Have you ever seen videos of a giant clump or ball of bees on the side of trees, buildings, houses, and other places? Well that is what we refer to as a swarm! Honey bees typically swarm in the warmer months— Spring and Summer. The swarming occurs when a single bee colony has outgrown their hive space and decides to split into two or more colonies. The old queen, along with 30-40% of the colony will leave in search of a new home. While a new Queen is reared and stays behind with the rest of the colony. Technically a bee colony will never die because it is constantly cycling out queens!
When a bee colony decides to swarm they group up in a ball and fly off in search of a new home. The swarm will first send out scout bees in search of potential spots for their new home. When one of those scouts has found a potential home, they will return and communicate this via a WAGGLE DANCE. Another bee will then go out to see the specified location and see if it is a safe location for their new home. If it is then that bee will do the dance again; when they have agreed to a location they will fly to it and begin the process of building up their new home.
How Do They Begin the Process of Building a New Home?
When a bee colony decides to swarm, the bees that are getting ready to leave with the old queen will actually take honey with them. If you ever see a bee swarm then you will notice that they are a bit translucent. This is the honey that they will use to build their new hive. We always try to catch a bee swarm early, before any building occurs.
Our Farm and Our Bees
With the new cover crop that has recently bloomed in our fields, our bees now have plenty to forage on because there are more flowers available to them! This means that they will be able to produce more honey, more wax, more bees, and they will be able to build up their hive, which also means we will see more swarms!
We prepare for these swarms by cleaning out old hive boxes, so that we have one ready when we see a swarm, because we need to act fast and collect the swarms before they begin building their hive. On our farm we have small citrus trees that they tend to swarm to so it makes it easier for us to collect them and introduce them to one of our empty hive boxes so they can build their new home.
How Do We Catch Them?
We catch them by putting one of our hive boxes under the ball of bees and then shaking them inside. You may think that this may anger the bees and it can but if done correctly and quickly they will start moving into the hive box. It is very important that the Queen bee is in the hive box, because this is what will encourage the bees to move away from their current location and into the hive box. It also helps that we reuse our old hive boxes, so they already have a bee scent that lets them know it is a safe place to build their hive.
How Long Does it take them to build their new hive?
As soon as the bees feel safe, they will start building their hive right away and the queen will begin laying eggs. If they are able to find enough resources, it can take them as little as 2 weeks to build up their hive! This year we are hoping to see each of our colonies swarm at least once. If we are lucky, a colony may even swarm twice!