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A swarm of bees in a treeIt’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.

Contact me

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.

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Your phone number (very helpful)

Photo of swarm (optional):

Location of swarm and description:

 

I received an email last week from my local association secretary. He has asked to pass along a message for anyone experiencing dead bees in their apiary.

If you know of any beekeepers that are experiencing honeybee mortality with bees dying in front of the hive entrance or on the ground in front of colonies, it may be due to instances of pesticide use in your area. It is quite important that all instances of this type of hive loss are documented. There have been some reports of these losses early this season. The Ministry of Environment and the Pest Management Regulatory Agency are looking into these reports. The federal PMRA is interested in having all incidents documented.

If you are experiencing such losses in your colonies, please keep a detailed log of the losses and contact your local apiary inspector. If you are in Ontario, here is a list of local bee inspectors. If you’re outside Ontario, please contact your beekeeping association for contact information related to hive inspections.

A group of worker bees

Illustration provided by Marty Elmer and used under Creative Commons license.

The Grand River Beekeepers’ Association is my local beekeeping association. I attended my first beekeepers meeting last night. It’s nice to be able to interact with real, local beekeepers finally.

The Grand River Beekeepers’ Association (GRBA) is the beekeeping association for Kitchener-Waterloo and surrounding area. Last night there were 29 people at the meeting (9 women and 20 men) ranging in age from about 25 to 75. There was also a wide variety of experience levels in the room. There were a handful of brand new beekeepers—like myself—and beekeepers with decades of experience. Read the rest of this entry »

Look at this! A brand new blog and a brand new adventure.

My wife got me the best Christmas present this year: A Langstroth bee hive kit! I’m so excited to begin my new adventures in bee keeping and I’ve started this blog to record the ups and downs of “beeing” an apiarist. (I will try to keep the bee puns to a minimum.)