Before we begin – if you’re in the Edmonton area and there IS a swarm of bees outside your window, call (780) two-three five – zero-two-two-three or visit Report A Swarm Or Honeybee Colony.
If you’re in Edmonton and interested in catching swarms, there are a few ways to stay in the loop. I typically receive 30 to 40 local swarm calls per season and can’t catch that many. The first place I’ll post information about local swarm calls in the Hive Mind Group on BeeComm. If nobody in Hive Mind is available to catch them, I’ll send it to my swarm catching list:
Swarm Call Priority:
- The Hive Mind Group (Premium BeeComm Group)
- The Swarm Catching Remind Group (Free Test Notifications of local Swarms)
As I receive swarm calls, I will post the location on Hive Mind and then Remind Group with any photos and relevant info that I’ve gathered. If you’re available, reply to my post, and I will send you the address and the contact info of the person reporting the swarm.
What is a Honeybee Swarm?
Swarming is a natural process that occurs when a colony of honeybees reproduces by dividing itself in two. While most beekeepers try to prevent their colonies from swarming, it is a natural behaviour with health benefits for the bees.
Swarming is most common in the Spring and early Summer when resources are plenty, and there’s enough time in the season for young swarms to get established before fall. Before a colony swarms, it will prepare multiple queen cells. Provided that you’re inspecting your hives every 7 to 14 days, you should be able to spot these cells before the colony swarms.
Right before or shortly after the queen cells start hatching, the older queen and oldest and most experienced foraging worker will leave the hive in search of a new home. This homeless colony, called a swarm, will typically settle in a safe location – like a branch – while individual bees search for a suitable hive location. This cluster of bees is called a bivouac. When the swarm identifies a new site, it will occupy the new cavity and begin constructing comb.
Responding To Swarm Calls
It’s usually in the bivouac stage when someone spots a swarm and decides to call a beekeeper, post on social media, or ring the municipality. If you get a call for anything but a bivouac, it’s worth asking a few questions to confirm that you’re not clearing your schedule for a wasp nest or colony of bumblebees. I will sometimes send them the following questionnaire:
If I can confirm a swarm, I’ll pack up a bottom board, a box with frames, a lid, a ladder, some pruners, my PPE, a cardboard box, some masking tape, and a ratchet strap. Catching a swarm is similar to installing a package of bees – except that your package starts in a tree or on the side of a building. If you can shake, scoop, or brush a large percentage of the bees into your hive, the rest will usually follow.
Here’s an old (and shaky) video of a swarm I caught at my parents’ place. Notice how docile the honeybees are; completely gorged on honey (think how you feel after a Thanksgiving meal) and primarily concerned with finding a new home, the bees don’t pay much attention to us.
Honeybees swarms are relocated at no cost to the resident.