Friday, April 20, 2012

Moving a bee swarm

Yesterday there was a lot of excitement on our street. Our neighbor across the street noticed in the morning that quite a few bees were buzzing around the butterfly bush (buddleia) in their front yard. In the next few hours, it became clear that this was a swarm in the midst of moving to a new place to live.

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While beekeeping in suburban backyards is gaining in popularity, our neighbors weren’t ready for a bee colony so they contacted the Sacramento Area Beekeeper Association and were referred to a local beekeeper who lives just a few streets away.

I was there with my camera when the beekeeper came. The entire process you see in the series of photos below took no more than 15 minutes.

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Mission accomplished!

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Most of the swarm fell into the crate as the beekeeper cut off the branches, and the remaining bees quickly made a beeline (sorry for the pun, I couldn’t help myself) for the opening in the bottom of the box.

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The beekeeper took the box to his own backyard where the swarm will hopefully establish a new hive. He promised to bring some honey to our neighbors.

It would appear that these bees broke away from an existing hive nearby. As the size of a colony grows in the spring, the existing hive often doesn’t have enough room and the old queen (or a new one) and approximately 50-60% of the worker bees fly to a bush or tree close by where they cluster together to protect the queen. Scouts reconnoiter the area to find a protected location for a new hive. They communicate their findings the swarm, and everybody then takes off to their new home.

I don’t know if our neighbors’ butterfly bush was a temporary hangout or a new permanent location, but it doesn’t matter now that the bees are gone. It was great having a front-row seat to the goings-on. The biggest surprise for me was how focused the bees were on being with their queen. They didn’t pay much attention to the humans and I was able to get much closer than I’d thought.

3 comments:

  1. Bees are so fascinating! For more of this type of thing (lots, lots more info about swarming, hives, and other bee-related topics) you should read Curbstone Valley Farm's blog.

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  2. ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh I would have been screaming like a little girl with those bees on me!! lol...ok...I am a girl....but i'm all twingy feeling just thinking about it!

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    1. They're western honeybees and usually not aggressive, unlike African bees. I actually enjoyed being able to get to so close.

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