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That is the probably most common question we get asked when talking about swarms. And the next one is usually “why do bees swarm?”.
What is a bee swarm?
A bee swarm is a collection of bees that have decided to find a new home. Typically the hive they originated from became overcrowded, so about half of the population take the Queen and leave. Before they go, they ensure Queen cells are left with the original hive so they will not be left queenless. This is the natural way for honey bees to expand their population. Another possibility is that their home was permanently damaged, such as a tree that was cut down, and they must find a new one.
This group of bees will fly to a nearby structure, be it tree, fence, roof eave, etc., and make one giant cluster around the Queen. Scout bees buzz around the area looking for a new place to call home. When the scouts have found an appropriate location, they come back and tell the swarm. The swarm will then take to the air en masse and move in to the new settlement. This can take less than an hour or a few days.
And then our phone rings
We get called when the bees “just showed up all of a sudden”. Often times people are scared of the large clump of bees in their yard. Although we recommend you leave them alone, swarms are typically very mellow. They are homeless and exposed, full of honey, and focused on finding somewhere to go.
After the call, we do our best to drop everything and head right over before the swarm leaves. We suit up for protection and get to work. Occasionally we will lightly mist the bees with a sugar water solution to keep them busy while we collect them. The process is then quite simple. Simply brush or shake the bees into our collection container. The process takes a short time and we are able to gather about 90% of the bees. Once we believe we have the Queen and all the stragglers we can capture, we close up our collection containers and head home to place the swarm in one of our open hives.
On most of our collections we end up with a crowd of spectators. This is a wonderful learning opportunity and we love teaching people about bees!
We started receiving swarm calls around April 15th, and have fielded many in the last 2 months. In fact we have had more calls than we could handle at times! Here are some of the swarms we have either captured or been contacted about:
We collected this swarm in the evening. Located in Pueblo West, this probably came from the neighbors hive. They were about 10′ up in a Russian Olive tree.
Our first swarm of the year, collected in Pueblo’s East Side. These ladies left because their tree was damaged in a wind storm. This was actually the second swarm from the parent hive.
Our largest swarm of the year, picked up in Salt Creek. The neighbor cut down a large tree leaving them homeless (technically since this is the whole colony, it’s not a swarm but instead absconded).
This unique swarm started on the eave and then moved to the ground. The easiest capture so far as they just walked into the hive! Here is a short video of the swarm marching into the hive-