Don’t Bee Worried, They’re Not Swarming at the Ocean Beach Post Office

by on March 30, 2021 · 1 comment

in Ocean Beach

Entrance to hive.

by Bob Edwards

Late last week the OB RAG received an email from a concerned reader who suggested a topic for a new article. “Hey, not sure if you guys are interested but there’s a swarm of bees at the USPS building on Cable St.  Might be a cool story about how the city handles it,” the email stated.

This was not the first report of a bee situation in the Ocean Beach/ Point Loma area. Last year there was an infestation of aggressive bees on the Bayside Trail at Cabrillo National Monument that closed down the trail for months as the Park Service struggled to find a solution that didn’t involve a call to Terminex.  Ultimately they sealed the “bee cave” that was the little critters’ home with expanding foam caulk and eventually it was bricked over, eliminating (at least for now) the problem.

Bricked-over bee cave at Cabrillo National Monument Bayside Trail

The Bay Side trail was closed for months because of bees. All photos by Bob Edwards

Almost forty years ago I was an amateur beekeeper in Shasta County whose career was cut short by a hungry bear that destroyed 10 out of our 12 hives in a single week, so I’m always interested in a good bee story. I decided to take our reader’s suggestion and go check it out.

When I got to the 4800 block of Santa Monica Avenue, I discovered that the bees were not actually at the post office. They were flying in and out of a stucco sign in front of the building between the post office and the Ocean Beach Library. This former office building, now owned by the City of San Diego, is slated to eventually house an expansion of the library in some form or another. I also discovered that it did not appear to be a swarm but was likely an established hive inside the sign. There are several warning signs that read “CAUTION BEES IN AREA” attached onto or near the hive location.

I spoke to a postal worker who was emptying out one of the blue mail drop-off boxes in front of the library. She said that the bees “have been around for awhile” and she had no idea if anyone was planning on dealing with it.

Over the weekend I spoke with a library volunteer who informed me that the bees have lived in the sign since before the pandemic.

Office building next to OB Library on Santa Monica Ave.

This confirmed my thoughts that it was not a swarm situation but instead an established hive. Typically a swarm occurs where a hive splits in two and one group, with a new queen, travels to another location and creates a second hive.

There was no evidence of this happening during the several days I observed the bees. It could be that increased hive population and activity gave our concerned reader the impression that the bees were swarming. The population growth is likely due to warmer weather and the availability of lots of nectar for the bees to gather now that Spring is busting out all over with lots of flowers blooming.

Ordinary honey bees, in contrast to “Africanized” or “killer” bees, are typically gentle creatures not looking for a beef and these certainly did not seem aggressive as I was able to walk right up to the entrance of their home and snap a few pictures. It doesn’t seem to be a particularly dangerous situation except to people with allergies to bee stings. Anyone with such an allergy might want to avoid going to the post office unless they have their EpiPen in hand.

Some of our readers with more recent beekeeping experience or knowledge may have suggestions on how to deal with the situation.

Because the hive is located in the sign, it would be difficult to relocate them without using a lot of smoke and a jackhammer and there would be honey bee casualties in the process. One solution might be to decrease the size of the entrance holes with some tape or caulk. This would make it more difficult for the bees to access their home and bring in enough nectar to support the growing hive. This might put enough pressure on the colony to cause the bees to swarm and fly somewhere else to establish a new home. Unfortunately, that swarm could relocate itself to an even less convenient place such as the elementary school or the eave of your house.

Closure view of bee warning sign.

It’s a difficult situation especially given the honey bee die offs taking place world wide. Not many people would want to destroy a thriving hive of busy worker bees who help pollenize food crops and ornamental and native plants, but they also don’t want to risk a bee sting when they’re going to the post office or dropping their kids off at school.

The OB RAG will continue to follow this story as it develops.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Peter from South O March 31, 2021 at 10:58 am

BEE careful and don’t go poking around the hive and your danger of a bee sting is going to be less than a Eucalyptus branch clonking you in your noggin, folks. Bees are busy and have no interest in a random suicide sting.
Look around beautiful OB and marvel at how many of the plants depend on these wonderful pollinators.
Live and let live; when the expansion of the library happens they will hopefully be relocated by a professional.


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