A few years ago there was a bee swarm in my neighborhood. For a few days it was the talk of the town. Did you see that bee swarm? Are they angry? Are they looking for a person or animal to attack? Are they lost? Looking for their hive? It was both beautiful and frightening to the uninformed.
The main reason that bees swarm out of the hive is that there is overcrowding in the hive. When the space gets too tight for so many bees, about half of them take off and go looking for a new home. An old queen also contributes to the instinct to swarm. The bees have a natural intelligence about when to leave and form a new hive, and this helps perpetuate the species. This works perfectly for bees in the wild. In managed hives, however, beekeepers want to avoid swarming because you lose half of your bees and decreases your honey production in that hive. Beekeepers keep an eye on the size of the hive and try to manage against swarming.
The bees are smart about when they swarm. They choose a sunny day with light wind and try to leave early to give themselves plenty of time to find a new hive. The bees swarm out of the hive with the queen, the bees stay close together because of their attraction to a pheromone produced by the queen. Then they cluster together in the shade, while scouts go out to look for a new hive location. The entire swarm does not go out hive hunting together. The bees prefer to build a new hive in a cavity, like a hole in a tree. As we know, bees will sometimes find a cavity in or around a house if they can find a way in- we hear many stories of bees nesting between walls. Scouts look for the new nesting site and come back to guide the way when they find a suitable location.
We recently had a bee swarm from one of our hives at Volcano Island Honey in Ahualoa and the bees clustered under a bush while waiting for their scouts to come back. Since these bees swarmed out of one of the Volcano Island Honey hives, Richard wanted to catch them back and give them a new hive. You will see in the video below that Richard is making sure that he captures the queen as well as the rest of the bees. If he doesn’t capture the queen, the bees will swarm out of the new hive.
Bees, in general, do not attack people. They primarily exhibit defensive behavior and will sting if they perceive a threat to the hive. A bee swarm is a group of bees moving to a new home and they usually eat a big honey meal before they go. Full of honey and without a home, they are not at their most aggressive. They are not out and about with aggressive intentions, but that doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t sting if they felt threatened. You can see in the video above that Richard is capturing the swarm with his bare hands!
The swarm will usually move on to their new nesting site within a day or two. You can call a beekeeper to capture the bees if they locate themselves in your home, or if you want the swarm gone sooner than they are ready. Some beekeepers like to catch wild swarms and put them in managed hives. They feel that wild bees might be stronger and add genetic diversity to the other colonies.
There was recently another bee swarm down in Puako…here are some pictures from that:
Posted by Andrea Dean