free, others charge a nominal fee - be clear on the cost of the job before engaging someone's services.

Other Types of Bees

Bumble Bees are beneficial insects. They do not live in colonies of large numbers, so you won't encounter a cluster of many of them at time. They are significantly larger than honey bees, are black and fuzzy, with one or two yellow bands.

Carpenter Bees They bore approx 1/2" diameter holes into wood (such as decks and siding), and live inside these holes. Like bumblebees, they do not live in large numbers. They appear like a hairless version of a bumblebee, without yellow bands.

Paper Wasps, sometimes called "Umbrella Wasps" live in paper nests, with the openings of the cells facing downwards. They rarely have cause to sting people, and are considered a beneficial insect - among other things, they eat spiders. Mud Dauber Wasps look similar, but live in mud cakes often found in rafters of outbuildings and on the eves of houses. Click on the image for an enlargement.

Yellow Jackets often live in the ground. These are the pests that come around when you're eating outdoors, or which are found around open trashbins. Their stings can cause a bacteriological infection as a result of their scavenging nature..

Hornets appear similar to large yellow jackets, can be very ornery, and live in large, usually greyish paper nests, which are unfortunatley often typified as beehives in popular children's publications such as Winnie the Pooh. Do not interfere with their nests - seek professional removal.

The Sonoma County Beekeepers' Association (SCBA) publishes and distributes this swarm contact list as a service to the public. We are neither an oversight or certification organization for beekeepers. If you engage the services of anyone on the list, you need to be aware that you are engaging the services of that beekeeper as an individual - you are not hiring them as an agent of SCBA. Problems are rare, but if you should have one, it is a matter between you and the individual that you engaged to handle your bee situation.