What Is a Bee Swarm?

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I have already gotten some reports and calls about bee swarms being seen in the area this year. Why do honey bees swarm? Honey bees swarm in the spring and early summer when their population increases rapidly and conditions inside the hive become too crowded. The queen will leave the hive with about half of the worker bees and some male drones to look for a new place to build a hive. A new queen is made in the old hive and the group of bees that has left the hive is called a swarm.

The swarm will typically land near the old hive on a tree, fence post, or other surface. A typical honey bee swarm consists of between 10,000 and 40,000 bees. A basketball sized clump of bees may look intimidating, but is not a concern for Public Health or safety. The swarm of bees will stay put for a few hours up to a few days while scout bees search for a new home. Most of the swarm remains largely inactive to conserve energy.

A swarm of bees on a branch

Once a good enough site has been found and decided upon by the colony, the entire swarm of bees will take to the air and move off to their new home. Once inside the new home, worker bees go to work building new combs for the queen to lay eggs and, for foraging bees, a place to store honey for the colony.

So, what should you do if you see a swarm on your property? One option is to leave them alone. If they are not trying to form a new colony in your house and are not in the way they will go away within a few hours to a day or two. Another option is to call the extension office and we can see if one of our local bee keepers is able to come and collect the swarm.