Honey bees (Apis melifera) are important, well-studied insects found throughout the world and have been cultured for thousands of years to produce honey and beeswax. Many different strains (or races) have been identified and crossbred to create more productive hybrid bees. As you may know, sometimes this crossbreeding goes awfully wrong as in the case of the Africanized honey bee (a.k.a. killer bee). Oh well! In general, honey bees play an incredibly important role in the production of nearly all types of food crops (yes, even broccoli and lima beans) simply by gathering up their favorite foods—pollen and nectar.
Honey bee characteristics are that they are social insects with colonies that often contain tens of thousands of workers. These bees are yellow-orange in color, ½ to 5/8 inch long, mostly covered with hairs. Queen and male bees are similar but slightly larger. Honey bees will swarm whenever existing quarters become unsuitable due to crowding or when their queen is on the decline. Swarms that gather around a new queen are a spectacular sight and need not cause panic because they are very docile, (have you ever seen a picture of someone wearing a “beard” of bees?) and should never be killed. The cooperative extension service can be a source of referrals for beekeepers willing to collect swarms and for other experts that specialize in live removal of colonies from difficult situations like walls or attics.
For more honey bee information, Massachusetts residents may contact the cooperative extension service @ 413-545-4764. Residents of New Hampshire and southern Maine call 1-877-398-4769. Colonial Pest Control does not perform service for honey bees.