Swarming is a complex behavior of honeybees, which is not fully understood. There are many contributing factors that result in the swarming impulse of which congestion in the brood nest area is believed to be the primary cause. Other causes and contributing factors are believed to be a decrease in the queen's pheromone as well as an excess of pollen and nectar. Swarming occurs in colonies that are thriving and have a robust population. There are 2 kinds of swarms: Primary and Afterswarms or Secondary.
Primary swarms consist of the old queen, drones, and about 50 to 60% of the workers: • contain the old queen • are larger than secondary or cast swarms • tend to settle first on nearby branches before departing for new nest site.
After swarms or 2ndary swarms are generally smaller than a primary swarm. They follow with a newly emerged virgin queen: • depart a week or more after primary swarms. • contain one or more virgin queens • are more easily tempted into nearby bait hives.
Swarming involves a contingent of workers and a queen departing the original colony. The swarm typically gathers at a resting site, often in a tree, after leaving the colony. Scouts are sent to location a new location, such as in a log or other cavity. Once a suitable location is found, the swarm will relocate to the site and begin to nest.
Find a swarm of honey bees?
Honey bees are a valuable asset, and a beekeeper would be able to give them a good home. It's estimated that swarms in the wild have a 50/50 chance of survival through the next season. Us the list (above) to locate a beekeeper in your area (by county) or contact US by email: beekeepers@NEKBA.org
As a public service most beekeepers would like them, free of charge, would be more than happy to remove or pick-up your unwelcomed honey bee swarm! Use the directory below to email or contact by telephone. This list is comprised of association beekeepers who have agreed to be listed in our directory and expressed an interest in being contacted for swarm pickup. Thank you for your interest.
Contact an association beekeeper to help that swarm find a good home.
Before leaving the original colony, honey bees gorge on honey for the journey to move to a new home. They are generally not very defensive but can be enticed to sting. Do NOT spray with poisons or try to kill. Swarms are only in a temporary resting place until they rest enough to move on to their final destination. This activity is a very common occurrence in April and May. Many people find them in their yards or around their homes. Swarms can be harmed by high winds, hail, and heavy rains as well as cold, freezing weather.
On this page, you'll find some useful information about Honeybee Swarming.
Northeastern Kansas Beekeepers
An English proverb about swarms:
A swarm in May is worth a load of hay.
A swarm in June is worth a silver spoon.
A swarm in July ain’t worth a fly.
And German proverb -nearly the same as the English but with an additional line:
Ein Schwarm im Mai - ein Fuder Heu,
Kein Schwarm im Mai - zwei Fuder Heu,
Ein Schwarm im Jun' - ein fettes Huhn,
Ein Schwarm im Jul' - ein Federspul.
*The German version of the proverb came from my beekeeper friend in Hamburg, GoPal K.S. Gaus, DoerKamp 4, 22527 Hamburg April 2013. She introduced me to Hamburg's local beekeeping club.
Colonies that swarm usually lose the capability of making a larger honey harvest for the beekeeper unless they swarm in early April or May. Therefore, the proverb above usually has some meaning to the beekeeper.
However, there is really an added benefit to the bees in the act of swarming that many do not think about as swarming is an inherited characteristic and necessary for the renewal of the queen, for the preservation of the species, and for the renewal of honeycomb construction in new honeybee colonies.