Image credit: Claire Boynton
When I posted a video on how to keep bees on the roofs of New York City, a passionate discussion emerged between commenters Judith Moran and Doug Ittner. Judith was advocating for "holisitic", chemical-free beekeeping, while Doug warned that not treating bees risks spreading disease and pests. It's an ongoing debate—and has cropped up previously in my posts on tough love beekeeping and top-bar hives. But one thing that both alternative beekeepers and many conventional ones have in common is their willingness to collect wild swarms. Not only does this remove bees from areas where the nervous public may poison them, but it also promotes stronger strains of "survivor" bees that are trying to perpetuate their genes. But how the heck do you capture a swarm?
Swarms of Bees Are Less Scary Then They Look
Often when people talk about "swarms of bees", they adopt the hushed tones of fear and awe. While awe is entirely appropriate, fear may actually be misguided—as the video above explains, when bees are swarming they are more than usually gentle and calm because they have no hive or brood to protect.
Honey Bees Create New Colonies With Swarms
The swarm is essentially nature's way of raising a new colony. When a colony gets too crowded, it just feeds Royal jelly to one of its larvae, creating a new queen, and then a large percentage of its population takes flight with that new queen to find a new location to call home. Often these swarms will rest up in trees, or the eaves of a house, while they search for the perfect spot to build a new hive. And it's at this point that the enterprising beekeeper can capture the swarm and provide it with a perfect new spot.
The Downside of Swarming
While this may be good luck for the beekeeper finding the hive, many conventional beekeepers consider it less-than-ideal when their hives swarm, as they lose a large proportion of their bee population, and the production capacity of the remaining hive is compromised. That's why many beekeepers will try to prevent swarming by removing new queen cells and providing more room within an existing hive. (Many alternative beekeepers would rather let nature take its course.)
More on Bees, Pollinators and Colony Collapse Disorder
Bees on the Brink : Discovery News
The Stunning Beauty of Pollination Caught on Film (video)
Tough Love beekeeping Lets Weak Bees Die
Honey Becomes Jewellery in an Effort to Save the Bees
Some Bumblebee Populations See 96% Decline
Colony Collapse Disorder and the Epic Fight to Save the Bees
Ellen Page Speaks Out About the Vanishing of the Bees
The Vanishing of the Bees Documents the Ongoing Decline of the Honeybee