Honey Bee Swarm Season is Upon Us-- Here's What it Means?
April is the start of honey bee swarm season. What is a swarm? A honey bee swarm is not to be feared and is not a mob of angry insects looking to attack anyone or anything. A swarm is how a honey bee colony reproduces. Honeybees are the only bees to overwinter together as a colony. That’s why they collect so much pollen for protein and nectar to turn into honey- to have food to eat during the winter while they cluster tightly for warmth.
A swarm has only a 20-25% chance of successfully surviving through the winter. Come late winter, the queen bee starts laying more eggs and the colony starts filling their hive to capacity as the weather warms. As their home gets crowded, a healthy colony will start making a new queen, and before it hatches, the old queen will take about half of the colony and swarm to go find a new home. This swarm of several thousand bees will take rests along the way on trees, fences, signs or mailboxes while they decide where the best and safest new home location is.
A swarm of honeybees is actually at its most docile as they have no brood (babies) or stores (food: pollen and honey) to protect. However, they are protecting the queen. So do not fear, and consider yourself lucky if you happen to see a swarm.
If you do see a swarm this Spring or have unwanted honey bees taking up residence someplace bothersome, please contact Justin Shiffler and he will coordinate someone to come out, free of charge, and make sure the bees find a new proper home.
Justin is a North Coventry Township resident and a member of the Township’s Environmental Advisory Council. Justin has volunteered to be the township’s resource and contact for everything related to honey bees. This happily married father of four belongs to all the area beekeeping associations: Chester County Beekeepers Association, Montgomery County Beekeepers Association, Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild, Berks County Beekeepers, PA State Beekeeper Association, Eastern Apiculture Society and the American Apitherapy Society. He has his PA Apiary License. All his colonies and locations are registered with the PA Dept.of Agriculture.
Also, if you know of any wild or feral honey bee colonies, please get in touch with Justin. He helps with a citizen science project from the Penn State Extension. The wild colonies will not be moved or harmed but a small sample (15-30 bees) from wild colonies would be collected to compare disease loads with managed kept honey bees.
If you would like to learn more about honey bees, the current problems pollinators face, what you can do to help them (mow less, plant more), honey bee educational presentations, or anything bee or bee related, contact Justin and he’ll be sure to get you the needed resources.