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  • David Crews


People often use the term "swarm" or "swarming" incorrectly and it is almost always associated with being a bad thing or scary. Swarming is commonly associated with Honey Bees as it is a natural part of their reproductive process. A swarm is defined as, "a large or dense group of insects, especially flying ones." However, just being a large or dense group of honey bees does not necessarily mean its a swarm. With Honey Bees, a swarm is a large group of bees along with at least (but usually just) one queen that leaves an established hive in order to go find another location to set up a hive and thus, reproduce the hive. It is a specific reproductive process. Swarms are typically viewed by people in one of two ways. While they are flying around looking for a place to settle or enter into to make a hive. And coalesced into a large ball, or bundle usually on a tree limb or even a man made structure like a sign or a mail box. Generally speaking both of these situations are not dangerous to people and can even be fascinating to witness. For the most part, flying swarms will simply ignore people in the area they are flying or land on them with no intent to sting, as if they were landing on any other inanimate object. Bundled swarms are simply hanging out after coalescing around the queen and waiting for one of the bees to decide where to go to set up a new hive. If you observe a bundle like this up close, often you will see individual bees turning around in tight circles and wiggling its butt. This is known to be communication techniques used by bees to tell others where to go and how far it is. This same type of communication is used to tell other worker bees where to find flowers, water, pollen sources, etc. No one can know how the swarm actually decides which one to follow but once they do, they fly off in a mezmarizing display of aerobatics that resembles a cloud of smoke billowing through the air and they go directly to their new hive location and settle in. People seeing bees flying around the opening in their house where the worker bees are coming and going to do their daily business of collecting pollen, necter etc.. often say, "the bees are swarming around my house". Or, "they are swarming into this hole in my house". This is obviously the incorrect usage of the term but understandable since the lay person does not know that much about Honey Bees and their behavior. But now you know. Swarms and swarming is natural, necessary and quite enjoyable to watch if you understand what to do and NOT to do if in the presence of actual swarming Honey Bees. It is nature at its best so if you ever get caught up in a cloud of swarming Honey bees, stay calm and watch one of natures most amazing natural processes.

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