Honey Bee Swarm Information
If you need help removing a swarm contact an LBA Beekeeper
Why do honey bees swarm?
Honey bees reproduce in spring. The natural means of reproduction for honey bees is called swarming. The prime swarming period typically lasts from May to June. Normally a single swarm of honey bees divide and become two colonies during the swarming period. Because swarming typically means a loss of honey production, beekeepers try to discourage their bees from swarming. A method commonly used to discourage swarming is to create a starter colony by splitting. Splitting a colony into two encourages the bees to stay in their hives. Some beekeepers believe that bees only swarm when they have an abundance of food in the hive. Beekeepers sometimes use a method called checker boarding to discourage their bees from swarming. They remove some of the full frames of honey, and replace with foundation giving the bees the illusion that they don’t have any honey in reserve, which discourages the bees from swarming. It is unusual for bees to swarm when there is a new queen in the bee hive.
When the queen ages the hive typically prepares to swarm. Usually the older queen leaves with the primary swarm leaving a virgin queen in her place. When the old queen is getting ready to swarm, she stops laying eggs. She concentrates on getting fit enough to fly - by losing weight (the only other time the queen has flown is when she went out on her nuptial flight). When smaller swarms leave the hive they are commonly accompanied by the virgin queen. When they first leave the hive in a swarm, bees don’t usually go far very from the original hive. After leaving the hive, the bees may settle on a nearby tree branch, on a wall or under an eave. The worker bees cluster around the queen, protecting her. Once they have the queen protected, some scout bees look around until they find a suitable place to turn into their new home.
Some beekeepers see swarming as an opportunity to restock their hives. An experienced bee keeper has no problem capturing swarming bees. Beekeepers sometimes use Nasonov pheromone or/and lemongrass essential oil to lure swarming honey bees. Nasonov pheromone is released by worker bees to help guide returning forager bees back to the colony. To broadcast this scent, bees raise their abdomens, which contain the Nasonov glands, and fan their wings vigorously. A synthetically produced Nasonov pheromone can be used to attract a honey bee swarm to an unoccupied hive or a swarm-catching box. When they swarm, honey bees carry no additional food with them. The only honey they are allowed to take from the parent hive is the honey they have consumed. Although they typically don’t go after people when they are swarming, there is something about the sight of a swarm of bees that scares people. It is not unusual for a beekeeper to be called out to capture a colony of swarming bees.
How do you know what type of bees they are?
"Honey bee swarms" are clusters of bees hanging in trees, on a wall, fence, column or just about anywhere. Swarms are usually docile and calm and don't typically sting because they have no hive, brood or honey stores to defend.