Bee swarm in Austin

My next-door neighbor fired up her gas grill yesterday and in the process disturbed a swarm of bees. Suddenly bees were buzzing all through our back yard and hers and clustering on her house. She didn’t get stung, thankfully, and called to let us know so that we wouldn’t stumble into the swarm. We watched from our screened porch for a while, and the bees hung on her house for 24 hours until she called an exterminator out, more out of concern for our kids’ safety, I think, than anything else. To our regret, he killed the bees, saying he could not move them without a hive. I’m glad that they won’t be nesting in our garden, but I’m sorry they were killed.

Coincidentally, the same day that my neighbor’s swarm occurred, my husband drove through another swarm on his way home from work. As he was driving across MoPac on the Hancock bridge, he saw a black cloud silhouetted against the sky and, still puzzling over what it was, heard a few thuds as bees hit his windshield. He wasn’t going very fast, and when he got home a few blocks later and parked his car, a couple of survivors flew up out of his car’s grill.

Strange, huh?

Added later: Cheryl left the following comment, which is so useful I’m including it in my post about the bee swarm:

Here’s an alternative to exterminating bees! If you find any other bees, please contact beekeeper Walter Schumacher. For a small fee, Schumacher and his business partners will remove live bees that are causing problems for Austin area homeowners and businesses. For more information about Central Texas Bee Rescue and Preservation, call 914-0123.

Thanks for the information, Cheryl! Saving honeybees is worth the effort. —Pam

All material © 2006-2008 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

14 Responses

  1. carol says:

    I am so sad to hear that these bees were exterminated, given the rather tenuous hold our honeybees have presently. I am sure there must be bee keepers there somewhere who would have been thrilled to give them a chance. Too late now though. Maybe next time.

    I’m sad about it too, Carol. If it had been up to me, I’d have looked for an experienced bee removal service that would have saved them. But they were on my neighbor’s house, not mine. —Pam

  2. That is strange. I guess the heat is getting to all living creatures down there in Austin!

    It’s definitely getting to me, Carol. I don’t know about the bees. —Pam

  3. Nancy says:

    Swarming bees won’t usually sting. All their intentions are centered on surrounding the queen and surviving long enough to set up a new hive. I’m sorry they had to be destroyed too.

    Knowing this, how sad that they were killed. —Pam

  4. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    It must bee that time of year when the new Queens are moving to a different territory. It is too bad they had to be exterminated. Too bad the exterminator didn’t know a bee keeper that would have collected them. Sigh~~ I wouldn’t want a big swarm around my house either. I would be worried that they might be the Africanized bees. They are scary beasts.

    I worried about them being Africanized honeybees too, at first. But when my neighbor told me that she hadn’t been stung or threatened by them, I knew they weren’t the aggressive, scary kind of bees. Which makes it all the more sad that they were exterminated. —Pam

  5. Cheryl says:

    Here’s an alternative to exterminating bees! If you find any other bees, please contact beekeeper Walter Schumacher. For a small fee, Schumacher and his business partners will remove live bees that are causing problems for Austin area homeowners and businesses. For more information about Central Texas Bee Rescue and Preservation, call 914-0123.

    Thanks for the referral, Cheryl. I will keep this information on file and share it with my neighbor too. In fact, I’ll add this information to the post as well. —Pam

  6. I’m so glad someone knew who to call, and that you’ve boosted that info. into the post proper.

    When the guy your neighbor called said he couldn’t collect the bees without a hive, was he referring to a piece of equipment he didn’t have on him? (I do know what a bee-hive is, but if that was the problem, WHY DIDN’T HE GO GET ONE?)

    A swarm went through my 3rd storey apartment once, years ago. I saw a bee, which I escorted outside with a cup and a piece of cardboard, which was our method of choice, and then another, and while I was busy getting the cup over the bee and the cardboard under I realized that there were at least three others, which was odd–and more just outside–which is when I closed the windows. I think it took me an hour to get them all out.

    I’ve heard about the clinging behavior the bees exhibited in your photos, but I haven’t seen it.

    I don’t know for sure because I didn’t speak to him. But from what my neighbor told me, I think he meant that the bees didn’t have a hive, that they were in the process of migrating. I don’t know why this would affect moving them, but the guy wasn’t a bee removal expert, just a basic pest control guy. He probably didn’t have the expertise to do it. —Pam

  7. Ellis Hollow says:

    I kept bees back in my early 20s, and was called to hive a swarm once. It was about 30 feet up in a birch tree in a suburban yard. The homeowners got the town tree crew to hoist me up in a bucket, and I had to act like I knew what I was doing with 50 people standing around watching me. What an adventure. But I got the queen in the hive, brought it down to the ground and all the bees still flying around followed her in. I put a screen over the entrance and drove the hive home.

