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Honey Bee Swarms

 

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You're out in your back yard when you suddenly see thousands of bees clustered on a tree branch, fence post or other object.  What you're witnessing is a natural process known as swarming and can be alarming to come across for you and your family.  It's reassuring to know that while you should maintain your distance, a swarm of honey bees will typically not attack or sting anyone unless disturbed.  

The Red Deer Beekeepers Association has a group of member volunteers who help our communities by removing swarms if it's early in the season and the swarm is easily and safely removable.  Peak swarm season in Central Alberta is between May and July, but can occur right into September.  When we remove a swarm, we do not kill bees or destroy their nests - we remove them and rehouse them in a new hive where we can help prevent swarming from occurring.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Are swarms dangerous?

 

No, honey bee swarms are not dangerous and the bees are unlikely to attack or sting anyone unless they are disturbed.  In a swarm, the bees are in their most docile state.  Regardless, it's important to keep your distance and notify someone who is experienced to remove the swarm.

 

Why do honeybees swarm?

 

Swarming is the naturally occurring process of hive reproduction.  Once the hive population reaches a critical point, the queen and about half the population of workers decide to leave the hive and search for a new home.  Often, the swarm will temporarily land in a tree or other object and send out "scout" bees.  The scout bees search for a new location and report back to the swarm.  Once an agreement is reached on which location is best, the swarm then relocates to their new home. 

 

Where did the swarm come from?

 

There is a good chance there is a natural feral (wild) nest of bees located nearby the swarm - this may be in a tree, a barrel, or inside the wall of a building or in some other structure.  The hive had a large population of honey bees and has run out of room to store honey, pollen and brood (baby bees) and now requires an additional new home.

 

How long will the swarm be there?

 

Honey bee swarms may be at a temporary location for hours to several days.  The bees may decide to make this location their permanent home if a more secure location cannot be located.  It's important for you to report the swarm as soon as possible, otherwise the bees may settle somewhere unwanted.

 

Does the Red Deer Beekeepers Association remove wasp or bumblebee nests?

 

The Red Deer Beekeepers Association does not remove wasp nests or assist with wasp control.  Bumblebees are very important and some species around the world are going extinct.  If you find a bumblebee nest, it's important not to disturb it - the nest is fragile and will die out by summer's end.  If you are concerned, or if you require relocation of a bumblebee nest, you are welcome to contact us for advice.

 

 

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