A swarm is a natural occurrence in the honeybee world, and the swarm is often mistaken for a wasp or hornets nest. A swam is actually a portion of a honeybee colony which is relocating to a new home. It is a sign of health for colonies, and is a way in which honeybees repopulate. Late spring and late summer when colonies tend to have more individuals, a consensus is reached among the bees that the colony must become 2. The original queen and many of her worker daughters will be the ones to leave, making room for a new queen to start the honeybee cycle all over. This entire process begins long before the swarm is visible. Queen cells are created by worker bees, where they coax the original queen to lay an egg. These cells are just wax comb that is formed into an extra large cell space. The egg laid in these particular cells will develop into a queen instead of a worker bee. Once the virgin queen emerges and takes a mating flight or two, she will become the new queen of the hive. A small portion of worker bees will stay with her to build a whole new generation of bees.
During the development of the new queen, the original queen is put on a “diet” where her nurse bees begin to ration her food. This causes her to stop laying eggs, and loose a bit of weight. Worker bees called “scout bees” begin taking flights, looking for a new place to call home. Returning scout bees will pass their message to others in the hive and the most enthusiastic messengers convince the others to visit the best options. When the timing is right, the soon to depart worker bees gather as much honey as they can, and the queen will emerge from the hive with her nurse bees flying a short distance. Queen bees fly only for two reasons; to mate and to find a new home. That short first flight is the optimal time to catch a swarm. As 1/3 to 3/4 of the colony of worker bees gathers around the queen and her nurse bees, the loud buzzing settles and the cluster of bees is now called a swarm. This ball of bees is often found in a tree, or on a standing object like a fence post, and can remain in that cluster anywhere from hours to days. When the bees agree on a suitable location, and the queens wings are stretched, the swarm flies off in a massive cloud to their new residence. If you think you have encountered a swarm and would like some help identifying, and possibly removing it, please feel free to contact me.
A couple years ago I was contacted about a swarm that was located in rural Two Harbors up in a pine tree near an up-town intersection. Local citizens were concerned that someone would be stung, and so the City of Two Harbors Police Department and the City of Two Harbors Electric Department helped accompany me to retrieve the swarm. The colony of bees was safely removed and brought to the farm to live in a new hive. A big thanks to all involved in helping! Check out the pictures and links below to learn more.