Swarm Transitions – You Never Know What Bee Swarms Will Do
Spring is the prime time for honey bee swarming. If you see a swarm of honey bees, don’t panic. These bees are on their way to a new home. Beekeepers invest a lot of effort and time into trying to catch them during their bee swarm transitions. This is the location where they stop to rest before flying to their new home farther away.
Swarming is a normal behavior in honey bees. The colony grows large in population. Then, when crowding becomes an issues that begin making preparations to swarm.
Roughly half of the colony population with a queen bee, will leave the hive. The rest of the bees will stay in place to maintain the colony and they will make a new queen bee.
The bee swarm swirls into the air around the colony. Then as if they hear an invisible signal, the mass of bees will gather on a nearby tree or structure.
Here, they linger for a few hours and then take off for their new home. It is a lucky beekeeper who finds a swarm hanging low enough to reach.
Unfortunately, they often decide to rest very high in the trees and are lost to the beekeeper.
Don’t Be Afraid of a Swarm of Honey Bees
While honey bees will sting to protect their hive, bees in a swarm are generally not aggressive.
If you watch from a safe distance and to do disturb the bees, your chances of getting stung are slight.
In a few hours, or by the end of the next day, the swarm will normally leave the transition spot and be directed to their new home by scout bees.
If you are a homeowner that has a swarm stay for several days, it is time to call a local beekeeper to come help the bees out.
Catching the Swarm in Transition
Oh there are few things that get a beekeeper’s heart pumping more than seeing a swarm. And, to see a swarm within reach – that is true excitement!
Those low hanging swarms that can be easily scooped into a bucket are a true delight.
But, sometimes the bees have more interesting adventures in mind. They do the unexpected.
This leaves the beekeeper scratching her head and wondering – now what.
Swarm Sitting on a Hive
Occasionally a colony will decide to swarm but they don’t get very far from the hive. Instead of taking flight and settling in a tree – they stay on the hive body.
Most of the time we have no idea why this happens. It can be confused with “bearding bees“.
Bearding occurs during hot humid weather when bees hang out the front of the hive during late evening.
Sometimes, a swarm from the hive will attach itself to the mother hive on the outside.
Also, a wayward swarm from another hive may adhere to the outside of a hive. Then, they move in and take over.
Any time you see a large number of bees clinging to the outside of a hive, a timely inspection is in order.
Inspecting the Bees With Care
Always assume the mass of bees is indeed a swarm with a valuable queen. If it is a viable swarm, you do not want to kill the queen.
In this case, with a lot of bees on the underside of the bottom board. The best method is to disassemble the mother hive and set it aside so you can inspect the bottom of the screen.
Being careful is a great strategy. This was indeed a swarm and the queen was in this mass of bees under the hive.
If I had just tried to brush them off the bottom of the beehive – I might have damaged her.
Enjoy the attached video where I show you how I handled this swarm situation. There are many ways to keep bees. Find one that works for you.