Swarm Season is Approaching Quickly
By Kathy Feist
Honey bees swarm during the spring as a natural means of reproduction. To most people, though, seeing thousands of bees hanging from a tree or car is a scary sight. But the Missouri State Beekeepers Association is getting the word out: to stay calm, call your local beekeeper, and do not harm them. The precious creatures pollinate 30 percent of the our food.
Honey bees swarm at this time of year to find a new home.
“In the Spring, the bees are starting to build up [the hive],” explains Marty Hansen who has been beekeeping and catching swarms for 25 years. “They might realize the queen is not producing enough eggs and will begin building another queen cell. When the older queen realizes this, she will take 50 to 60 percent of the bees to find a new place.”
The swarm will gather at a temporary location, such as a tree or even a car bumper, as the scouts look for a suitable new home. “They will hang from a tree for awhile, usually only a few hours,” says Hansen. He says he has seen a bee swarm last seven days in one place. However, all died as they slowly ran out of food. Interesting fact: a bee can only carry 1/12 a teaspoon of honey at a time. Its lifespan is six weeks, and only the last two of those weeks are spent collecting honey.
Hansen says when he is called to collect a swarm, he will “shake” them into a bucket and place them in a beehive box on the ground. “I make sure I get the queen, then the other bees follow her into the controlled situation,” he says. In the evening when all the bees have gathered together in the box, he closes it up and takes the box to his bee farm. Hansen currently has five hives, each consisting of 30,000 bees. In the summer, that number builds to 60,000.
People have been known to confuse yellow jackets with honey bees. There is a big difference in the two. Yellow jackets live in the ground and are aggressive. Honey bees live in hives or trees and are not usually aggressive. This is why it is best to locate a beekeeper who knows the difference and has the proper equipment to deal with them.
You can find a listing of local MSBA member Beekeepers on the Missouri State Beekeepers Association website. To contact Hansen, who is a member of the MSBA, call 816-863-1974. Hansen does swarm removal, trapouts and cutouts.
People often ask what they can do to save these beneficial insects. The MSBA says the answer is simple: cut back on poisons, herbicides, fungicides, etc. and plant native plants. Look at “weeds” as pollinator food. If it blooms, then consider it pollinator food rather than a “weed”. Let the fence lines and road sides go wild between April and October. The profusion of color from wild flowers is much more beautiful than the boring expanse of grass.