    With no hive to defend, swarming bees are usually not aggressive. Though I do remember something about ‘dry swarms’ — those that have been out of the hive too long without finding a new place to live. Apparently they can get a little testy.

    Impressive, Craig. You must indeed have known what you were doing. I wouldn’t even know how to locate the queen in a swarm of bees. —Pam

  8. Gail says:


    What a great post with accompanying comments…lots of information. We are getting a small break in the weather then the temps will climb. Gail

    I’m learning a lot about bees from the comments. I just wish I’d known all this in time to share it with my neighbor, who meant well. I hope this post will help spread the word about saving bees that swarm in other Austinites’ yards. —Pam

  9. Nicole says:

    I am surprised your neighbor called the exterminator, especially given the dire situation of bees in the US, now. In the US, the telephone directory or internet would have given the name of a local bee removal expert within minutes. And how selfish of the exterminator to not even suggest this.
    There was an article on the removal of a migrating hive of bees in the New York Times just this weekend. I am glad Cheryl provided the information.

    Well, everyone meant well in this situation. The neighbor was concerned for our kids (so was I ) and called her regular guy because she knew him already and he was available. She didn’t want the bees killed, but it’s what the guy recommended. Maybe he didn’t have the knowledge about bee removers in town. But now we know—and I hope others will learn from our experience. —Pam

  10. That was interesting. We aren’t allowed to kill honeybees here. We have to call a beekeeper and have them moved to a hive. It’s against the law. Go figure. Usually in Oklahoma, people drop anything that moves. :-) ~~Dee

    Texas too, Dee. ;-) That’s a very progressive and nature-friendly law you have. —Pam

  11. It is too bad that the exterminator your neighbor called was just that an exterminator and not someone who knew bees. I kept bees for many years and have collected a lot of swarms off trees, houses, fence posts, weeds, and just about anywhere else they have landed. As far as something to put the bees in I have even used a large paper grocery bag to transport the bees in. Any container will work to get them to their hive. Flying swarms can be encouraged to land by banging on a metal pan with a metal spoon or even honking your horn. The loud noise forces them to find a landing spot to better protect their queen. Most swarms aren’t aggressive because they haven’t made it to their new home. The old queen takes half of the bees from the hive and moves out if it becomes overcrowded leaving the other half to care for the new queen. I could go on but the main thing we learn from this is that bees are so important to our food supply, our very existence. We should do all we can to protect the ones we have left. On top of everything else we have the Colony Collapsing Disorder.

    More interesting information, Phil. Thanks for providing it. Your suggestion about making noise to scare them off, however, is exactly the opposite of what my neighbor’s exterminator warned her about before he came over. Not that he’s a bee expert, but he told her that she should not make noise or yell around the bees because that could set off the swarm.

    One footnote to this discussion, and context for my neighbor’s and my concern about the bee swarm, is that just a few weeks ago an elderly Austin man was killed by a swarm of bees that he disturbed with his lawn mower. The news stories suggested that the vibration and noise of the lawn mower caused them to become aggressive.

    I’m confused by the conflicting information. Maybe, as Craig (Ellis Hollow ) suggests above, it just depends on the swarm’s temperament? —Pam

  12. Nicole says:

    Oh, Ok, I had wrongly assumed people in the US were aware of how to handle migrating swarms of bees because we read about that in the US press.

  13. germi says:

    How sad the bees were killed! I was freaked out a couple of years ago by a swarm in our backyard, and I also called a pest service, but they told me (Thank Goodness) just to leave it be, the swarm was making a bee-line to it’s hive. And it was! You could see the bees landing on a post, then fly in a line to the hive high up in my sycamore tree. I’ve seen it twice since then, and I get so excited, knowing that those bees are helping to pollinate my flowers and vegetables…

    Thanks for posting on this topic, Pam – so much great info here!

    Thanks for sharing your experience too, Germi. —Pam

  14. Bonnie says:

    Cool post Pam. We can all learn from the experience. Last year John and I got stung by a hive of yellow jackets. They were right by our pool and I must admit I called in the napalm hit to take care of them. It can be scary not knowing what you’re dealing with. But Cheryl’s info is great to have if we need it.

    Yellow jackets seem to be a lot more aggressive than bees. You couldn’t have let them stay on by the pool, that’s for sure. Yikes. —Pam