Spring brings warmer weather, new buds on the trees, and with that, the swarming of bees. The first thing to keep in mind if you come across a bee swarm on your property, is that they aren’t there to hurt you. A bee swarm is essentially a group of homeless bees. They are in the process of looking for a new place to call home. Because they don’t have a nest to protect, these types of swarms are not usually considered a threat. You could theoretically walk right up to them and they won’t even notice you. Your first instinct might be to call an exterminator to eliminate them, as the sight of hundreds of bees flying around your yard might cause some fear or anxiety. However, you should consider calling a honey bee expert instead as they can help safely relocate the colony to a suitable hive.
Honey Bee Hierarchy
Honey bee colonies exist in a hierarchy with queens, workers and drones, each serving a vital purpose to keeping the colony in existence. Honey bee queens usually live about 2-3 years, but have been known to live up to 5 years when conditions are right. She will spend those years mating and laying eggs to continue populating the colony. Female workers are the heavy lifters of the colony, and perform many tasks to ensure the survival of the hive. As a result of their constant working, their average lifespan is usually only around 6 weeks. Male drone bees only purpose is to fertilize the queen, and they will die shortly after fulfilling this duty. Swarming usually only occurs in healthy and robust colonies as they branch out to new hives.
What Causes Swarming?
Honey bees are the most commonly documented types of swarms that people encounter. Colonies that are weak or unstable will not swarm until they are stronger and have a larger population. The ever-growing Colony Collapse Disorder is something that can weaken or even kill off an entire colony, along with lack of food sources, other diseases or faulty queens. Seasonal changes such as milder winters and hotter summers are one reason that swarming occurs, as well as overpopulation of crowded hives.
A swarm will consist of a group of worker bees as well as a queen departing the old hive. They will find a place to rest, such as a bush or a tree branch, while several of the workers will act as scouts to go out and look for a new hive. Some suitable locations would include an empty log, another abandoned hive or an empty wall cavity.
Once the scouts report back that they have found a new hive location, the rest of the swarm will begin to move to the new site and start nesting.
There are two kinds of swarms that exist: primary swarms and secondary swarms. A primary swarm is led by a fertilized queen bee, and includes a group of worker bees who act as protectors of the queen who is essential to creating a new colony. A secondary swarm is much less common. It is led by several virgin female bees and is usually only about half the size of a primary swarm.
What Should I Do?
If you encounter a swarm on your property there are two viable options that you have. First, you can leave the swarm alone and wait for them to move along to a new hive on their own. Secondly, if you are concerned about them forming a hive on your property and staying there permanently, you can contact the experts at the CT Beekeepers Association for assistance with relocating the hive. Before contacting them, you can read up on their information on identifying the differences between bees and wasps to make sure you know what you are dealing with. Additionally, if you need assistance identifying the flying insects on your property, you can always contact the experts at Richland Pest & Bee Control. We have over 40 years of experience dealing with CT pests, and can help you correctly identify your insect invaders.