Honey Bee Swarms are Flying

03/30/2011 15:51

Honey Bee Swarms are Flying

It’s the time of year when people are outside in the early afternoon on a beautiful sunny day and have their silence interrupted by nature’s action accompanied by a loud buzzing sound. The source of the noise is thousands of insects flying everywhere. Initially a cause for concern, maybe even fear; the observer realizes it is a stunning act of nature. Honey bees!

A swarm of honey bees has left its hive and is searching for a suitable location to start a new colony. It is a slow, deliberate process, and during the quest, most of the bees rest on branches or other places nature provides while waiting for the scout bees to search for the best location. An observer may not witness the swarm flying but will see all the bees after they land on a branch. The swarm, which may be as small as a grapefruit or as large as a watermelon is not as aggressive as people fear because it has nothing to protect, instead it is searching for a new home.

The swarm’s odds of surviving for a year are slim as they must find a suitable cavity, build honeycomb, raise brood, and gather nectar and pollen. Enzymes in their bodies convert the nectar to honey, which does not spoil and is their major food source. It is needed for the bees to survive winter months.

When a beekeeper finds a swarm he or she moves it to a suitable location and places the swarm in front of a hive. The bees near the entrance will smell the honeycomb and start fanning their wings. The aroma of the honeycomb entices the remaining bees to walk into their new home.

The beekeeper helps the new colony prepare for winter thus increasing its chance of survival. When spring arrives this new colony will be strong enough to gather nectar and make a surplus of honey so it can both survive the next winter and provide the beekeeper with extra honey to harvest.

If you find a honey bee swarm contact a local beekeeper. The Coweta County Extension Office, 770-254-2620 and Coweta Beekeepers www.cowetabeekeepers.org both have a list of beekeepers ready to remove a swarm.