Fall Bee Swarms
How to handle a swarm of bees - Bee Health
Swarming is an important part of the honey bee colony's life cycle. Swarming is when honey bees leave an established colony to form a new one. Swarming, a natural method for propagation, occurs when there is too much colony. Swarming is a natural method of propagation that occurs during the warmest hours of the day. It usually takes place in the late spring or early summer. Due to the unpredictable weather patterns, we have late swarms during the fall.
Most Commonly Asked Questions about Honey Bee Swarms
Let's first clarify what a swarm actually is. A "swarm" is not a singular term that describes any number of bees. It refers to the natural behavior honey bee colonies use to reproduce. A swarm is when a colony splits and the old queen gets replaced. The swarm is when half the worker bees are left the hive, along with the honey. They then reestablish their colony on the site of their original hive. The scout bees are on the move in search of new hives. However, the worker bees in a swarm form a circle around the queen (known as festooning), and hang onto each other's legs and arms to keep the swarm together.
They can be found on trees branches, in small clumps or vegetation, fences and mailboxes, walls, and even just on the ground. Local fire departments and pest control agencies are often notified. Beekeepers are able to safely capture bees in swarms and then transfer them to their own colony.
If you do come across a swarm, don't fret! Honey bees can be very calm and docile when they are swarming. They have eaten all of their honey and are happy. They don't have honey stores or brood to protect their hives. You can also count on them being local honey bees and carrying strong genetics if they are swarming. Swarming is an unusual behavior that only bees in good health who have survived winter and had been well-equipped to leave the hive are able to display. If you are a beekeeper and want to build up your hives, it is a great way to capture local swarms. This allows you to introduce new bees into your colony that have strong genetics.
Let's suppose you are ready to capture a swarm and want to learn how to prepare for it. Here are some tips to help you remember:
You should wear protective gear, be cautious when you encounter the swarm and have backup in case of emergency.
This is something I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you have handled by a professional.
Honey bees are at risk when they swarm. Swarms are only provided with nectar and honey from their stomachs. If a swarm does not find a home quickly and has more nectar, it will die. This is most common with early swarms, which leave on warm days that are followed by rainy or cold weather in spring. After producing one or more swarms the remnant colony is often well-fed. The new queen may be eaten or lost by predators during her mating flights, or it can be prevented by poor weather. If this happens, the hive will die. Cast swarms will often contain a young virgin queen.
A weak colony of bees will not swarm until it has produced more bees. Low food supply, Foulbrood Disease or low egg production can all lead to weak colonies.
The nesting area for honey bees should be large enough to hold their swarms (minimum 15 liters, but preferably 40). The cavity should have a small entrance (12.5 cm squared) at the bottom. It should receive some heat from the sun and not be infested by ants. These criteria are not the only ones that matter. Nest sites with abandoned honeycombs are also preferred, if possible, as this helps the bees co