1. What is a honey bee swarm?
Honey bees are one of the most beautiful and interesting phenomena in nature and watching a swarm starting to issue can truly be a thrilling sight to behold. A swarm may contain from 1,500 to 30,000 bees including, workers, drones, and a queen. Swarming is an instinctive part of the annual life cycle of a honey bee colony. It provides a mechanism for the colony to reproduce itself.
2. What makes a honey bee colony swarm?
Overcrowding and congestion in the nest are factors, which predispose colonies to swarm. The presence of an old queen and a mild winter also contribute to the development of the swarming impulse. Swarming can be controlled by a skilled beekeeper; however, not all colonies live in hives and have a human caretaker.
3. When do honey bees swarm?
The tendency to swarm is usually greatest when bees increase their population rapidly in late spring and early summer. In Tidewater, this would be in April, May, and June.
Late season swarms seen from mid July to as late as October are usually of little value to beekeepers and are referred to as suicide swarms because they have little chance of survival without beekeeper intervention.
4. Are honey bee swarms dangerous?
No - honey bees exhibit defensive behavior only in the vicinity of their nest. Defensive behavior is needed to protect their young and food supply. A honey bee swarm has neither young nor food stores and will not exhibit defensive behavior unless unduly provoked.
5. What should homeowners do about a honey bee swarm on their property?
When honey bees swarm they will settle on a tree limb, bush, or other convenient site. The cohesiveness of the swarm is due to their attraction to a pheromone produced by the queen. The swarm will send out scout bees to seek a cavity to nest in and will move on when a suitable nesting site is found. Rarely, swarms may initiate comb construction in the open if a suitable cavity cannot be found.
Contact our swarm coordinator at the top of the page to see if a beekeeper would like to collect the swarm.
6. How does a beekeeper go about capturing a swarm of honey bees?
A swarm is looking for a new nesting site. A beekeeper can capture a swarm by placing a suitable container, such as an empty beehive, on the ground below the swarm and dislodging the bees at the entrance to the hive. The bees will begin to move into the hive, which can be removed after dark to the beekeeper's apiary. You can observe the bees scent-fanning at the entrance to signal the entrance to the new nest as the bees march into their new home. If for some reason the queen does not go into the new hive, the bees will abandon it and form a cluster where she lands.
7. What type of nesting sites will honey bees seek?
Honey bees are cavity nesters and will seek a cavity of at least 15 liters of storage space. Hollow trees are preferred nesting sites. Occasionally, bees will nest in the hollow walls of buildings, under porches, and in other "man-made" sites if they can find an entrance to a suitable cavity.