It’s spring, and birds are rushing worms and bugs back to their open-mouthed hatchlings. Fields are dotted with cows, sheep, and goats nursing their young new generations of life; both plant and animal abound. But for honeybees, reproducing is not about the queen laying eggs and raising more bees.
Honeybees are a fascinating example of a highly social insect where the entire colony of 10,000 to 50,000 bees is just one super organism. Honeybees reproduce by splitting the single colony into two colonies and they do that by swarming.
April is the height of ‘swarm season’ when large, healthy colonies send out the old, original queen with about half of the population to find a new home. A new queen is raised in the original hive . . . and voila–two colonies.
But many swarms die in the wild, so if you see a honeybee swarm (a tight ‘ball’ of bees hanging in a tight cluster, sometimes from trees, but they will also cling to any fixed object like picnic benches, fences, automobile fenders) – call the Extension office ( 828/255-5522) and we will give you numbers for local beekeepers eager to capture it.
Note: Since honeybees only sting to defend their home, swarms generally are quite harmless. The bees are much less defensive, plus they are stuffed full of honey that they packed for their trip to a new hive and cannot physically flex to sting you.
Article written by Diane Almond, Extension Master Gardener Volunteer.