Little did I know that taking action around my concern for the decline of the honey bee population would lead me deeper into my commitment towards sustainability, suburban farming, and the pursuit of living a more healthy lifestyle.
As I have been practicing beekeeping for four years now, I am starting to feel like I have a clue about what it means to be responsible for a small piece of nature, walking the line between letting the bees simply be honey bees, and developing that sixth sense of when I need to inspect or intervene. I try very hard to be a productive, kind, and altruistic beekeeper meaning that I enjoy the idea that my neighborhood has plenty of honey bees to pollinate a three to five mile radius from my suburban home. Depending on the season, I need to be on point for different behaviors and needs of my honey bee hives; for example, anytime in the Santa Clara Valley from January to July, it is possible that the honey bees will swarm.
A honey bee swarm can be very intimidating to people who do not understand what is occurring when a honey bee hive swarms. The first consideration is that despite the best efforts of the most seasoned and experienced beekeeper, it is not always possible to prevent the honey bees from swarming. Honey bees are genetically programmed to swarm and in so doing the honey bees ensure the spread and diversification of their gene pool. Queen bees take about half of an established hive and fly out to look for a less crowded home in a nearby tree, an attic, a roof that has a convenient entry point, or a nearby bush. The distance a honey bee swarm will fly is solely dependent upon the flying fitness of the queen which sometimes is not the best; due to the fact, that a honey bee queen’s first responsibility is to lay eggs and ensure her hive thrives and grows. Flying and egg laying are not ever practiced in tandem, it is either one or the other, never both simultaneously; therefore, a queen’s cardiovascular flying health is 50-50 at best meaning some young strong queens can fly a good distance, but most established queens are lucky to fly any distance more than ten feet from their original hive.
It is important for me to point out that when honey bees are swarming they are super docile, almost friendly, and totally uninterested in people or anything but following the queen to find a new place to live. Please, never be afraid of a honey bee swarm if you are ever a lucky enough to experience one, as it it truly one of the greatest displays of Mother Nature in action. The best course of action is to remain calm, even as the honey bees might bounce off your face or arms, it is not aggressive behavior; moreover, the honey bee just simply could not steer clear of you fast enough. I encourage anyone who might be interested in becoming a beekeeper and lives in the San Jose, CA area to contact Yummy Tummy Farms about a beekeeping apprenticeship and or honey bee keeping classes as it is truly an amazing hobby with so many benefits. firstname.lastname@example.org
In conclusion, as a beekeeper, it is possible that several times a year, you may come home from work, shopping, or running errands and find that one of your honey bee hives has swarmed which just means that you have work to do in either building a new hive structure, capturing the swarm, and expanding your apiary or calling a beekeeping colleague and giving them some free honey bees. Either way, someone is getting a sweet gift from Mother Nature.
Here are a couple of pictures of my honey bees swarming and in one case I expanded my apiary from two hives to three hives and the other swarm went as a donation to Happy Hollow Park and Zoo in San Jose, CA http://www.hhpz.org/