Animal Corner with Charles: Swaaaaarm!
In spring each year, the honeybees begin building up their population and foraging for nectar and pollen. The queen can lay more than 3,000 eggs a day during their peak season.
This is as the “nectar flow” begins. Large amounts of nectar appear from clover, tulip popular trees, and black locust trees from April 15th to the last week of June here in Central Maryland.
So… What happens as the hive fills up with eggs (brood) and nectar? The bees “swarm”.
In a honeybee swarm the queen leaves the hive and takes 20%-60% of the hive’s bees with her to start a new colony elsewhere. They initially “bivouac” within 100ft of the hive. The swarm then drifts elsewhere having the appearance of it raining bees. It is intimidating, but this is where honeybees are at their calmest.
The garden gets 20-30 calls a year about swarms resting around the city. We have numerous swarms touch down right in the garden from our own hives and others in the area. If a beekeeper can capture the swarm, it is a free hive of honeybees!
A great book called Honeybee Democracy by Thomas Dyer Seeley discusses how honeybees as a collective choose a new hive.
Should you spot a honeybee swarm in the garden, please call the garden’s phone number on the front gate! We are eager to catch them as only 25% of feral swarms survive the first year.