What causes bees to swarm?
Swarming is the honey bee’s natural way of reproducing a colony. When an existing bee colony becomes too large for the current hive or site, a bee swarm develops.
A swarm in flight is surreal, the air darkens, roars, thousands of bees swirling around, apparent chaos, a sight of wonder and amazement. In reality, they are acting as a single super-organism, workers and a single queen bee (occasionally more). This is bee colony replication in action, and they are looking for a new home.
When do bees swarm?
January is too early for swarms in England; most colonies are clustered tight, Queenie has stopped laying, and the workers are shivering around her, and eating their honey stores to keep the centre of the nest above 27’c. Bees will fly on warmer, sunnier afternoons, and when we have damp westerly winds.
As days lengthen and the temperature rises, Queeenie hopefully starts to lay and the workers raise the temperature around the brood to 37’c. Honey bees need the same temperature to develop as humans. It’s the same basic biochemistry.
And so the colony grows…….
By April, it has grown, and hence the start of the swarming season, which generally runs through to the beginning of July.
What to do if you find a swarm of bees on or near your allotment plot.
What people normally find is a settled swarm – a mass of bees hanging in a tree or bush, anything from the size of an orange to a large rucksack. On the surface, bees vibrate and dance, with scout bees darting back and forth in search of nest sites or forage.
This is when you phone for a beekeeper; the swarm is relatively settled, and can be taken away and re-housed in an empty hive, rather than someone’s compost bin, or a box in their shed, or worse!
For bees swarms found on or near H&DAA allotment sites, contact Susan Carter whose contact details can be found on the H&DAA Newsletter. Alternatively go to the BBKA website and look under ‘swarms’ for the nearest swarm collectors.