Every year around this time we start to get emails from people who have a swarm of honey bees in their yard or on their fence or in a tree. In the past they may have just called an exterminator. Now, because of the publicity about Colony Collapse Disorder, they want to avoid killing the bees and just want to find them a new home.
Even so, many people are still under the impression that a swarm of bees is a dangerous thing, ready to sting at the drop of a hat. The opposite is true. Honey bees clustered together in a swarm are surrounding their queen who has left the hive to find a new home, leaving behind a new queen and the remaining bees. This is the way honey bees propagate new colonies and in this day and age, is a very good thing.
A clustered swarm of honey bees is in a holding pattern. They aren't aggressive because they have no honey or young brood to defend. They are waiting for scout bees to come back from searching for a new home.
Before they left the hive with the queen, they all ate a lot of honey to get them through the few days it might take to find new a place to take up residence. They will use the energy from the honey to keep themselves and the queen warm while they wait.
When the scout bees come back, they will transmit the location of the new digs to the rest of the colony and they will all take off, fly around to get their bearings and go on to move in. When the first bees arrive, they will release a pheromone to help the rest of the bees find the new location.
Admittedly, a swarm of flying bees is pretty scary looking but you could stand in the middle of one as I have and not get stung unless you started swatting at them. Sure they will bump into you but they are very purposeful insects and are concentrating on the task at hand.
So, if you see a swarm of honey bees, you can call your local beekeeper to take them away or just let them find their own way in the world.