why are my native bees swarming

Why do native bees swarm?

There are various reasons why native bees swarm, here is a brief rundown

Native bees can swarm for a few reasons, these can range from defensive swarms (moving another established hive into another established hives vicinity)

Fighting and takeover swarms can occur in the same way as above, in addition, they can occur intermittently throughout the summer from a hive as far away as 500 meters; hives with fewer queen cells and more stores are more prone to fighting swarms. While they are natural, you need to be careful if you want to allow nature to take its course, since they can be fatal for the colony.

Mating swarms - exactly how it sounds, this swarm is to replace or install a new mated queen into the colony DO NOT TRY TO CAPTURE THIS TYPE OF SWARM.

5 Types of Native Bee Swarms

Drone swarm – The density ranges from ten to a few hundred bees. The behavior is mostly floaty, with the bees sitting on branches or hives close to your hive. Bees generally fly in gentle figure-8 patterns. Drones are usually seated with their antennae sticking out like bunny ears. A brown antenna can be seen on Drones in the sunlight as opposed to a black antenna. A Drone swarm usually lasts for three to ten days. but can also last weeks

Colonizing swarm– The number of bees ranges from a few to many hundreds. The number of bees can grow over time. During their searches, they are flying in all directions. (When a target is chosen, such as a box, all bees will face the same direction as they fly up and down objects). These swarms can last for several weeks to several months.

Fighting swarm – There are usually thousands of bees in this kind of swarm. The bees start off with a handful of bees searching the face of another hive or several hives. The number of bees seems to increase every day. Bees can be seen and sometimes audibly heard near the hive they are attacking. Bees can bee seen dropping from the swarm when viewed from the side of the swarm. Usually a dark cluster of dead bees can be found at the face of the hive that is under attack. Flight pattern appears to be a vortex when they really get going. Usually last a few weeks maximum.

Defensive swarm- Couple of hundred is most common but can be very big depending on how threatened they feel. Starts with a few bees flying in zigzagging/Figure 8 pattern in front of hive and as the day heats up more are added. Tend to be more open swarm then fighting swarm and more spread out.  Usually last a few weeks until they feel safe.

Mating swarm- exactly how it sounds, this swarm is to replace or install a new mated queen into the colony DO NOT TRY TO CAPTURE THIS TYPE OF SWARM.



Swarms in the wild

While swarms in the wild are uncommon they do happen. In southern climates we are less likely to see native bees swarming in the wild because our winters keep the bees busy.  Further north where things get tropical the bees can gather stores for longer and build their hive numbers much larger. When this happens the opportunity to make a new hive or take over a weaker hive becomes more viable. South of Harvey Bay we are most likely to see bees leaving a natural hive with their legs covered in wax heading to a new nest site. Natural tree hives being attacked does not happen very often but it does happen.