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  • The Honeybee Rescuer

Why do Bees Swarm? Are Swarms Dangerous?

Why on earth do bees swarm?

If you’ve ever encountered a swarm of bees, you know it’s an odd sight. A swarm of bees leaves the hive -- for no apparent reason! -- and settles in a big ball somewhere else. This “ball o’ bees” is an odd sight.

What’s happening? Why do bees do that? And is finding a swarm dangerous?

Swarming is how bees create new hives

When bees are in this tight clump, they’re not concerned about your or, honestly, much of anything else. All they want to do is find a new home.

All swarms boil down to one underlying reason: the bees need a new home.

When bees decide they don’t want to stay in their hive any more, they’ll gather up their queen and leave the hive. A majority of the worker bees will go with the queen. They’ll settle on an apparently random location -- porches, trees, mailboxes -- and send out scouts. The scouts will fly around, locate a good place for a new hive, and report back to the rest of the swarm. Then, they’ll move the queen into her new home and start building.

So what makes bees decide they need a new home?

They’ve outgrown their old hive

Bees are constantly laying eggs and raising new generations of bees. When there are too many bees in a hive, they’ll split up. Some will stay in the old hive, and some will go find somewhere else to live.

Imagine your family has a one-bedroom apartment. You get a dog and a cat, and things are a little crowded. Then you find out you’re expecting a kid. There’s not room for a kid here! So you decide to find a bigger place to live.

This is exactly why bees swarm. Hives can only get so big: they’re usually restricted by how much space there is to build in. Once bees outgrow their hive, they take their queen and move into a new home.

Before they leave, they’ll lay a new queen that will take over the old hive and keep it going.

Are swarms dangerous?

No! As a matter of fact, swarming honey bees are relatively docile. For one, they’re all very concerned with taking care of their queen and waiting for the scout-bees to come back. They don’t have honey, pollen, or babies to protect, so there’s not really a reason for them to be aggressive.

Honey bees also usually eat before they strike out on their quest for a new home. They’re full of honey and pollen, and that makes them less likely to move around or get aggressive. You wouldn’t want to get into a fight after Thanksgiving dinner, right? Well, neither do bees!

What should I do if I find a swarm?

It depends. Are you somewhere in the woods on a walk? You should just leave them be. Are you on your porch staring down a glittering ball of bees? It’s time to call a bee removal specialist.

Removing swarms is easy, and it can usually be done for free or the cost of gas. Bees are docile enough that removal specialists can often just scoop them into a box. We don’t recommend trying to do it yourself -- bee specialists are well-versed in bees’ behavior and can tell when they’re getting upset or agitated. The best thing to do is to call a specialist early -- they’ll retrieve them before they settle too close to your home.

If you’re in central Florida and have found a swarm, I’ll happily retrieve it from you. Just contact me to get started!

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