Bee Hive Types

Bee “problems” come in several types. Here’s my guide to help you determine what situation you have

The Swarm

“Swarm” is the term for bees that have separated from an existing hive and are looking for a new home. They will follow a queen to a tree, bush, house roof, or side of a building and collect together in a large ball. In this state, the bees are looking for a suitable home in which to establish a hive.


  • Ball of bees hanging together.
  • Swarm will suddenly “show-up” and will likely go away.
  • You will see some of the bees “coming and going” from the ball.


  • Capture the swarm in a bucket or bee vacuum.
  • stablish the swarm in a conventional bee box.

Bee Hive

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The swarm will move into an enclosed space in a building or other structure. The bees start producing wax, comb, eggs, and honey.  A hive is identified by the fact there is a small opening with bees coming and going. At any given time you will not see many bees, but there are THOUSANDS inside!


  • A small opening into a wall, building or tree.
  • Bees are continually coming and going during daylight hours.
  • On hot days, there may be a large number of bees hanging out on the outside of the hive.
  • Bees fly straight in, land, and go inside.
  • Bees come out the hole, take off, and head out.


  • Locate the hive.
  • Open it and remove bees, comb, and honey.
  • Reconstitute the hive in a bee box.
  • Treat, close, repair the space occupied by the bees so they won’t return.

Robber Bees

Thieves! That’s right, bees love honey and any time there is a “free lunch” they will show up. This is what happens when a hive is poisoned and the honey is left inside. Neighborhood bees will smell the honey and come looking for it. If they can gain access to it, they will come by the thousands and steal the honey. This is one more reason we recommend against simply killing a hive in stead of removing it.

If you open a dead hive with honey still inside, you should expect robber bees to show up very quickly. You need to immediately contain the honey and dispose of it. Remember, NEVER eat honey that comes from a hive that has been poisoned!


  • Hundreds and thousands of bees buzzing in a frenzy.
  • LOUD!
  • Bees move really fast and are crawling all over the honey.
  • Any capped honey will soon have little holes in it where the bees are eating the honey out.
  • Sometimes you can see bees from rival hives fighting.


  • Contain and remove any exposed honey.
  • Remove any wax comb and bee brood.
  • When the attraction is gone, the robber bees will leave.

Hungry Bees

This is my term to describe bees that are “checking out” a dead or sealed up hive. They can detect the presence of comb or honey and want to get to it. They are wary to not get too close to a live hive. They are there to check out the scent and see if there is a free lunch to be had.


  • Bees buzz around hive space without landing.
  • May be just a few or hundreds.
  • Bees fly in close and back off, generally not landing.
  • Bees may land and explore for an opening.
  • Bees do not fly straight in and enter.


  • Remove any wax comb.
  • Ensure bee hive space is sealed.
  • Caulk cracks and holes.

Wasps / Yellow Jackets

These guys aren’t bees, but I include them. They are competitors and predators of bees. What they really want is bee larvae. I’ve seen bee hives that someone poisoned and then opened. Robber bees come in and clean up the honey, and yellow jackets can show-up by the hundreds and try to eat the larvae.


  • Show up looking for honey.
  • Love dead bee hives.
  • Attack bees and eat bee larvae.


  • Track down their hive and kill them. (I love bees and save them. I have no sympathy for wasps. Sorry.)
  • Their hive can be difficult to find.