What is That Huge Mass of Bees Hanging From That Tree Branch?
During spring time, the honey bee hive is alive with activity. Tremendous amounts of young bees are being raised and tremendous amounts of nectar and pollen is being brought into the hive. All this activity uses up a lot of space and the bees begin to feel crowded. Eventually they decide they need more room, so the old queen and about half of the workers and drones leave. They leave the hive in a huge, spectacular rush of bees. The air is full of thousands of bees milling around. It is really an awesome sight to see. Eventually, the queen lands somewhere in the vicinity of the hive because she is not used to flying and has to rest. The other bees land around her resulting in a "swarm" similar to the ones pictured below. These swarms, while terrifying to people who know nothing about bees, is actually quite harmless if left alone. The bees that are left behind raise a new queen and continue on at that location. Honey bees will only sting to protect their hive or themselves and when they are in a swarm they have no hive to protect. Many times beekeepers can put a swarm into a hive without any protection and are not stung, but we recommend you "don't do this at home".
Once the swarm has settled, it will start sending out scout bees to look for a new home. Areas attractive to honey bees are any area, inside something such as a hollow tree, an old barrel laying on the ground, or the wall or soffit of a house. Once the scout bees find a new home location and agree, they leave in the reverse of the way they arrivesd. Thousands of bees all leave at once. If a swarm moves into a house it should probably be "removed" .
Swarm in a crabapple tree
Swarm on the Ground - very unusual!
Vacuumming a Swarm from an apple tree.
In the picture on the left, I have the queen in my left hand. If you control the queen, you control the swarm. This is how people make "bee beards". They put the queen in a cage and tie her to their chin, and the swarm gathers around her. In the picture on the right, I'm installing the bees in a hive.