Spring is here! And with it comes the transformation of our landscape and the emergence of new growth and that new growth requires an abundance of pollinators. My favorite pollinator, the honey bee experiences exponential growth within the colony this time of year in order to have the necessary work force to maximize honey and pollen collection. Their survival depends on their ability to store up enough food to last them through the winter to the next spring. Not only does the colony produce young, but the colony itself, as a whole, reproduces itself by swarming.
The colony prepares for this division by raising a daughter queen. When she is about ready to hatch, the mother queen and about half of the bees in the colony leave the hive in search of a new home. This swarm typically finds a resting place on a nearby tree branch, fence post, deck post, or even a vehicle while the scout bees explore the area for a new nest site. It is during this resting period that we humans become a bit unnerved. Imagine walking out of your front door to find a ball of bees on the post of your deck! Don’t be frightened. These bees are calm and focused on protecting their queen and finding a new home. They really could care less about us humans at this point. Besides, they engorged themselves with honey prior to leaving their nest and are extremely sluggish – like we are after eating our Thanksgiving dinner! Swarming is a natural process for the bees. They rarely go on the defensive in this swarming state unless threatened or harassed.
Our honey bee population is struggling. Did you realize that over 30% of colonies die each year? The LAST thing you want to do is pull out a can of Insect Killer and spray away. So, what DO you do when you find a swarming ball of bees?
CALL a Beekeeper, of course!
The best way to find a beekeeper is to contact your local Extension office and ask for the contact information of a beekeeper in your area. Beekeepers love to help re-home swarming bee colonies and your local extension agent keeps a list of them handy. You can help the beekeeper by providing critical information. First, confirm that you are actually observing honey bees. Take a picture from a safe distance, then enlarge it and compare it to honey bee photos. Second, provide your name, contact number, and the address of the bees. Third, explain specifically where the bees are located. Are they on your fence post or 30 feet up in the air on a tree limb? Provide a photo if possible, with an estimate of the size of the swarm. All of this critical information allows the beekeeper to come fully prepared for the removal of the honey bees. Your help in protecting the “ball of bees” is greatly appreciated.
Hiving a Swarm