It’s that time of year when bees are swarming. This past weekend I received two emails from people who had swarms of bees near their homes and were trying to find a beekeeper in Kitchener or Waterloo to come take them away.
If you have stumbled upon my blog because you have a swarm of honeybees near you, here’s a bit of information that you should hopefully find helpful.
First and foremost: Contrary to what the word ‘swarm’ usually implies, swarms of honeybees are very docile and not dangerous. These bees have left their old home in search of a new one. They are storing their energy so that they can survive away from their hive. They have no food or young to protect so it’s unlikely they will sting. In fact, many people have been known to stroke swarms or stick their bare hands right into the the middle of them.
Bees typically swarm as a means of macro-reproduction. This is the way the entire colony splits and forms a new hive. Most swarms happen because a new queen is born and the colony splits in half. There are approximately 25,000 bees in an average swarm.
When a swarm is preparing to leave their home, they stock up on honey in their tiny bellies and typically fly up into an elevated area, not too far from their original home. This is usually a tree. They’ll camp out in a watermelon-sized ball for a day or two, but it could be as long as a week. During this time, scout bees are sent out to try and find a new home for the colony, and if a suitable home is found, the entire swarm will leave and begin to set up their new digs.
The probability that a swarm of honeybees will be able to survive on their own is quite small and it’s usually best for everyone if a beekeeper comes and rescues them. This is usually done by shaking them off the tree or cutting a branch to lower the bees into a box. The box is then left until nightfall to ensure all bees go inside. They will follow their queen’s scent, so as long as the queen makes it into the box, the rest will follow.
If you know of any honeybee swarms or if you have one near your house, please feel free to contact me. If I cannot retrieve the swarm myself, I will try and refer you to another beekeeper in your area that can.