Sunday, May 3, 2009

Catch a swarm/sitting on top of the world

One of the other ways of getting honeybees besides ordering a package is to capture a swarm. Swarming season is coming. This is when bees, who have been productively filling up their hive with more bees, decided it’s getting a little crowded in here. The hive splits: a new queen is produced, the old queen leaves with about half the bees. The departees cluster in a swarming football-sized mass on tree limbs, windowsills, lampposts, and in the city, other things that are at eye level. But of course they don't fly in a tight mass, so the air can be full of bees.

Panic and hysteria usually result, even though the swarm is fairly harmless. It just looks terrifying. The bees are surrounding and protecting their queen, hence the big mass. They’re also stuffed with honey, which they ate before leaving the old hive because they aren’t sure when they’re going to get their next meal. When stuffed with honey, the bees are much less likely to sting because their stingers aren’t readily extruded. Meanwhile, the swarm’s scouts are flying around looking for a place to build the new hive. Someplace dry and dark, with limited access, fpl and vu not necessary. What usually happens in the non-wild is that a beekeeper comes and gathers up the swarm and puts them into a waiting hive. Free bees, after all, are not to be laughed at, oh, my, no. Gathering a swarm, assuming it’s not way up on tree, entails spritzing the bees down with sugar water and gently sweeping them into a box. Ideally, if you get the queen in your container, the bees will just waltz in there with her.

Not that you should do this at home on your own if you’ve never done it.


amarilla said...

"Answer it!" – loved that. Who can pause to answer a phone when mesmerized by swarming bees?

Unknown said...

Nice blog - I am also urban beekeeping - just started this year in Philly. I linked to your blog from mine - check it out if you want -

Cass said...

You have an interesting blog. If you have any questions on beekeeping you should check out my blog at I have a lot of useful "How To's" regarding the keeping of bees and hive management techniques. Keep up the good work.

Jay Heiser said...

I have never seen a bee swarm. I know that they are a normal part of bee behavior, but I cannot ever remember seeing one.

Is it likely that I've walked near a swarm at rest, and just not noticed it?

Is this something that most people would have seen?