What is a honey bee swarm?

by | April 18, 2017 6:48 am

From Scott Swoape, U.T. Extension Service

Swarming is the reproduction of a honey bee colony. It is a normal and natural phenomenon, and rarely poses a danger to people or animals. When honey bees have good weather and plenty of food, their populations can increase dramatically.

When a colony becomes crowded inside their current home (a bee hive, hollow tree, or other cavity) they will begin to raise a new queen bee. When this new queen is almost mature, the old queen will leave the hive, followed by about one half or two-thirds of the worker bees and some of the drones. This queen bee will land nearby, on a tree, shrub, fence post or even a building. The worker bees cluster around the queen to protect her and keep her warm.  Most of the cluster remains largely inactive, to conserve energy.  However, a number of scout bees are sent out in all directions to search for another suitable home for their colony to move into.  When a satisfactory site has been chosen, the entire swarm of bees will take to the air and move off to their new home. Once inside, the workers will begin to secrete beeswax, and build new combs for the queen to lay eggs and for the storage of honey.

Meanwhile, back in the old hive, a newly emerged queen bee will take a series of mating flights, then begin to head her inherited colony.  She will never leave the hive again, unless she too leads a swarm to a new home.  Soon after the new queen begins laying eggs, the population of bees in the original colony will begin to grow.

While the sudden appearance of a large number of honey bees may appear frightening to some people, they are usually quite harmless. Because they do not have any brood or honey to protect, a new swarm is usually very gentle in temperament and they rarely sting. Unless the swarm poses a specific threat or inconvenience to people, they can be left alone and admired from a distance. The bees will likely remain for only a few days at most, and then suddenly fly away to establish their new home.

Report a swarm of honey bees 

If you have a honey bee swarm on your property and would like to have it removed, contact UT Extension Office in White County at (931) 836-3348. UT Extension will put you in touch with a local beekeeper to relocate the swarm.

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