Learn About Bee Swarms – Bees & Beekeeping Information

For beekeepers, a bee swarm can be a welcome opportunity to buy bees for a new hive. However, for most of us, coming across hordes of bees can be overwhelming. For some, a single bee at a distance, too, can be downright scary and a swarm can have thousands of bees! While beekeepers have the skills and expertise to navigate swarming bees, most people need help to understand this natural phenomenon.

For starters, catching a swarm is not meant for casual recreation. It is not an adventure activity and can have serious repercussions--please leave this to the experienced beekeeper.

However, many seasoned beekeepers also do not believe in catching the swarm to procure bees while some vouch for it despite some risks involved. A bee swarm is more enjoyable when you know some of its interesting aspects and stay out of harm's way.

Why Do Bees Swarm?

Bees Swarm on a Tree

Swarming leads to expansion of bee colonies. Despite being an awe-inspiring visual experience that looks like a fleet headed to war, it is a positive event and not the result of the confrontation. The beehive is like huge accommodation for a massive colony. Thriving with activity, the hive hosts a queen, hundreds of drones and thousands of worker bees apart from pupae, larvae, honey reserves and developing eggs.

Space Crunch

Reproduction

There Is Nothing Unplanned About Swarming

Bees Flying

Some honey harvesting specialists refer to swarming as a means of a bee colony or hive to become two. The entire scenario can be dramatic but what seems like a crazy frenzy is actually a reasonably planned activity. There are months in the year that have a higher incidence of growing hives undertaking to swarm, such as spring.  A reproduction of bees at the colony level, swarming can have many other patterns. Usually, bees go into honey-storing overdrive during the period leading up to the swarm.

Interesting Facts: There Is A Lot Of Science At Play!

Bees flying towards the nest

Did you know the Arizona bee swarm is not meant for the curious onlooker to explore? Such swarms can have a high density of aggressive Africanized honeybees. There is another aspect of bee swarming behavior that few people realize. These bees are constantly communicating via chemical messengers that are referred to as pheromones.

The Honey Bee or Apis mellifera uses this complex communication system, often using up to 15 or more glands to produce the biochemical compound. It does not restrict bee pheromones to the queen. They are produced by the worker bees and drones, too. There is a further classification of the type of hormone produced, and queen pheromone is rather powerful, attracting worker bees. Not just swarming, this pheromone-driven communication helps the worker bees to perform a number of activities, from foraging and combing to tending the brood.

Beekeepers & Swarming: Experience Counts!

Man wearing protective gear reaching a bee hive

There is no standard for swarming numbers. In many places, beehives are found in small wooden boxes put up by bee enthusiasts. Here, the numbers can quickly exceed the available space and the small colony might swarm rather quickly. A seasoned beekeeper has a basic understanding of how much and for how long the hive structure can safely accommodate the hive before the bees swarm.

Observing these patterns and making predictions for the next swarm is a sure sign of a beekeeper being extensively experienced at his craft. Such wisdom can highlight many swarming-related theories like bees filling up on nectar before they leave their original colony forever.

Interesting Events That Make Up a Bee Swarm

Bees Swarm

The swarming numbers can be large with the queen and nearly 50%-60% of her offspring stepping out of the hive. The relocation might not happen immediately. Exiting the hive and finding a new hive might come with a gap and an interim site being chosen.

Getting Ready

Clustering

Scouting

Be Curious, But Stay Away From a Bee Swarm

bees attacking a man

Bees that swarm focus on finding a new hiving site. They are not in the same agitated state they associate that with a hive under attack. In fact, some clusters of bees here are docile. This is why beekeepers try to capture bees from the swarm. Still, bees can sting if they feel threatened. You cannot assume that today's swarming locations won't witness busy bee activity tomorrow. The swarming routes and frequency might spread across a couple of days until they complete the new hive's location.

While some people have allergies to honeybees, it does not mean that others can safely withstand a swarm. From respiratory distress to inflammation, pain, swelling, and welting, there are many threats associated with a bee attack. Often, medical aids for such bee stings are not immediately available, and the outcomes can be horrible.

Among people with diagnosed allergies to bee stings, the complication can turn almost fatal. This is why some local experts tip travelers about not undertaking certain routes during the swarming season. These are times when the swarms are really moving, and it can be a risk to step outdoors without protective gear.

Sometimes, bee stings are the result of unfortunate coincidences like a hiker or biker crossing paths with feral honey bees. Again, rather than the bee sting, it is often the fear factor that makes people panic and lose control. This could be in the form of steering the car away from the road or losing balance and falling when trying to move out of the path of the swarm. There have been cases of people drowning as they tried to stay underwater, assuming the swarm will quickly pass over!

Precautions

There are some basic precautions you should undertake when venturing into bee swarm locations. For instance, try not to wear dark clothing, particularly apparel that fits loosely. Wear light-colored clothing. Bees have now evolved to recognize threats from several predators such as honey badgers, bears, and other dark-furred mammals.

Strong colognes or scents are known to invite a bee attack. It is not a good idea to spray the swarms with insecticides. This directly raises the risk of getting stung. Most swarms will pass over and try being patient. Even if you encounter a swarm, don't panic. Don't swat at the bees as this can make them hostile and dangerous! Your best bet is to stay calm and allow the bees to continue on their path.

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