There are few things as impressive as a swarm leaving from a hive. It truly is a remarkable event. The beekeeper may notice it at first with bearding around the front of the hive which ultimately results in a very loud buzzing. Subtle at first, with every passing second the sound becoming louder and louder until the beekeeper finally becomes aware of what is happening and can only stand back and watch where the cloud of bees will land. The beekeeper then can only hope that the bees will land in a location where she can retrieve the bees.

I have a love hate relationship with swarms. I love to watch them, when they are from some else’s hives. For me I view them as a failure on my part as a beekeeper and unfortunately I still fail a lot! It sounds harsh, but I don’t want to lose my bees. I see dollar bills with wings just flying off and if I was on my game, I could have prevented it. Both colonies in this event are at risk. The swarm colony may or may not find a place to live and may or may not build up enough reserves to get through the winter. The parent hive may or may not end up with a mated queen. Any number of things can happen to a virgin queen when she goes on her nuptial flights. She can be eaten by a bird, hit by a car, caught in a thunderstorm. Maybe she finds a drone congregation area, but it’s not properly saturated with drones so she comes back poorly mated.  It’s actually amazing to me that this single insect which is so important to the mortality of the hive actually comes back at all! It’s so risky.

From the beekeeper’s perspective it’s also risky, or at the very least it’s lost potential. Instead of letting that swarm leave I could have produced a nuc or two and either sold the nucs or made new hives. The honey crop which I may still harvest from this hive isn’t as large as it would have been had those bees remained. You see if two bees produce two drops of honey, four bees don’t just produce four drops of honey, instead they produce six. That’s antidotal of course, but more bees equal more honey, period. As a beekeeper, I didn’t manage my bees to their fullest potential.

From my neighbor’s perspective there’s a possibility that swarm can land in an unwanted location or ultimately find a permanent home in an equally unwanted area. Then my neighbor is tasked with removing those bees by either spraying, calling a pest control company or a bee removal business. It is my responsibility as a beekeeper to do my best to keep these events to a minimum. That my friends, is why I hate swarms.