I was sent to a homeowner in Fords, NJ who was one of our home protection plan (HPP) customers. She contacted Cowleys because there was a swarm of bees outside her front door. She was especially concerned about the potential for stings, especially because of her husband’s frail health. He was in no condition to be recuperating from painful bee stings.
Upon arrival, I immediately observed a large swarm of bees covering a portion of a garden hose reel about 15 feet from the front door. It soon became apart that it was a swarm of honey bees on the reel.
Honey bees are valuable, beneficial pollinating insects. As many are aware, there has been concern about declining honey bee populations since the late 1990s that has been attributed to habitat loss and industrial agriculture’s use of pesticides. About 1/3 of our food supply comes from pollination, and the majority of that from honeybees. Also, these bees are the only insect that makes food we eat. Unprocessed honey has an indefinite shelf life, and has many health benefits.
We don’t come across honey bee swarms too often, but when we do, we approach them carefully. Honey bees are protected in New Jersey and it is illegal to kill a nest unless it is located inside a dwelling. At Cowleys, we virtually never attempt to treat honey combs ourselves and kill the bees. As a practical matter, sprays are not effective because the intricate structure of the honey comb blocks the spray from reaching all of the bees. The remaining hive members inevitably regroup and continue to grow. Beyond that, we consider it irresponsible and environmentally wrong at Cowleys to kill an insect that is so critical for producing many of the fruits and vegetables that we enjoy.
With this particular swarm, there was not yet even a honey comb built. These bees were swarming around a resting queen looking for a structure to build the comb. It was likely that the bee swarm would soon be moving away on its own. However, considering the concern of this homeowner, I did not want to work on the timetable of the bees and when they decided to leave. The best and most effective course of action would be to call in a professional beekeeper to remove the bees.
I informed the customer that the bees did not pose a danger as long as they weren’t undisturbed. Honey bees are not aggressive like wasps or hornets. We gave the homeowner the contact information of a reputable beekeeper that we work with in these situations. Beekeepers are skilled in removing the combs filled with honey and larvae and transferring it to a bee hive box that will become their new home. The collect any remaining swarming bees by either scooping them up or vacuuming them up in a special bee vacuum.
The beekeeper keeps bees to collect their honey and other products the hive produces, to pollinate crops, and to produce bees for sale to others. These beekeepers, by caring for these insects, are providing a much needed environmental service, and I, for one, am thankful for the work they do.