Saturday, March 28, 2009

Honey Bees Swarm in the Spring

Swarming is the way that honey bees propagate on a colony-wide basis. In the swarming process, the bees create a new queen to remain in the nest while the old queen flies away along with a large number of bees, often half of the colony. Upon leaving their nest, the bees fly around in a swirling extended mass. I try to choose a word to describe this mass of bees, and I think the best one is “swarm.” After flying for a few minutes, the swarm will gather together into a tight cluster hanging from a tree limb or attached to a structure like a mail box or a building. The swarm of bees is organized into a tight cluster by pheromones, or scents, given off by the queen and certain worker bees.

The cluster of bees will remain on its resting place, the tree limb or structure, for a few hours or even for a few days. While it is there, scout bees leave the cluster searching for an appropriate cavity to serve as a permanent home for the colony. Here, the swarm has gathered on a large limb of a maple tree.

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