A Tale of Swarming Bees | #Beekeeping #Honeybees #Bees

A Tale of Swarming Bees | #Beekeeping #Honeybees #Bees

1swarm

I have seen the result of a bee swarm before, but I had never had the pleasure of actually witnessing the swarm itself.

About three weeks ago my daughter and I were headed home after an early morning dance practice. As we drove up the hill Emma gasped, “What the heck is that?!”.

At first I thought it was a cloud of mosquitos or something, but then we got closer.

2swarm

I walked to the center of the cal-de-sac and I could hear the gentle hum of their wings.

My heart jumped as I immediately thought of our girls in our backyard.

My husband went to check our hive and happily reported our girls were still busy at work.

3swarm

With that worry about the way we watched in awe as the honey bees did what honey bees do.

Fairly soon this group of ladies headed across the street.

We were hoping they would decide to clump on a lower branch of a nearby tree so that we could capture them.

4swarm

As they started to collect on this tree we were hopeful.

If they chose to hang from a branch we could snip it and allow it to drop into a box… therefore capturing most of them and the queen.

If you capture the workers and not the queen, your colony would not be able to sustain as their life span is too short and the queen is the only bee that lays female eggs (yep… the girls do all the work and the boys are grown to propagate the species).

whyswarm

Our heart sank as we noticed they were collecting around the tree trunk.

That makes it nearly impossible to know if you have captured the queen or not if we were to attempt a capture. She could be anywhere!

As they collected around the trunk we weighed our options and decided to try to lure them into a new hive my husband had recently assembled.

We made it smell good with lemongrass oil and put a few pieces of comb in it to make it smell like home.

We were excited because several of the bees flew in to check it out. We were hopeful they would accept our invitation but had decided that we weren’t going to go to extreme measures to try to capture them.

WHY did the bees swarm?

hive

Bees need room. Room to breed and room to store pollen and honey.

This particular colony was purchased by our neighbor as an already established hive.

She was led to believe it was a fairly new group so she did not feel overly rushed to get into the box and work in it.

feeder

Just last week we helped her go through her hive. What we found was a box that was busting at the seams with comb and honey.

comb

The bees had run out of room quickly and even built comb and stored honey in the “feeders”. These are wells that a beekeeper can put sugar water in to feed the bees while they focus on establish a new hive.

Working on building comb and storing honey and pollen takes a lot of hard work. Without existing honey stores to feed on this can be taxing on the bees.

Above is comb retrieved from one of the feeder wells.

queen

queen2

The bees that stayed behind began to convert existing brood (baby) cells into queen cells.

You can see the upside down bell shaped cells with an opening at the bottom in the photos above. Those are queen cells that have hatched.

Only one queen will survive and only one queen is needed for the colony. This is the only circumstance a queen bee uses her stinger.

 

Fun Fact about queen bees:

Did you know a queen bee’s stinger is not barbed like the other bees? So stinging the other queens will not kill her and she can do so multiple times.

 

So in the end we concluded that the hive was overpopulated and over cramped so they decided to divide.

The video below are clips of our day with the swarm.

Enjoy!

Comments

  1. Very cool — I never knew all of this. I live right near where the truck carriing millions of bees crashed in newark, Delaware (you may have seen it on national news a few months ago). It was actually a little scary — there were literally millions of them swarming. Like something out of a horror movie!

    • I saw that! My husband and I were joking that we wished we lived closer to try to capture some!

  2. that was insane looking. a few weeks ago 16 million bees were let loose in our area due to a truck accident, i haven’t seen any increase of bees at all. I planted Echinacea and that seems to attract them.

    • It’s crazy how people freak when they hear you have a beehive. They think your yard/house will be over run with bees. Once they are “home” (like after the first day) you don’t notice them. They travel for up to 3 miles to collect pollen so they really spread out!

  3. This is totally amazing information. I don’t know a whole lot about bees. I love the pictures too.

    • Thank you Crystal! I plan to keep writing about them. Honey Bees are so misunderstood!

  4. What a great read & educational for both parents and kids.

  5. saminder gumer says:

    i would have been freaked out. i don’t like bees and have had bad experiences with them.

    • I wonder if your bad experience was with honey bees or another kind? Either way, as long as you aren’t threatening them or their hive, you are good. I walked right through this cloud of bees without anything happening.

  6. I’ve never been near a bee farm or a hive so seeing that i would’ve freaked out. This is really neat though and my 10 yr old came over so I shared your post with her, she was definitely fascinated.

  7. How fascinating and how awesome that you have bees! I love honey and know how invaluable bees our to our food supplies but I never would have thought about making a box and inviting to stay with us! Thanks for sharing so much interesting information and happy bee keeping!

    • Thanks Valerie! We decided that we wanted to offer them a home. We are not focused on keeping honey for ourselves, at least at the moment. After a day long class with the local beekeepers association we went for it! We <3 having them here.

  8. Billie says:

    I was just talking to my sister the other day about how much we lose if we lose bees. That’s a crazy swarm!

    • Our vegetable garden is bursting at the seams this year because of these girls! I cringe when people want to kill bees when they see or find them. I wish more education was out there for the general public so they knew what was at stake.

  9. Wendy says:

    WOW!! That’s really cool. I’d love to keep bees, but my husband isn’t so keen. 🙁

  10. Anne says:

    Very interesting, I have never seen bees swarm like that.

    • We just had another swarm in our front yard this weekend. It’s incredible to witness!

  11. Donna says:

    I love reading your bee keeping posts! My step-dad just took up beekeeping this summer and my son (and I) got to visit my parents a few weeks ago and loved learning about beekeeping.

    • Thanks Donna! They are fascinating and keeping them is very relaxing. Very zen 🙂

  12. Even the pictures freak me out. I don’t do bees. I’m pretty sure I would have been hiding under the bed.

    • I’m so sorry to hear this! Have you had a bad experience with them? Fortunately they were only in “cloud” form for a few minutes then collected in the tree. They stayed in the tree for about 2 hours, went into a cloud again and flew off.

  13. Sarah L says:

    The Denver Botanic Gardens has a class on bee keeping but I’ve never taken it. I do know which flowers bees like. The Golden Rain tree is blooming right now with lots of bees.

    • I love to sit under flowering trees to watch the girls at work. People don’t realize just how many bees are around them every day because they don’t “look”. I bet the Goldenrain Tree is beautiful.

  14. Wow, how very cool! That is awesome that you guys have your own hive! I would love to get this added to our farm, but have not learned enough yet to do so.

    • I know several local beekeepers that would love to have a place to keep their bees. If you would like a hive, but not the chores you could contact your local beekeepers association to offer a place for someone to keep their hive :).

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