Many thanks from me and the local bees for Shaunna Mullins’ letter of concern over the dead bees in her garden and the unfortunate practice of spraying bees with pesticides.
I’m a local hobbyist beekeeper, and one of the resources used by the Ventura County Fire Department in responding to calls from residents or businesses about bee swarms.
In many cases, I’m able to capture the swarm alive and relocate them to a nice, comfy hive on my ranch up in the Santa Monica Mountain foothills, where they live a happy, pesticide-free life making delicious honey from the chaparral blooms.
We’re in the heat of swarm season right now—I’ve had about a half-dozen calls in the past two weeks—so I thought I’d offer a little timely information about bees and swarms.
Bees swarm as part of a reproductive cycle. As a hive’s population grows in early spring—the queen lays as many as 1,200 eggs daily—roughly 50 percent of the hive will suddenly pack their bags, take a brand new queen with them, and fly a short distance from their hive.
There they huddle into a clump, usually about the size of a volleyball, keeping their queen warm and protected while they send scouts out to find a new hive location. When that happens, generally within one to three days, the whole swarm takes off at once and heads for their new home.
During a swarm, bees are not defensive because they have no hive to protect. They are not going to attack you as long as you leave them alone.
Don’t spray a swarm with a water hose. It just upsets them.
The best thing to do if a swarm lands in your yard is to leave it alone.
As noted above, it’s a transitional phase, and will be gone in a day or two.
If the swarm needs to be removed because it’s in a location that is inconvenient or potentially hazardous to people or bees, please don’t spray it down with pesticides.
Ms. Mullins is absolutely right about the difficult plight of the honeybee in America as they face new diseases, pesticides and parasites. Local populations are even more stressed due to our current drought.
Let’s all do what we can to help them survive, if only because their survival is critical to our own food supply.