By Alyson Munson, Communications Coordinator
Have you ever seen a large group of bees flying around together or hanging out on a tree in a big glob? That means they’re swarming! Swarming happens when the queen bee leaves the colony to make way for a new queen and takes up to 60% of her worker bees with her. This springtime phenomenon happens for a few weeks in the year and is the bee's way of naturally reproducing.
The process begins with the queen laying eggs. Worker bees create queen cups for her eggs on a regular basis, but the process does not start until she decides to use them. This laying of eggs lets the other bees (and us) know that the hive is preparing to swarm. After this, the queen and 50-60% of her offspring will leave the hive and move to a temporary location near the old hive. Since the queen is not as good at flying, the swarm will cluster around her as scout bees check the area for new hive locations. When this decision is finally made, the hive moves to their final location to build a new hive.
Back at the original hive, the new queen will emerge and walk around the hive destroying the other queen eggs. This process assures that she is the primary queen in the hive. Occasionally if the hive is still too full there will be a second after-swarm that will occur to make sure there is enough room for the hive to operate. Rarely, these after-swarms will keep happening until the hive is completely empty.
When these bees swarm, we want to catch them and move them into a new hive. After the bees leave their hive, they move to their temporary location close by. When the swarm is noticed we alert our beekeeper who comes to assist us in moving them to one of our open hives.
This process starts by laying down a large white tarp underneath the swarm. After this, we prepare the destination for the bees to go. The goal of this process is to get the queen bee into the box, once she is there the other bees will follow. If the swarm is on a branch they will hopefully fall into the box as a giant clump with some assistance from the beekeeper. When a majority of the bees are in the box we place it open on the white tarp where the others will follow. After all of the bees have been collected they are then moved to another prepared hive on the property where they will stay.
If you are interested in learning more about bees, why they swarm, and what to do when they swarm visit the cited source of information in this article here.