Caution – the videographer utters the s%$t word a couple of times in this video taken in Illinois.
What a swarm! But as you all know, as much as bee keepers might like to catch swarms we don’t want them to issue from our hives. If you plan to do anything to try to prevent swarms from your hives it might be time to take action – if not now, then soon. The mild weather this winter may very well have things ahead of our normal schedule.
Swarming is when the old queen in a strong colony leaves with a big chunk (a really big chunk in the video) of the foragers to establish a new colony – and the existing colony raises a new queen. When the swarm issues it usually regroups in a nearby tree or bush – or sometimes on the ground or the side of a municipal building – for a while as scouts look for a suitable cavity to become the new home. Once they agree by means of honeybee democracy on the new address they go to it and set up housekeeping. As you saw in the video there’s a window of opportunity (usually just a few hours at most) for a beekeeper to put them into a box and convince them that it’s a mansion fit for a queen bee. If they stay long enough to build comb and produce brood then they are home for good. Sometimes they don’t, but things like lemongrass oil (or other swarm lure) old comb, or live brood comb from another colony can help to convince them to stay. Swarms usually produce lots of new comb very quickly.