Nesting Bees and What You Should Do

©Michael K. O’Malley, UF/IFAS

By Dr. Jamie Nellis

Spring is honey bee swarming season. It is important to know the state’s recommendations for handling honey bee swarms and nesting colonies in Florida.

Honey bee colonies swarm as a means of producing new colonies. Therefore, a swarm is a group of bees leaving its parent colony and searching for/moving into a new nesting site to develop a new colony. In the process of swarming, the bees will cluster on a structure, in a temporary holding pattern, while they search for a new cavity in which to move.

Swarms cluster on tree branches, fences, etc. These clusters usually can be removed easily and they are temporary, staying in place a few hours to a few days. Pest control operators (PCOs) and many registered beekeepers provide swarm removal services, usually for a fee.

Feral colonies (colonies not kept and managed by beekeepers) can be removed alive by registered beekeepers as long as the beekeepers do not use any pest control devices (pesticides, vacuum, etc.). Beekeepers usually charge a fee to remove swarms or feral colonies.

Eradication of the colony sometimes may be the best option if the feral colony is located in close proximity to places where people or animals frequent or if the colony is exhibiting defensive behavior and/or has caused a stinging incident or injury. The procedures associated with eradication are considered “pest control” and must be performed by a licensed PCO.

All colony remains (wax, honey, pollen, bees, etc.) and debris should be removed by the PCO or beekeeper. Furthermore, structural repair of the site the bees inhabited may be necessary. It is the property owner’s responsibility to discuss this with the removal specialist they hire and make arrangements with a licensed contractor to repair the damage.

There is no law in Florida requiring PCOs to kill honey bee swarms or colonies, even if the colonies are a nuisance. Similarly, there is no statute or law requiring beekeepers to save colonies or perform a live removal on any honey bee colony or swarm. The decision to have the bees removed is up to owner of the property where the swarm or colony is located. However, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and UF/IFAS personnel recommend that feral colonies nesting in close proximity to humans or animals be removed or eradicated.

How do you find a trained PCO or beekeeper to assist with a removal or eradication of a honey bee swarm or colony?

  1. Go to the FDACS webpage on Bee Removal or Eradication in Florida.
  2. Scroll to the section “Bee Removal or Eradication List.”
  3. There you will find a link to a Microsoft Excel file maintained by FDACS, where you can search for a live removal or eradication specialist in your area (they are listed by counties serviced).

Registered beekeepers or PCOs who perform bee removal or eradication services and would like to be included on the list are asked to complete a form linked in that same section.

If you elect to secure the services of a PCO, read the UF/IFAS publication “Choosing the Right Pest Control Operator for Honey Bee Removal: A Consumer Guide.”

Learn More

Dr. Jamie Ellis from the UF Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab goes into further detail in “More on Nesting Bees,” explaining explaining the options for handling a honey bee nest or swarm.


Thanks to Dr. Jamie Ellis from the UF Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab for providing this information.