Providing a Home for Bee Swarms
When Spring rolls around, Beekeepers gear up for managing the hives they steward. They also prepare to collect bee swarms who have found themselves in unwelcome surroundings or in the homes and trees of their neighbors. The Sierra Foothill Beekeepers Association has several experienced beekeepers available to collect swarms and beekeepers willing to provide those bees a home.
The winter of 2012-13 has been challenging for many beekeepers and the word of bee losses keeps beekeepers puzzled as to why they experienced bee die offs. Many of us practice “natural” beekeeping or “organic” practices, and still colonies may perish during the winter. The reason beekeepers are so eager to collect a swarm is because the swarm is proof that these bees have the proven genetics to survive a Sierra Foothill winter.
So why do bees swarm and what does this “proven genetics” thing mean? Bees swarm to replicate their species. When they birth a new colony they duplicate themselves. This means that a strong colony of bees makes it through a winter, builds up its numbers with the spring nectar and pollen flow and then swarms to create a second colony. Swarms have nothing to defend and are on a mission to find a new home. While 10,000 bees in a flurry look and feel frightening, they are not. It is only our perception that makes it seem this way. The swarm usually lands on a branch and clusters there while scout bees go out to find a new home and report back to the swarm cluster the distance, direction and desirability of what was found by dancing on the other bees in the swarm cluster.
Sierra Foothill beekeepers will collect these swarms and provide a safe home (a hive) for them. This helps the bee population survive. More importantly it ensures that the genetics that do well in our area are continued. Rather than all beekeepers buying bees from out-of-area breeders, this practice of collecting local swarms helps strengthen the bee population by maintaining genetic diversity.
You can help by calling a beekeeper if you see a swarm. You will have the peace of mind knowing that you not only helped save a colony of bees from being poisoned or settling into a home where they are not wanted, but you also help bees in their struggle to survive. Bees are having a difficult time these days. Commercial agricultural practices require bees for pollination services. The process of placing hives on mono-crops (limited food and protein source), combined the stresses of being shipped across the country for pollination services, the exposure to pesticides and miticides along with other commercial beekeeping practices which are hard on bees have contributed to bee losses. We need our bees. If bees ceased to exist we would lose one-third of our food supply that relies on bee pollination to create fruit, nuts or vegetables. Other foods that benefit from bee pollination would produce in lower numbers causing food shortages.
Swarm season is upon us. The Sierra Foothill Beekeepers are a resource for swarm collection and eager to hive swarms as these bees have the proven genetics to make it through our Sierra Foothill winters. See our Swarm Collection page for more details on how to contact a beekeeper to remove a swarm on your property.
To learn about this and other beekeeping methods and processes, see our listings for Beekeeping Classes. Also join one of our local beekeeper meetings to learn from experienced beekeepers and share your experiences…or to simply explore this exciting, and these days, valuable hobby.
Sierra Foothill Beekeepers Association