Swarming is the honey bees’ natural method of reproduction. It generally takes place over a few weeks in Spring but we do see early swarms and some take place later in Summer.
Each honey bee colony has a queen. She lives for several years and is mother to all the bees in her colony.
The queen lays up to 1,500 eggs a day, most of which develop into female worker bees. During the first half of a worker’s short life, she labours in the hive (or nest, if it’s wild honey bees) doing things like cleaning and feeding the young.
The second half of her life is dedicated to collecting pollen and nectar from flowers and trees, pollinating our crops and plants as she goes.
Notice the bright-orange pollen she’s collected in the baskets on her back legs.
Sometime in Spring, the honey bee family gets too big for its home. At that point, the queen leaves the hive with many of the worker bees and they gather temporarily in a swarm.
The swarm may remain in its temporary location for a short while or for several days. Typically though, it’ll be there for three to four hours. During that time, several hundred ‘scout’ bees will be searching round your neighbourhood for a suitable new permanent home.
Using a democratic process which puts us humans to shame, the bees whittle down the possible choices until they all agree on the best one. At that point, the whole swarm takes off, bound for its new home.
So, should I just leave the bees to fly away then?
Well, you could do that! It’s certainly true, the gently buzzing ball of bees dangling in your Penstemons won’t be there for long, but they may be eying-up your shed or chimney as their next DesRes!