The swarming process is part of the natural reproductive life cycle of honeybee colonies. Colonies are stimulated to swarm during spring when warmer weather, together with an abundance of nectar and pollen, provide ideal conditions for the colony to increase rapidly. The colony soon becomes overcrowded and is stimulated to reproduce by swarming.
The old queen, together with the field bees, leave the hive and cluster on a nearby object, usually a small tree or shrub. The swarm will often remain for a day or two while scout bees (worker bees) search for a new home, or it may move to another location.
In the parent colony, new virgin queens emerge from queen cells and fight to the death. The fittest queen will survive and usually mate, and continue to maintain the colony.
Although bees swarm mostly in the spring, from September to November, some colonies may swarm during the summer and autumn. Most swarms leave the colony or move to a new location between 10.00 am and 2.00 pm on warm sunny days. During wet weather a swarm may stay in its resting place for several days.
Most people who are unfamiliar with honeybees have a natural fear of them when they occur in large numbers. But swarming bees are very docile and are not inclined to sting provided they are left alone and a few common sense precautions are taken.
Should a swarm decide to settle on your property:
When a swarm has settled on your property, the best course is to have it professionally removed. If you decide to do nothing the swarm may move to a new location or settle in the cavity wall of your house, an old drum, shed or a similar dark place, and establish a permanent nest, which can be expensive and more difficult to remove.
Generally, a swarming colony is not aggressive unless provoked. But at times swarms may become more aggressive due to adverse weather conditions or a scarcity of nectar and pollen. While local council advises exterminating the bees as the safest measure to avoid the likelihood of someone being harmed, we personally suggest referring the Western Australian Apiarists’ Society (WAAS)’s Swarm Catchers Contact List so that the bees survive. After all, we LOVE our beeutiful honey bees and want to protect them!
Swarm removals should always be carried out by either a licensed pest control operator or a beekeeper who is skilled in catching swarming bees. Please note that the WA Department of Agriculture does not remove swarms or exterminate nests of bees.