What’s all the ‘buzz’ about? Honeybee swarms are natural

Published 4:22 pm Friday, April 21, 2023

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Spring is here and that means the potential for honeybees to leave their colonies in what is known as a swarm.

Honeybee swarms are a natural process of a honeybee’s life. There is no need to be frightened when you see one. The honeybees have their mind on something other than stinging you. Besides having their mind on a mission, did you know honeybees prefer not to sting? They do not want to sting you for several reasons:

They have just filled their bellies with food to prepare for their new journey;

The further away from their brood and food supply, the less defensive they are and less chance they will sting; and

They will die.

Their stinger is barbed shaped. As it sticks into skin, every attempt to free itself results in its detachment from the honeybee. Thus, the honeybee dies.

Even though chances are slim of stings from swarming honeybees, caution should be used around them.

Swarming happens when several hundred to several thousand honeybees leave an established colony and fly off to establish a new colony. What began as one colony has now become two separate colonies. This is more common on warm days during late spring and early summer. The swarm includes worker bees (all females!), a few drones (males), and one queen.

The honeybees will follow the queen anywhere she goes. They usually fly around for a short time and then cluster onto a tree limb or other object. The cluster may remain stationary for a few hours to a few days depending on the weather and the time needed to find a new home (nest). The cluster sends out scout bees to find a suitable location for the new colony. A suitable location may be a hollow tree, wall on a house, or even a vacant beehive.

When you find a honeybee swarm on a tree, house, or ground, please do not attempt to spray them. Instead, contact the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Hertford County Center at 252-358-7822. They have a list of local beekeepers and will notify one from that list. That person, if available, will come to safely relocate the bees to a new hive.

If you are interested in learning more about honeybees or would like to start hives of your own, follow the Hertford County Extension page (https://hertford.ces.ncsu.edu/) to see the date and time of their monthly honeybee meetings.