A swarm of thousands of buzzing honeybees might not be an appealing sight or sound to many Clovis residents — especially if the bees have decided to rest close by their home.
But don’t panic.
“Bees, as a rule, do not want to sting,” explained Teri Solomon, secretary of the Central Valley Beekeepers Association. “They know they die after they sting someone, so that is their very last line of defense.”
And don’t spray the bees with a water hose, insecticide — or anything else, for that matter — Solomon said.
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“If you scare the swarm and agitate it, you’re more likely to get hurt,” she said.
Instead, call a beekeeper, who will be more than happy to take the bees and relocate them to a hive, where they can continue to thrive and pollinate our local crops and gardens, Solomon said.
Every human being on the face of this earth is dependent on bees for the food we need for our survival.
Teri Solomon, Central Valley Beekeepers Association
A list of beekeepers available to collect swarms can be found on at http://www.cvbeekeepers.info or by calling the Fresno County Agricultural Commissioner’s office at (559) 600-5956.
Beekeepers, who fit in swarm collection between tending their own hives and working full-time jobs, try to collect the bees within 24 hours of a call, Solomon said.
That may seem like a long time to wait, especially when the sight of bees flying around can be unsettling, but it’s important to understand the nature of the swarm, Solomon said.
Bees are more active in the spring and summer when there are more hours of daylight — typically from February to June — Solomon said.
During this time, female worker bees are busy foraging, collecting pollen from trees, shrubs and flowers that can be miles away from their hives. Meanwhile, inside the hive, the queen bee is busy mating and laying eggs to increase the hive’s population.
“At the peak of season, a two-story hive contains 50,000 to 75,000 bees,” Solomon said.
If the hive is thriving, there could be a swarm.
“Bees swarm when they run out of room in the hive … the hive is too strong or they run out of room to keep growing,” Solomon said. “A small percentage of the time it can be triggered by too long with not enough sustainable forage. The hive will leave to try to find greener pastures.”
Part of the hive’s population leaves to find a new place to colonize. In preparation for their journey, they gorge on food because they don’t know how long they’ll have to fly before finding a new home, Solomon said.
“The average size swarm is a little bigger than a basketball and can be made up of 20,000 to 30,000 bees,” she said.
The bees will fly together and then swarm a tree, rose bush or any structure on which they can rest. While much of the swarm rests, scout bees will fly around, looking for an ideal place to establish a hive.
“Sometimes the swarm will leave after a couple of hours, sometimes it takes a day or two,” Solomon said. “If you can see white wax starting to be built, they’re moving in.”
Beekeepers know how to deal with swarms, even if they’re starting to establish a hive, and have the proper tools to take them away, Solomon said. Some, as indicated on the beekeeper swarm list, can even cut into walls to remove bees that have found their way inside.
It’s important to be patient and resist calling an exterminator or trying to kill the bees, Solomon said, especially because the honeybee population is shrinking year after year.
“Bees are vital to the survival of the human species so we prefer people not try to kill them,” she said. “We’re losing more every year than we’re able to replace.”
Crops — everything from apples, avocados and tomatoes to strawberries, watermelons, coffee and more — would be lost without bees to pollinate them.
“We would starve to death without them,” Solomon said. “Every human being on the face of this earth is dependent on bees for the food we need for our survival.”
Find the Beekeepers Swarm List at www.cvbeekeepers.info