We had a little excitement this afternoon. My neighbor knocked on the door and said, “We have bees.” What? I said. So he pointed to the tree in parking strip, ornamented with dark clumps of swarming bees, buzzing loudly. As we stood around and wondered whom to call (Animal Control in Oakland is basically hopeless, though I think there’s a local guy who will remove swarms), the swarm moved from our tree to his tree, then swept onward to a yard about 3 houses down the block. The whole thing took less than 10 minutes; I saw them last, through binoculars, orbiting around each other just short of the overhead freeway, a block away.
I wonder if they ever found a place they liked, to build a new hive. The yard at that end of the block is posted as an official wild nature reserve, maybe they settled there. Better them than me. I like and approve of bees but I don’t want to raise them.
What you saw was a swarm. This is how bee colonies grow and multiply. When the hive gets too big, a new queen is made and the old queen will take most of the hive to a new location. They aren’t dangerous at this point, they are too busy moving. In the middle of the mass of bees is the queen. When they find a suitable place they will settle in. You should be so lucky as to have a hive on your property. They will fertilize your flowers and trees.
We had a minor infestation at the old house once. They had decided they wanted to build a nest inside our brick chimney. Some of them wandered down the flue into the living room, and began buzzing around bumping into the curtains etc., leaving little blotches of nectar or honey or whatever it was they were carrying. We called the exterminator. He was a bee-guy who also raised bees, but said this was an “eradication” — not a transfer. He smoked’em out. No big deal.
Once, when I was having a mid-afternoon lunch at Cugini on Solano, I noticed out the front window a great big circling cylinder of bees about two stories up, swirling around and moving slowly towards the other side of the street. Really, quite amazing. There must have been hundreds and hundreds. A few people walking on the sidewalk noticed them and began dodging. But the bees weren’t interested in them. They kept spinning in this huge loose maelstrom moving northward. God knows where they ended up. Maybe this was a colony looking for a new home.
Yes, they really look amazing when they swarm, don’t they? As Murray said, they were looking for a new home, and while moving they have no interest in people at all. Actually, I believe they normally have no interest in people, unless the people are stupid enough to interfere with them.