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What To Do With A Feral Bee Swarm In Your Yard

Apparently, bees can’t keep a secret. It seems the local bees have been telling all their little bee friends about my edible garden and organic flowers. Of course that is a good thing. We all want pollinators in our gardens. But for the second time, a feral swarm has come to visit me.
When the first swarm appeared in my garden a few years ago, they moved on without any intervention from me. But after they left, I worried they would be exterminated by an uninformed person who would only think of them as a nuisance. I never learned their fate.

Now a second swarm has come to visit.

But this time I feel a little more confident on how to save them because over the last 2 years, I have interviewed several beekeepers, read several beekeeping books and even produced an entire TV episode about urban beekeeping.

The little ladies of this swarm were showing no signs of leaving. In fact, they were setting up house! (I say “ladies” because the worker bees are all female.)

This very small swarm was making honeycomb on an old antique ladder that I was using as a trellis for my hops. It was a nice spot for them – shaded and tucked away in the corner of my garden near my small pond for water.

I checked with my bee friend Corky (in Seattle) and he said that they could be an “after swarm” that was left behind with a new queen. This happens sometimes after the main swarm splits off from someone’s hive. It is unusual to have such a small swarm making honeycomb and difficult for them to survive.

Unfortunately, many people would call an exterminator at this point. But that is the wrong thing to do!  There is a huge bee problem right now and their numbers are dwindling. As gardeners, we need to not only protect honey bees, but help spread the word of their importance.

Finding A Beekeeper:

I knew I needed to find a local beekeeper to take my bees and give them a new home.

A few years ago, it would be difficult to find a beekeeper who would come out for a small swarm. But today, it is easy! There are so many great backyard beekeeper organizations that a quick search on the Internet should turn up resources for you, no matter where you live.

Here in Los Angeles, I knew to turn to the Backwards Beekeepers. I have been reading about them for years and they are very dedicated to saving the bees. Two other local bee advocates are the husband and wife team of Honey Love who are working hard to legalize backyard beekeeping in urban areas like LA.

So one quick phone call later, a nearby beekeeper came over and collected the honeycomb in a bucket. He hung the bucket on my ladder with an opening so the bees who were out foraging would be able to get inside when they came back. Then at dusk, he returned and collected the entire swarm to take home.

If he had taken the swarm in the middle of the day, many of the bees out collecting nectar would have been left behind. By coming back at dusk, he was sure to get most of them.

Goodbye little bees. Have a good life in your new home!

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About the Author:

Theresa Loe is the founder of Living Homegrown® and the Canning Academy®. For 9 years, Theresa was the Co-Executive Producer & Canning Expert on the national PBS gardening series, Growing A Greener World®. Theresa homesteads on just 1/10th of an acre in Los Angeles with her husband, two sons and several disorderly but totally adorable chickens. Learn more about Living Homegrown here and about the Canning Academy here.