Posts Tagged ‘bee’

Bee problem

As any reader can glean from other posts, a “bee problem” in our house means that we’re concerned about our honey bee colony, discovered living in the Big Tree.

Our bees swarmed in mid-June with little additional fanfare. (See other posts link, above.) They moved on quickly, left some bees behind in the Big Tree, and all returned to normal. Except that maybe it didn’t.

The bees swarmed again. So late in June that the incident, reaching epic proportions, actually stretched into July.

On Day One of the Bee Exodus, we noticed five different groups of bees just feet from the original hive in the Big Tree. I thought it odd that they would swarm again. I was worried that they were swarming not because of overpopulation but because of a disease or perhaps some other problem in the Big Tree.

Five Groups

Five Groups

The following video shows the groups of bees and pans to the hole in the Big Tree where the original colony resides. Hopefully you can get an idea of the short distance they had traveled.

The next video shows three of the groups, and gives an idea of the amount of activity surrounding the swarms.

On Day Two, the bees had made one larger swarm instead of the smaller groups.

One Group

One Group

Here’s a video showing the swarm on Day Two, blowing in a pretty good wind but holding on tight!

On Day Three, July 1, the bees moved to the nearby apple trees and started dropping like flies. (A swarm in July isn’t worth a fly!) I was really concerned. Why hadn’t they found a new place to live yet? Would they all die?

In the apple tree

In the apple tree

Dropping like flies.

Dropping like flies.

Dead bee

Dead bee

On Day Four, the death rate seemed to plummet but the bees were still in the apple tree.  I called the Boulder County Beekeepers’ Association. The nice man I spoke with calmed me down. It is normal for a colony to swarm several times in a season, and in fact it was good news because it meant that the bees were doing well enough to split many times. He said that since the bees fill up on honey, they can usually survive three or four days before they have to find a new place to live. I explained that it had already been four days, and I didn’t know if I could do anything to help them in any way. He gave me the names of some beekeepers who would probably like a free swarm.

I thought, well, at least the bees would have a good home! But I waited one more day.

On Day Five, the bees were gone. That is, except for about dozen who seemed quite attached to the apple tree. I couldn’t quite tell what they were doing there, but Phil and I could see a few bees in the same spot for many days afterwards.

There are still bees in the Big Tree. All’s well that ends well. Whew!


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A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay;
A swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon;
A swarm of bees in July is not worth a fly.

I have been working in the yard a lot lately. On Sunday, I figure I deserve a little break so off I go to drink a pint. Then, I get a phone call from Phil.

“We have a bee problem,” he informs me. Gasp! A branch laying on the lawn is absolutely covered with bees. It seems that the honey bees from the Big Tree are swarming!  

“Take pictures!” is my first response. Instictively I guess that they won’t be around for long. And sure enough, by the time I make it home, there are just a few bees hanging around the branch.

That’ll teach me to leave the property!!

Luckily, Phil got some good documentation of the incident.

By Phil

My father theorized that the bees were splitting the colony. Research backs him entirely. It seems that this is the method of colony reproduction.

The University of Nebraska answered a lot of my questions:

What makes a honey bee colony swarm?

 Overcrowding and congestion in the nest are factors which predispose colonies to swarm. The presence of an old queen and a mild winter also contribute to the development of the swarming impulse. Swarming can be controlled by a skilled beekeeper; however, not all colonies live in hives and have a human caretaker.

 When do honey bees swarm?

The tendency to swarm is usually greatest when bees increase their population rapidly in late spring and early summer. [May and June]

Iowa State University offers this information:

Honey bee swarms may contain several hundred to several thousand worker bees, a few drones and one queen. Swarming bees fly around briefly and then cluster on a tree limb, shrub or other object. Clusters usually remain stationary for an hour to a few days, depending on weather and the time needed to find a new nest site by scouting bees. When a suitable location for the new colony, such as a hollow tree, is found the cluster breaks up and flies to it.

All sources stated that swarming bees are not dangerous, for a couple of reasons. One is that while they’re swarming, the bees don’t have a home that they feel like defending. Also, while swarming they don’t have any access to food stores, so they eat right before leaving, thus their ability to sting is reduced.

Since our bees moved on in a couple of hours (or less!) I assume the scout bees found a suitable location for the new colony, but I don’t know where that is. And there are still bees in the Big Tree.


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Sweat Bees

In July, I set out into the front lawn to document the bees that Phil had discovered living there. After some internet research, I determined that they are commonly known as sweat bees because they are allegedly attracted to human perspiration. However, I sweat near them all the time and they never bother me!

I am happy to have them, they do only good!

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Honey Bees

By March of 2007, we emerged from our house to find that finally the snow had melted. As we squinted in the sunlight, Phil and our friend Raj felt it was high time they climbed The Big Tree. This activity drew the attention of our neighbor, who climbed her fence to see what they were doing.

Raj in The Big Tree

Raj was the first to discover the honey bee colony living in a large limb. I am proud to host these pollinators, especially in light of the disturing news of bees disappearing throughout the country.


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