Swarming is the natural means of reproduction of honey bee colonies. In the process of swarming the original single colony reproduces to two colonies.
Basically, the queen is like, “yo, it is way too crowded in here am I right? Let’s blow this joint and find a place where we can chillax with a bit more room to make us some honey!” So she uses pheromones to signal to the colony that she is going to leave and about half the bees in the hive leave with her. The other half of the bees that remain in the hive get to work on raising a new queen. “Down with Queen Beatrice! Long Live Queen Beatrice the Second!”
“Swarming is the process by which a new honey bee colony is formed when the queen bee leaves the colony with a large group of worker bees. In the prime swarm, about 60% of the worker bees leave the original hive location with the old queen. This swarm can contain thousands to tens of thousands of bees. Swarming is mainly a spring phenomenon, usually within a two- or three-week period depending on the locale, but occasional swarms can happen throughout the producing season.”
The swarm is a pretty amazing sight – a loud hum and a cloud of thousands of bees fills the air. It can be an intimidating sight, however; the bees are usually at their least aggressive because they have nothing to defend. They have no honey, no hive and no young bees to protect and are really just out looking for a new home. So while a swarm make look fearsome, they are not looking to bother anyone.
A beekeeper tries to manage swarming, and while I had taken measures that I thought were sufficient, I received a call at work from my little boy in which he told me “Daddy, your bees are out.” Here is a video my wife took – pretty obvious that she didn’t feel too threatened –
To catch them, you have to climb the tree, or where ever they settle in a cluster, trap them and move them into a hive. I caught these gals without too much trouble and they are now happily living in a proper hive and have plenty of room to chillax and focus on making honey. Shout out to my reasonable and understanding neighbours!
Here’s another movie of someone else’s bees swarming.