Fringe Box



Bees Swarm In North Street

Published on: 30 Apr, 2012
Updated on: 30 Apr, 2012

Bee swarm being captured in North Street. The bee keeper is in the white overalls. The man with bee-keeper hat was part of the White Lion Walk security team - Photo by Eddie Ward

Bees swarmed in North Street earlier today worrying shoppers as they passed by. A bee-keeper had to be called at 10am (April 30) to capture and take away the swarm which was estimated to comprise 30,000 bees. Capturing the bees was continuing this afternoon.

The swarm had settled inside the hollow post of a street sign. To capture them, a temporary hive (the green box in the photo) was secured to the top of the post and then smoke was let in via the removable maintenance panel at the bottom causing the bees to move from the post into the box. Once that occurred the box could be closed and the bees taken away to be re-housed in a permanent hive.

The little rhyme below about bee swarms does not cater for swarms as early as April:

A swarm in May – is worth a load of hay.
A swarm in June – is worth a silver spoon.
A swarm in July – isn’t worth a fly.

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Why honey bees swarm

Bee colonies multiply by splitting.  The worker bees create queen ‘cups’ throughout the year. When the hive gets ready to swarm the queen lays eggs into the queen cups. New queens are raised and the hive may swarm as soon as the queen cells are capped and before the new virgin queens emerge from their queen cells. A laying queen is too heavy to fly long distances. Therefore, the workers will stop feeding her before the anticipated swarm date and the queen will stop laying eggs.
The swarm normally comprises the original queen and 60% of the worker bees who leave the hive and fly off to start a new colony. A single swarm can contain thousands to tens of thousands of bees.
Normally the swarm will collect on a tree branch or similar near to their old home. They will stay here for up to five days while they investigate the surrounding area. A number of scouts are sent out to find new hive sites. On their return they perform a dance which indicates where an appropriate site is. Other scouts then visit the sites their counterparts have found. The scouts will change their dance if they encounter a more suitable site. Eventually every scout will be performing the same dance to the best of the new possible hive locales. Once all the scouts are in agreement this initiates the swarm to relocate to the new hive location.

Swarming normally takes place in late spring when the colony is expanding rapidly and has plenty of flying bees and honey. This is bad news for beekeepers as  swarms take many pounds of honey spread between the bees and held in their honey sacs (non-digestive crop or stomach). They need the honey to ensure that they have enough food to survive the trip and produce enough wax to build comb. The queen can then lay eggs and provide young to take over from the flying bees as they die off. The flying bees only last about five weeks in the spring and summer, they literally work themselves to death, whereas in the winter they huddle together for warmth and last for months.

A swarm of bees sometimes frightens people, though the bees are usually not aggressive at this stage of their life cycle. This is principally due to the swarming bees’ lack of brood (developing bees) to defend and their interest in finding a new nesting location for their queen.

Information obtained from the following websites:


Honey beekeeping

University of Nebraska

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