As a student (Entomology 264-Practical Beekeeping) holds a caged queen, he finds that he has suddenly become very attractive to tens of thousands of female worker bees!

A swarm is a natural part of a colony’s life-cycle. It is the way the colony reproduces. Swarms are most likely to issue in the spring when a colony’s nest becomes crowded, but they may issue anytime during the growing season, frequently in the fall. When a colony swarms, about half of the worker bees and the old queen leave the nest and land on a nearby tree branch or other convenient structure, usually within 100 feet of the original nest. However, this is only a temporary home. Scout bees look for a more suitable location for a permanent nest, and after agreeing on a new site, the swarm departs and begins to build its new, permanent home. A swarm usually stays at its temporary site for only a few hours or days.

Swarms offer the beekeeper an inexpensive source of new bees, and you may be able to locate a beekeeper in your area willing to remove a swarm. Check with you’re local beekeeping group if there is one in your area: New York State bee groups, local papers, farmers markets, local police, or local County Extension Educators: Cornell Cooperative Extension (New York State). It is not always possible to locate a beekeeper to remove a swarm, or it may not be practical for the beekeeper to capture the swarm due to its location. Not to worry. Remember! Only under unusual circumstances will a swarm attempt to turn this temporary way station into a permanent nest. Be patient! It should soon depart.

Because a swarm is in essence a group of homeless bees, they have little investment to protect while at their temporary home, and they are not likely to sting. However, it is still best to give them a wide berth, as swatting at them could provoke a stinging incident.

The Gilroy (CA) Beekeepers Associations web site with informaton about all aspects of swarms -
All About Swarms

Swarming – it's prevention and control - Bee management for beekeepers -(pdf) 
The Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium, Publication 3.4,February 2000
  Click to download
© Copyright 2008, All rights reserved, Nicholas W. Calderone, Associate Professor,
Department of Entomology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853 


Updated July 2006
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