Swarm Catching

Image by Noah Wilson-Rich

If you have a swarm of honey bees in your area, understand the following:

  • Don't panic!  If these are honey bees, they rarely sting when in a swarm and left alone.  Swarms are naturally docile as they have no hive to defend.
  • Treat them with respect. Don't spray water on them, or in any way try to disturb them.
  • Contact a beekeeper on our swarm catcher list below to come and get them.
  • If the swarm has landed on the outside of something, like a mailbox or your house, they are only going to be there for a few hours to at most a day before they find a permanent location.
  • A swarm catcher will collect the bees and relocate them to better home, keeping the bees and people safe.
  • Swarm catchers only work with honey bees. They won't remove wasps or other insects.

Swarm catchers

NameContact ViaWill Travel ToNotesDoes Removals?(1)
Sadie Brown

[email protected], 978-771-8570 (call or text)

Metro Boston & North of Boston (Melrose, Malden, Wakefield, Saugus & surrounding areas) No cost, and bees will be given a home in BABA's Teaching Apiary at Boston Nature Center or installed in a nascent BABA teaching apiary in Melrose. No
The Best Bees Company [email protected], Urban Beekeeping Laboratory office phone: (617) 445-2322 Anywhere within a 3-hour drive of Boston No charge, but donations to our research at the Urban Beekeeping Laboratory are welcome and appreciated! 

No
Lydia Glenn 617-861-7185 (call or text) Boston and Cambridge  No charge  No
Tal Reichert [email protected] North of Boston, within 128 No charges, just want to give the bees a nice and warm home. No
Mel Gadd [email protected] or cell phone (617)504-3263. Within the Metro. area of Boston  No charge just the bees. Yes 
Angela Roell 413 588 6977 or [email protected] West of Metro Boston & North, and within the city too on some days. May be a small fee for cut outs depending on time/labor involved, I am willing to assess first for free though, no charge for swarm catching Yes
Ilana Lerman Text (414)305-6136 Within 40 miles of JP I am not experienced and would feel comfortable accommodating someone else too. No
 MaryBeth Noonan 617-637-2339 (cell) call or text Within 30 miles of Boston No costs - will give bees a nice home No
Mark Lewis 505-270-2982 (text preferred) or call Brookline, Jamaica Plain, & Newton Please consider making a donation to Boston Beekeeper's Club  No
Katharina Wilkins

[email protected]

or 617-699-8345 

Lincoln, Concord, Weston, Waltham, Lexington, Wayland, Wellesley, Natick I am working with the DeCordova museum currently to populate 2 sculptural bee hives as part of the HAVEN project (http://www.decordova.org/art/sculpture-park/haven), and we would love a donation of one more swarm for the second hive at the Lincoln site.   No 
Anita & Brian Deeley Beverly Bees, 978-778-8276 (call or text) or [email protected] Boston and North of Boston - Suffolk County, Essex County & Middlesex County Free Honey Bee Swarm Removal. We save honey bee colonies and use them to teach others about beekeeping and the importance of bees. For More information visit http://www.beverlybees.com/bee-removal-service/ Cut outs from a structure for a fee
Alexandra Bartsch 781-630-1129 Anywhere in or near Middlesex County I am the Swarm Coordinator for the Middlesex County Beekeepers Association.  If you have a swarm in or near Middlesex County, we will have it quickly rescued and placed safely in a hive by an experienced beekeeper at no charge (we often give a small reward).  Please call or text 781-630-1129.  See also our website
Yes
Fatih Uzuner 617-407-5023 Scituate, norwell, Cohasset, Hingham, quincy, Braintree, Weymouth, Marshfield, Kingston, Plymouth, Pembroke, Rockland, Hanover I have 18 years of beekeeping experience with only one hive lost so far. The bees will definitely have a safe home! No cost, I keep the bees

1. "Does Removals" means that this beekeeper is willing to perform removals from buildings, often involving carpentry work. Please confirm any work of this nature with the beekeeper before any work is done.

Many beekeepers are happy to collect a swarm as they are a free colony of bees looking for a suitable home. Please use the list above to contact a beekeeper in your area who would be interested in coming out to collect the swarm and can provide help or advice.

Only a few beekeepers will tackle a bee removal that involves removing bees that has established themselves inside a building or structure.  If you have bees living inside a wall or tree that you want removed, look for those in the list who have indicated that they are willing to do what is called a "cut-out."

Also, please do not call beekeepers about hornets, wasps, yellow jackets, carpenter bees or other insects.  If you are unsure if what you are seeing is a swarm, it should look something like the photo above, or one of these from Google.  A honey bee swarm will appear as a large, dark ball made up of thousands of bees, and they will often land on a branch in a bush or a tree, on the side of a building, mailbox or even on a car bumper.

About Swarming

Honey bee swarming is a part of the natural reproductive life cycle of a honey bee colony.  In Massachusetts, the swarming season usually begins around late May and can last through the end of August.  Contrary to Hollywood, a swarm of bees is quite docile, and very unlikely to chase anything, much less a human who is running away.

As the weather warms and seasons progress, a honey bee colony will naturally increase its population.  When a colony of bees senses it has too many bees for the space it is living in, such as a hollow tree, the colony splits into two sections with one section leaving the hive, and the other staying behind. The section that leaves the hive is called a swarm. When they leave, they typically land on a nearby object, such as another tree or rock, but keep close together, densely packed in a ball often the size of a football or basketball.

This new object is rarely their permanent location; rather, it is a temporary one where they wait while looking for a suitable new home (honey bees prefer a cavity).  Once they have landed, they send out a few bees to scout around the area for a permanent home. These scout bees return to the swarm, tell the other bees what they have found, and they all decide to pick from one of the potential homes. Then, as an entire swarm, they fly into the air making what you might imagine a swarm would look like, land at their new home, quickly crawl inside, and get to work.

Over the next few weeks, they will be busy building out new comb and quickly raising a new queen if needed. Once there is a queen laying babies, and plenty of honey in the combs, the colony is considered to be fully established. The bees will stay in their new home until they outgrow it, and in turn, swarm themselves, repeating the cycle. This is how honey bees have been living for millions of years.

Some swarms are larger than others, and as the year goes on swarms are often smaller in size. A swarm of bees can be valuable to a beekeeper, as it essentially represents a free colony of bees that they are willing to nurture. Swarm catchers help the community by moving bees to a safe location from the community, and in return receive a new bee population.

Local swarms have even been in the news.  In 2013 this swarm attracted a fair bit of attention when it landed on the back of a yellow car in Dorchester. Noah Wilson-Rich of Best Bees trapped the swarm.