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I thought I caught a swarm... but did I catch a beard!?


Ok- So today I got the normal call for a swarm of bees coming out of a vent on a wall… I get quite a few of these calls and I turn them way because I don’t want to do trap outs… Today I got sent this photo-and it wasn’t too far away-it looked like maybe the queen hadn’t gone in yet… and I did manage to nab a swarm just like this once before… and it was a good sized swarm- So I decided to give it a go. I was told it had appeared Today:

So I get there and I carefully scrape the large cluster into a box and put it in my Nuc. I then smoked the wall vent repeatedly- and kept transferring bees from the wall to the box as the reclustered… The bees in the Nuc seemed to be staying- and a few started to fan at the entrance… maybe I got the queen I think. So I decided to leave all alone for 4 hours and return at sunset.

On my return I found no bees visible on the box- but a smaller ‘swarm’ cluster at the wall. I’ve failed thinks I. I take a peek in the Nuc- whoa it’s still full of bees- I’ve succeeded?

Then a neighbor came by and told me those bees have been in that wall for maybe 5 years- and that they have huge beards when it’s hot!!! What!? Here I was thinking it was a swarm: but have I caught a beard!! I’ve taken them home now- but I have a sneaking suspicion there’s no queen in that box…

The bees were very placid and almost sleepy seeming- no stings and zero aggression. They behaved like a swarm. However when I left there was still a small cluster at the vent and bees coming home just as the sunset.

The odd thing is it wasn’t very hot today after a heatwave last week- but it was very humid and drizzling…

What do people think: have I caught a beard???!! It certainly is late in the season for a swarm.


Too bad you couldn’t the box closer to the vent, that would have attracted the rest out, unless there’s a hive inside. Check to see if you have the queen, if not she’s probably in the vent.


Does the queen ever come out of the hive and form part of the beard?


It’s highly likely that the nest is between the floor & ceiling. You can tell by feeling the temp of the ceiling for a warm patch. After 5 years, it could go back a fair way. The nest will need to be removed, otherwise after the bees are removed, the honeycomb will collapse on a hot day, leaking honey everywhere & making a rancid mess on the ceiling, assuming that the ceiling is Gyprock.

There could be a lot of honey in that nest. It would be a shame to see it wasted. It IS a sticky, messy job removing the nest, being that it’s above the head. Probably worth the effort. Its prudent to charge a reasonable fee for removing the nest

After locating the nest, you’ll get an idea of how big it is by feeling the warmth as well as the lack of drumminess of the ceiling between the joists. It will be a guide for when/if you start cutting into the ceiling.


PS. one drawback could be if the ceiling is fibro that could contain asbestos.

If it IS in the ceiling & the ceiling is Gyprock, assuming that the owners want the nest removed, the ceiling will have to be removed, one way or the other. One way to remove the nest & retrieve the honey. The other way to remove the Gyprock after it has turned rancid & smelly.


Might seem like a silly question but could you trap out a hive like this and then leave the new hive near by to rob all the honey out of the old hive?


jeff- that wall is on the side of a row of shops with apartments above. By the looks it is a ‘slum landlord’ type of situation- very run down property. I’d hazard a guess that the owners wouldn’t be interested to pay 1 cent to get anything done about the bees unless they were forced to by court order. I got the call out from a neighbor who saw the giant beard/swarm form on the wall. I had absolutely no reason to believe there was an established colony in there until another neighbor came and old me they had been there for 5 years when I was already half way into it… I’m still confused as to what it was: a swarm or a beard. It behaved like a swarm might…

I certainly have no interest to go and and dig the building to pieces to reveal whatever is in there. I have a feeling it would be a huge colony. judging by the age of the building it wouldn’t surprise me if it was full of asbestos too.

If you scooped a beard off an established hive and popped it into another box- do you think it would stay there? And be passive like a swarm? I’ve never really disturbed a beard- and tend not to inspect my hives when they have one. I would have thought a beard would get angry and return to the hive… this one didn’t. If beards are passive like swarms you could almost take them to make up packages if you had a spare queen on hand…

My hope is that it was a swarm that for some reason settled right at the entrance of the mother hive. But I’m not sure. I wasn’t really looking for a queenless beard… I’ll have to check on it in a few days and start donating brood probably. I just fed them some sugar water.

@Dan2 I wondered the same thing- my guess is- NO- but I have no idea. I hope that they do and that I nabbed her. Assuming it was a beard- the bees should be able to make another queen inside the wall if by some miracle I nabbed theirs. They seem like super gentle bees- I had zero signs of aggression during the entire procedure.


You can tell by the stain at the entrance if it is an established hive or not.

Put a frame of brood into the colony straight away, that should hold them.

I would never suggest tearing into a ceiling without consultation with the owner. The bees mustn’t be a problem where they are, otherwise the owner would be doing something about it.

They are not a problem until the bees eventually find an opening into the inside of the property, then people start pressing panic buttons… That happens.

@Clint, that’s worth a try for sure. It depends on whether SHb are in the area or not. SHB will make a foul mess on top of a ceiling causing foul smelling mildew. In that case the ceiling will need replacing.

Generally speaking, an established bee hive above a ceiling will at some point finish up with the ceiling needing to be removed & replaced.

  • my guess is the workers come out to fan the hive, remove their heat and to make sure it is ok in there for the queen and nurse bees. I reckon the queen would be one of the last out - but perhaps she might go before the newly emerged bees as they seem very feeble.


Hey Jack, interesting story there - any updates?


that colony seems to be doing well- I gave them a frame with a lot of fresh eggs on it in case it was a beard and not a swarm- I will check that later today to see if they have constructed queen cells. That should tell me if they had a queen or not. I expect they didn’t and that I will see queen cells.


Update: OK so we finally had cool weather and I could inspect: frame with eggs first: capped brood- no queen cells. Next frame: more brood?? Looking good- a few more frames and there she was: the queen. A nice big fat one. So I must have actually caught a swarm and not a beard. I think the primary hive swarmed and for whatever reason the swarm didn’t take off- it just loitered at the entrance. either that or the queen from that hive was outside for some reason though that seems unlikely. So: all’s well that ends well. Very pleasant half yellow/half dark bees too. Absolutely zero signs of agression.