‘Tis the season for bee swarms! Spring seems to be the most popular time of year for bee colonies taking it to the streets – moving out of the hive and into a temporary location until they essentially find a better home. This is referred to as the bee colony “swarming”, when they hang out in a temporary spot. They can swarm for anywhere from a couple hours to a couple weeks as bee scouts are sent out looking for a new home.
Imagine my squeal of delight when I left my landscape architecture studio Friday afternoon to see a huge swarm on the side of the building! It is a pretty freaky sight to see – this huge mass of buzzing creatures. A couple school officials were out there scowling.
Bees will setup a temporary swarm location in a variety of places, but typically it is sheltered a bit from the elements. This window sill, for example, protects them from strong winds and rain. Other temporary locations will be places like tree branches, overhangs of roofs, hollowed trees, etc.
What do you do when you see a swarm? Call the Swarm Hotline in your area! There is typically a local beekeeping association that has a list of local beekeepers who would love to add another hive to their honey operations. In the state of Oregon, call the Oregon State Beekeepers Association.
I called my buddy Harper who then called his buddy Brandy who rounded up a couple friends all suited up and ready to capture the swarm. They climbed up the side of the building and gently swept the bees down into the hive box. It was nice and dark in there, so the bees stayed for the most part.
The most important part of capturing a hive is to ensure you get the queen. Without her, the hive will most likely collapse.
If memory serves me correctly, they gorge themselves before leaving their hive to swarm as they don’t know when their next meal will be. This makes them less likely to sting, since they need to contract their bodies to push their stinger down to sting. It is uncomfortable for them to bend that much with a full stomach.
Not to say they can’t sting! They actually did sting one of the bee workers trying to capture this hive. I think the bee was caught between folds in the bee suit and got pinched.
If you are interested in keeping bees in the backyard (or rooftop if you live in Manhattan), check out these past posts of mine on how to keep them. Scroll down the page to see the whole three part series, which also explains more about swarming. Fascinating creatures and I look forward to starting my own home bee-keeping operation some day soon.