From "Colony" to "Swarm" to "Colony"

I don’t love the telephone. However, these past few months I get a lot of calls about bees, and I like those calls a lot. Why? I don’t know…maybe because I’m never sure what situation will present itself, and that’s fun. These past couple of weeks, I’ll bet I get 2 or 3 calls each week about “swarms of bees” somewhere. A couple of months ago, this number was higher.

But what the callers usually describe are not swarms of bees. You see, Reader, a swarm is a very specific term used for bees in the midst of migrating from one home to another. Before they swarm, they’re part of a colony of bees. When they leave that colony and set up a new home, they’ll once again be a colony of bees. While they’re between the two—while migrating—they’re considered a swarm. They move from “colony” to “swarm” to “colony.”

A swarm is usually spotted hanging in a big, droopy, living, breathing blob on a tree branch or a light post or some other structure on which it’s easy to hang together. The swarm waits there for about 12-48 hours until the scout bees decide on a new home; once the new home is found…poof!…the swarm is gone in a blink of an eye. While it hangs there, however, a swarm of bees seems both awesome and scary (I call it “sublime”), so people call a beekeeper about it.

Honeybee swarm
Honeybee swarm

There’s a swarm season, Reader. Bees in Ohio usually swarm during our spring months…April through June.

I’ve discovered that people who call me about “a swarm” (when we’re not in swarm season) really mean to report “a lot of bees swarming around” their roofline or their doorframe or their soffit; the bees have been “swarming” for a while, and the caller is worried. Well, Reader, this is not a swarm…remember, a swarm doesn’t yet have a home of its own. The good news is this: The bees these callers call about already have a nice home. The bad news for the caller is this: The bees’ home is also the caller’s home.

This post is getting too long, so I’ll finish it tomorrow.