Saturday, June 24, 2017

Swarm Chasers!

Swarm Chasers!

Swarm on a flower pot
It’s that time of year again… the beehives are bursting out all over the place, and we are out catching swarms. It’s a good time to remind people to please not panic if you see a swarm of bees. You know what I mean – the pictures of vehicles covered with bees, or a school bus fender hiding behind a massive beard of our little lovelies. When bees swarm, they are very docile – probably the most docile they will be in their lives – because they have a queen with them, and they have no brood or food stores or home to protect.

Craig called us to gather his swarm
A swarm is really just nature’s way of allowing a colony to reproduce. The bees, when they land in your yard and hang off a branch or fence, or as they were today, a plant pot, they are only there temporarily (unless the queen gets stuck somewhere, like in the back seat of a car). Their original home will be usually less than a quarter mile away, and they have stopped to re-orientate themselves as they head to their new home. Whether they have already decided where it will be and are sending scout bees out to it, or if they are there while scout bees hunt out a new viable home for them to move to, is still under discussion. What we do know is that they will move from their first landing point to their permanent home, usually in a couple hours.

Greg gathering a swarm in a juniper bush. 
If you watch them once they have landed and are bearded around their queen, you will see many of them shaking their abdomens (which could be considered their tails, in this case). That is their way of communicating with each other, but it also is how they send out pheromones to let other bees know where they are and where the queen is. This helps those scout bees find their way back to the swarm. They will move on, so please, if you can’t contact a beekeeper to gather them up, leave them alone for a few hours and they will eventually fly away. Don’t spray them with insecticide, or spray your plants around them. Instead, pour yourself a cup of coffee and watch; they are truly fascinating.

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