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What causes a 'swarm' and how does it act?

Posted by Stardust 5b NE Ohio (My Page) on
Sat, Sep 4, 04 at 15:30

I'm having my first 'experience' with a swarm of honey bees. It's not a very favorable one. They are trying to take up residnece in my fireplace chimney. They have been here for two days and I'm working on getting someone to come remove them without harm.

My question here is what actually makes them swarm? I think I know but I'm no authority. What can I expect in the way of behavior? They have been pretty docile so far. What are the chances of a repeat encounter once we have gotten rid of this bunch? Do I have something that is attracting them? Could they like the smell of the fireplace?



Follow-Up Postings:

RE: What causes a 'swarm' and how does it act?

a colony of bees actually fits the definition of an organism and the swarm is actually the organism's way of reproducing.

What makes them swarm is a genetic reprint that all organisms have... the urge to reproduce.

RE: What causes a 'swarm' and how does it act?

Fascinating! I never thought of it that way. What would make them choose an area like our chimney to reside? Is it possible to make them a part of a productive colony? The Beekeeper that is coming this morning didn't sound too positive about taking them alive. Currently they are 'sleeping' nights on the side of the chimney. We are keeping a smokey fire burning it it to keep anymore of them from entering it. Some are also on a branch of an oak tree about 20 feet above the ground and about 20 feet from the house.

I'm hoping he can take them and give them a home. Is that feasible? Can they be reprogrammed and can they be captured and moved safely at this stage?


RE: What causes a 'swarm' and how does it act?

I wouldn't hold out much hope for a safe removal. If they've built comb in the chimney and the queens laid eggs, nothing is gonna make them move, short of destruction.

I collect swarms in the spring, but I didn't even go to see to swarms that were both 40' up a tree or more. I simply can't risk my life (or in the case of a chimney removal) time and money to rescue a single swarm.

On the other hand, I do have a soft spot for bees and do all I can to keep them live.

RE: What causes a 'swarm' and how does it act?

What makes them swarm? Usually lack of room. The workers decide that space is at a premium and quit feeding the queen like they do when she is laying. She cannot fly in her egg laying mode, but after she slims down, she can. The workers also make special cells for her replacement (queen cells) and take some of her eggs and place one (almost always) per cup. Old queenie spends her last days running off the pounds (fractions of a gram) and laying her last eggs in that hive. Just before the new queens hatch (about 3 weeks), she and a good portion of her daughters (a few sons tag along usually, usless drones that they are) then fly the coop, looking for new digs. On their way out, they tank up on honey, and with a full honey stomach they don't sting, which is why they are so docile when first swarming. (After a couple of days, they are not only less full, but pretty p*ssed off. Don't mess with them.) If they are lucky, the scouts have found a good place to start a hive. Other times they pick a chimney to land in. Sometimes a small hole in the side of a house, any space will do.

You don't have to send much smoke up to keep them from coming down. They will fly to the nearest exit (the top), a very very few will fing their way to your living space. If one does, chances are it will find a window and work itself to death trying to get out. If you want to capture it, put a little something sweet on your finger and let her climb on. (Just offer you sweetness to her, she can't resist.) I carry wasps and bees around like that all the time. Never been stung. (They're supposed to stay in the plant room, but some invariable find their way upstairs.)

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