Swarm vs. Hive

We’re often asked “what’s the difference between a swarm and a hive” and “why does it matter?”

A swarm is a cluster of bees that is held together by the bees themselves. You’ll see this shortly after they leave their home or hive behind. They’ll usually stay in this formation until the “scout bees” have found a more permanent place for them to stay. This can be a pretty vulnerable time for the bees. They have left their hive with limited resources and need to find a new place to live quickly. Before the bees leave, they gorge themselves on honey and leave behind queen cells that will hatch into new queens and enough bees to care for the remaining queen and other brood. The original queen will leave with the majority of the bees from the hive to start a new home. The end result is two colonies of bees and is thus considered reproduction in terms of the superorganism of a bee colony.

A hive is a more permanent set up for the bees. It contains brood (baby bees), honey and pollen stores, and honey comb to store everything the bees need. This is what we encounter most frequently when people need bees removed from their home, a tree, or some other structure.

Swarm Characteristics:

  • No honey comb.
  • A tight cluster of bees.
  • It can be in the shape of a ball, spread flat onto a surface, or dangling from a tree.
  • They have usually only been there for a short period of time.
  • These are easy to remove and can usually be picked up quickly. Many beekeepers will remove them for free because it’s a simple win-win solution. You get rid of your bee problem, the beekeeper gets bees, and the bees are given a new home.

Hive Characteristics:

  • Bees are utilizing honey comb to store their larvae and resources
  • Is more commonly in an enclosed space, although, “open air hives” exist as well
  • Have typically been in place for a longer period of time
  • More difficult to remove.
  • May be more costly for a professional to remove but it’s more crucial to get a true professional. Bee hives leave behind scents that will attract other bees if you don’t take the necessary steps.

It’s just as simple to call a qualified bee professional when you consider removing bees from your home or yard as it is to call an exterminator and it is the environmentally responsible decision. Not to mention, in the case of a truly established hive, you’ll end up with a bigger mess if you decide to try and spray them. Basically, never spray the bees without seeking professional, bee friendly help first. Many professional bee removers will even charge more if the bees have been previously sprayed.

Live bee removals and relocations are so much fun to watch and sometimes the bee professional will have an extra jacket or suit if you want to look closely. It’s really amazing to watch these bees do their thing.


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