Red House Honey was perplexed recently by two swarms of bees which lodged themselves precariously from two rather small branches right beside the apiary.
Bees swarm for several reasons, but most often because there is not enough room in the hive. The queen, having no more space to lay eggs (she lays 1000 a day!), decides to abscond, taking most of the hive with her. Usually a swarm lingers two to three days in a tree, clumped around its queen, as scouts seek a new location. The noise made by the bees is terrific, as they excitedly hum around the cluster, with the queen at its core. When the cluster does move, often stray bees are left behind, still drinking in the queen’s lovely pheremones, which linger in the area.
But these clusters were eerily silent. Within about two hours, the “swarms” were gone without a trace–before they could be trapped by your intrepid bee wrangler. Yet RHH’s hives, when checked, were brimming with bees.
Could these bees – at least 60,000 of them — have been renegade swarms from some other apiary? Could the bees merely have been “bearding” (a common bee phenomenon wherein hundreds or even thousands gather on the outside wall of their hive to cool down) because they were too hot in their sun-baked hive? Did the bees swarm, then return to the hive?
Often, bees swarm because workers have created a new queen to replace an aging or inefficient queen–and there’s only room for one queen in a hive, so a return home is out of the question. Queens leave the hive for only two reasons–to mate or in a swarm, seeking a new home. They dislike light and spend their lives inside, laying eggs.
So…if there are no missing bees…and no swarm…just what went on at Red House Honey the other afternoon? Hmmm….it’s a mystery all right. Let us know your thoughts.