Without evidence of benefit, an intervention should not be presumed to be beneficial or safe.

- Rogue Medic

Dispatch – Activate Our Honeybee Swarm Removal Plan


Delaware does have a honeybee swarm removal plan. Up until this week, the plan was probably used more as a punchline for jokes than anything else. The plan was created in 1995, but Yesterday was its first use.

Why have a honeybee swarm removal plan?

If you are dealing with a swarm of bees, your ability to solve problems may not be that good.

Who ya gonna call?


Whom will dispatch call?

Probably someone who does not know what to do. Unfortunately, that person – the one who does not know what to do – probably will suggest something. Well, I’m not 100% certain, but . . . . This is when you should just disconnect the line, because not 100% certain means I haven’t the slightest idea, but my ego won’t let me admit the truth out loud. This is the equivalent of the guy with a beer in one hand, doing something reckless, and saying, Watch this!

More dangerous than the guy who is not 100% certain is the person who takes advice from him. Maybe pouring gasoline all over the highway and setting it on fire will control the bees, but I would rather get that information from someone who is familiar with bees and can tell me of a specific instance when it has worked, how this scene is the same/different, and how I can get further information about it. Anecdotes can be very dangerous. Experts citing anecdotes may not be any better than the guy who is not 100% certain.

As it turns out, Kill it with fire was not a part of the honeybee swarm removal plan.

What is needed for a plan like this?

A list of several emergency contacts and numbers where they can be reached at night, on the weekends, and during holidays.

Descriptions of how to deal with the variations of the emergency that can be anticipated.

Contact numbers for people outside of the area, who would be needed in the event of a very large disaster of this kind.

Recommendations for first responders who are probably already in the middle of things when the plan is initiated.

Tuesday, a truck carrying bees overturned on I-95. Bees can be a problem. Drivers may not respond to emergencies the way we would like. A swarm of bees may lead people to panic.

How many bees?

16 to 20 million bees.

Am I going to be able to give an accurate estimate of 20,000 bees, 200,000 bees, 2,000,000 bees, or 20,000,000 bees?


First responder – Dispatch, we appear to have a bit of a bee problem. Do we have some sort of disaster plan?

Dispatch – Today is your lucky day. We do have a bee swarm plan.

The plan, which was updated in March, involves a response network of beekeepers statewide. Three beekeepers from New Castle County responded to the scene after Tuesday’s accident. The initial response including using fire hoses to tamp down the swarms.[1]


This worked well, but having a plan does not guarantee any kind of success. Reality does not come with guarantees, so having people who understand how to adapt to change is important.

No plan survives the first contact intact, but well prepared people produce their own luck.

What number do people call when things go wrong? 911. We deal with what happens when it is worse than expected. We should have some sort of plan, even if only cursory, for the things that cause us to call for help. Rare things happen rarely, but they do happen.


[1] Delaware motorists warned to watch out for bees
By Associated Press
Published: May 20
Updated: Wednesday, May 21, 1:46 PM
Washington Post



  1. Nothing like plan to keep the “good idea fairy” in check.

    If you are ever recruiting specialized volunteers to respond to rare events be sure to get them registered for a Civil Defense Card (or whatever mechanism your state uses to provide work’s comp style benefits to volunteer responders).

    • R,

      If you are ever recruiting specialized volunteers to respond to rare events be sure to get them registered for a Civil Defense Card (or whatever mechanism your state uses to provide work’s comp style benefits to volunteer responders).

      Excellent point. Liability is a concern and should also be a part of the plan.

      I would prefer a change in the law to allow all people invited/recruited/whatever to assist in an emergency to be covered. I do not know the legal consequences of this. Depending on what is involved in the certification, maintaining some sort of civil defense certification for events that only happen a few times a century seems as if it could discourage participation.

      We seem to have devolved from laws being made to serve us, to where we discourage good behavior if we do not have prior legal permission to be good.


      • In my state the “Civil Defense Card” is an oddly named relic but seems to be how volunteers (outside of Fire, EMS, and Reserve Deputies or Reserve Police Officers) are provided with accident/death/disability insurance. It seems to be a widely used mechanism for volunteer SAR and mountain rescue teams but could easily be an appropriate mechanism for other specialized volunteers like veterinarians, bee keepers, etc. that aren’t integrated into any sort of formal organization.

  2. Oddly enough I was just going over a honey bee swarm response plan. Our local Civil Defense, part of our council, makes it up with lots of input from people who know what they are doing. In it are all the numbers of local bee keepers and how to contact them if out, and any specialist response from council staff. It is also given to our dispatch and also fire and police. Some of our seasoned responders had no clue about it, even though we live in an area with lots of honey production and horticulture reliant on bee’s.

    As I’m not in the USA the specialist bee keepers are covered under Civil Defense emergency insurance.