Bee Happy: Spring swarming births more bees

Felecia Chavez

These past few weeks have been unbelievable! Again, with the weather being a bit strange and trying to feel somewhat better about our observation hive at the shop swarming I received a visit from a friend asking if I could give more of a clearer idea on just what swarming entails. First and foremost I have to thank Jerry Headley from Virginia Bee Supply. He has been an invaluable wealth of information.

Like us, bees need space and a place to raise brood, to store honey and pollen. In the spring and summer a colony can increase in population thus needing more room. This spring found queens laying eggs much earlier than normal because of the weather increasing the chances of swarming.  When space becomes too limited, bees need a solution. Their solution is to swarm. The colony acts as one entity knowing what is needed to survive and more importantly what motivation is needed to reproduce. It is through swarming that the colony reproduces. With the rapid growth of the colony it is determined that in order to survive two colonies need to be created. Each will have their own queen to enable them to begin separate brood rearing and help to create bees collectively.

We found that our observation hive had become too crowded and we did not act fast enough to give them enough room. We learned a valuable lesson and one that will not be repeated any time soon. On the other hand we have been able to help relocate a number of swarms to our bee yard and they really do seem to be happy, with one exception. My husband was able to retrieve a swarm hanging on a tree in our backyard, because the weather was cool and misty he had no trouble putting it in a hive box where it was left to acclimate. When we went to check on it later we found most of the bees had died, but what had happened was that they all had a fine layer of a white substance on their bodies. It was heartbreaking to see some of them trying to crawl away knowing they were dying. Apparently before they landed in our backyard they had swarmed somewhere else and someone had sprayed them with something to kill them. They made it to our back yard where we found the queen and a number of her bees protecting her. They were not covered with any kind of pesticide and looked healthy. They were moved to another beehive and we are keeping an eye on their well-being.

Last year we had two of our hives swarm, one we were able to retrieve and put in another hive where they did well, the second one was at least 40 feet up in our magnolia tree and since I do not own or know anyone that has a cherry picker I waved goodbye as they flew away (hopefully, someone else was able to retrieve them and they were put in a lovely new hive). But I digress.

This season found us extremely busy from people that didn’t want to destroy the bees but wanted them to be taken away to a safe place as soon as possible, which we have tried to do. A huge thank you to the people at Safeway who came by and asked if we had someone that could take a swarm from their parking lot which we did (great job Mark)! To one of our neighbors that came by to tell us she had a swarm and could we come by and get it, (thanks Shane for helping), to Merchants Grocery for calling but unfortunately the bees had just enough time to make a quick stop and move on before I could move them. I have been getting calls from people that care what happens to our bees and want to do the right thing when they find a swarm thank you! I hope this information explains a bit more about swarms and why it’s important to call someone and not destroy them. After all they are just looking for a new home. I cannot say this enough, if we don’t take care of our pollinators, who will?

 

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