Buzzing for bees
Apiarists report swarms occurring earlier in season
Residents who may see swarms of bees in the upcoming weeks are being asked to not harm them. They are just swarming earlier than usual, and it’s a natural phenomenon.
Canfield resident Mike Klem, vice president of the Columbiana-Mahoning Beekeepers Association, said residents should not spray the bees to kill them.
“This is when bees are very docile. People may see them on trees or on a car — they are just resting,” he said.
Howland resident Scott Lealand has 25 full-sized honey beehives in Southington and others at his home in Howland. With the warmer weather, bees are swarming earlier than they usually do in May, he said.
Lealand, president of the Trumbull County Beekeepers Association and a beekeeper for six years, said it is important to let the public know if they see the bees swarming to not harm them.
“Typically swarm season is around the first week in May, but with the much warmer March and flowers staying in bloom and not dying off with the steady rain and the temperatures staying warmer, there is a real possibility that they will begin swarming earlier,” Lealand said.
Lealand said swarming, which can be between 10,000 and 15,000 bees, is a reproductive split of the colony, where bees begin to increase in numbers and in amounts of honey, nectar and pollen.
“As they start to build up, they run out of room in the hive. When it gets too congested in the hive, the bees make the decision to leave and take an egg the queen has laid into a queen cell. When the queen cell reaches half of its gestational period, the bees will begin to swarm and take the old queen, half of the bees and half of the honey and take off in search of a new home,” Lealand said.
“When they swarm, they may land on a fence post or a tree branch, and look like a big ball or cluster of bees. What they are doing is resting because the queen is not used to flying. The queen usually spends most time inside the hive.”
Beekeepers said they often can lose half the bees and half the honey in a hive when the bees swarm.
Lealand said the new queen cell has to hatch and then mate and may be at risk of predation from the praying mantis, which loves bees.
“If she makes it back, she can begin laying eggs, but while this is going on there is no productivity. As a beekeeper you are losing bees, losing time and losing honey,” he said.
He said beekeepers are doing what they can to manage the colonies so they don’t swarm and will continue to produce honey.
“It sometimes starts earlier and sometimes it starts a little later depending on the weather. We have to control them and maintain them from swarming,” Lealand said.
To do this, beekeepers divide and split the colonies to maintain them at a certain size, and there is enough space for the queen to lay her eggs, often as many as 2,000 per day.
As he does the split of the bees, Lealand said he will be up to more than 50 hives shortly.
He said beekeepers want residents to know not to be alarmed and not spray the bees with water or swat at them.
“If you see a swarm do not be scared because when they are in a swarm is when they are the most docile and gentle because they do not have a home to protect or honey to protect,” he said. “If you leave the swarm alone, in a day or two they will be gone.”
Those needing assistance can contact a local beekeepers association to remove the swarm at no cost.
Klem said swarm removal is a free service provided by the beekeepers to help residents.
Klem said he has not seen any swarming yet but agreed with Lealand that with warmer weather it is likely to happen sooner than May.
“Last year we had a lot of swarming and early in the season but the year before that there was very little swarming. Swarming is a natural thing bees do and something people should understand,” he said.
For swarm removal in Trumbull County, call 330-883-9312 or 330-330-984-8395. Details will be forwarded to a beekeeper. Information also is available at the club’s Facebook pages.
For Columbiana-Mahoning, information also is available at https://cmcba.net/.