Friday, May 11, 2007

Operation Desert Swarm

Tis’ the season for swarms, so I want to say a few words about them as a public service to non-beekeepers.

First, a swarm is when about half the bees (including the queen) decide to leave the hive all at once and look for a new place to live. The bees in the hive that stay behind raise a new queen and otherwise continue business as usual. Swarms are how bees start new colonies. Most animals, like people, perpetuate their species by rearing young that leave the nest and start new families. Social insects, like bees, need to produce new colonies in addition to new individual bees. Thus, Swarms are the means in which bees “leave the nest” and make new colonies. In other words, swarms are perfectly natural bee behavior.

Secondly, bees normally sting to defend their hives, their brood, and their food stores. Since swarms have no hive, no brood and no food, they are gentle. In fact, a swarm of bees is the gentlest state in which you can find bees. You can literally paw through them with your hands to find the queen and you won’t get stung (as long as you are gentle).

Third, Africanized Honey Bees (AHBs) are not yet in Maryland. It is doubtful that AHBs will ever be able to live in Maryland since they do not survive northern winters. If you a see a swarm in Maryland, it is probably not a swarm of so called “killer bees”.

Swarms usually hang out for a few hours or a few days while scout bees go out and look for a new place to live. As soon as one is found, the swarm will head to the new home and take up residence. If you see a swarm, the best thing to do is take a few pictures and enjoy the miracle of nature that it is.

If you see a swarm and do something like this, you are a moron.

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