View Full Version : Another bee tale

Michael Weber
03-19-2010, 6:37 PM
Mike Henderson recently posted a thread about bees swarming. I have a swarm story some might find interesting and so not to highjack Mike's thread, I'll just start anew.
I used to keep bees as a hobby and had only a couple of hives. Shortly before having to give up the hobby because of moving to a new neighborhood I had one of my hives swarm. The bees landed on a tree limb in my back yard and I didn't know about it until I almost walked into it. The swarm was about the size of a basketball that had been stretched into an oval shape. I was just going to let nature take it's course and let them find a new home by themselves. But a co-worker whom I was telling about the swarm had a friend that wanted it. The friend lived over 30 miles away. He arrived that evening to get the swarm and we shook it down into a closed hive body. You may know it's essential to get the queen as well as the workers. We loaded the closed hive into a truck and he drove them home in the dark, unloaded them and keep the hive closed for 24 hours. Next day he opens the hive, installs a bee board, goes to work and when he returns there are NO bees in the hive. Next day he mentions to my co-worker who mentions it to me. When I get home that evening, those bees are on the same branch of the same tree they were originally. We had evidently not gotten the queen into the hive and they weren't going to stay put without her. How they found their way back from 30 miles away after having been dumped into a sealed box and driven all that way will never cease to astonish and amaze me. Natures little GPS.

Chris Padilla
03-19-2010, 7:04 PM

For those of us who little of bees and their keeping...what does it mean to 'swarm'? I'm familiar with the term...just not maybe how you are using it.

Mike Cutler
03-19-2010, 7:37 PM

Bees "swarm" when there is pressure in the brood chamber, it's natural.
As a hive develops through time the amount of available space gets used up. Some comb is packed with honey, some with pollen and some with "bee bread", but there needs to be a sustainable space available in the brood chamber to continue to lay eggs, a good queen can lay up to 2000 eggs per day.
As the brood chamber gets filled she "runs out of room", and this triggers a response from the worker bees to begin to build queen cells. Once a new queen is present, the old queen will leave with about 40- 60% of the hive. The remaining queen will mate and begin to lay eggs in about three weeks. During this time, the brood chamber empties and there is room for the new queen to lay eggs.
The "swarm" finds new home and the cycle starts again.
There are other reasons for swarming, but this is the most typical. There are also libraries of studies that expound on the basics I outlined.
I don't think any insect has been studied as intently as honey bees. They're multi billion dollar industry and resource.

I miss my bees, my back doesn't , but I do:(

Michael Weber
03-19-2010, 9:51 PM
Thanks for the good definition Mike. I couldn't have done it nearly as well. Like you I miss my bees. I'm in a new place now and could probably start up a couple of hives again but I'm just too worried about the impact the colony collapse disorder going around now might have. Very sad situation.
Chris, If you have ever seen a bee swarm you would never forget it. It's a living, moving mass of 10's of thousands of bee all clustered together. Those on the outside clinging to those on the inside. Yet, quite safe to approach and even handle some. Before swarming, the bees gorge themselves on honey and are thus quite docile. Also they have no hive to defend The honey is the startup food supply for the new colony when it finds a home. There are pictures of people with swarms on their faces like beards. http://www.flickr.com/photos/max_westby/63982702/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/max_westby/5987544/