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Honey Bee Swarms

Honey bees produce wax and honey while helping to pollinate vegetation, gardens and orchards. However, when thousands of bees congregate in one area, creating a swarm, they can frighten or, if disturbed, harm humans and animals.

Honey bee swarming is a natural part of a developing their colony. Honey bees swarm as a result of overcrowding within a hive. To create a swarm, an old honey bee queen leaves the hive with about half of the hive’s worker bees, while a new queen remains in the old hive with the rest of the workers. In the wild, honey bees swarm most in late spring and early summer, at humid times of the day. While swarming is part of the healthy life cycle of every honey bee colony, beekeepers often attempt to reduce the incidence of swarming in domesticated bees.

A honey bee swarm may contain hundreds or thousands of worker bees and a single queen. Swarming honey bees fly temporarily, and then cluster on shrubs and tree branches. The clusters rest there for several hours to a few days, depending on weather conditions and the amount of time needed to search for a new nesting site. When a scout honey bee locates a good location for the new colony, the cluster immediately flies to the new site.

Generally, honey bee swarms do not harm people. Swarming honey bees do not have young or a nest to defend during the swarm, and as such, their incentive to sting is reduced.

However, a swarm of bees will attack when provoked, as workers attempt to protect their queen. Should a persistent swarm of bees appear near your home or garden, it may be necessary to contact a pest control expert to assist in relocating or exterminating the swarm. Honey bees are a protected species in some areas, so check with a professional pest control expert before taking any action yourself.

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