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Rogue Farms Beekeeping 101: The Swarm

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The other day we sent an urgent message to our beekeeper Andrew. One of our colonies of Rogue Farms honeybees swarmed and he needed to come by right away and capture it. Not because we were in any danger, but because we wanted to keep those bees on the farm. More honeybees to pollinate our crops and produce honey for our mead, kolsch, braggot and sodas.

Unfortunately, a lot of folks think that honeybee swarms are something to be feared. While it’s always a good idea to keep your distance, the truth is swarms are a natural part of the bee’s reproduction cycle, a sign of healthy colonies and almost never a threat to people.

Swarms Are Natural

Inside Hive

When hives or colonies become overcrowded, honeybees will swarm.

The queen of the colony becomes an egg laying machine in the spring, as the supply of nectar and pollen begins to increase. More honeybees to collect more food so the colony can set some aside for the following winter.

Sometimes the population of the hive grows so quickly that it runs out space. When that happens, the old queen will fly away with about half of the workers and drones to start a new colony. That’s swarming, a natural part of the bee’s reproduction cycle.

Swarms Are Healthy

Swarm

During swarming, honeybees fly to a nearby branch or other object where they take a break. They wait as scout bees go off in search of a location for a new hive.

Honeybees swarm because times are good. There’s plenty of food and the weather is warm. A swarm means an area can not just support more honeybees, but more colonies.

At Rogue Farms, we want to capture swarms and return them to our apiary so they’ll stay close to home and pollinate our marionberries, Dream pumpkins, jalapeños and the botanicals in our Revolution Garden. A new colony also means more honey for us to harvest in summer. But swarms don’t stick around for long, and once they’re gone we never see them again.

Swarms Are Safe (usually)

Capturing Swarm

To capture this swarm, all our beekeeper had to do was shake the branch and let the swarm fall into an empty hive box.

When a honeybee is preparing to swarm, she’ll gorge herself on food because it may be a while before she eats again. So when you see a swarm in the wild, all the bees have stuffed their faces and are too satiated to bother with stinging anyone. Plus, they don’t have a hive to defend. This is their “don’t worry, be happy” stage.

That doesn’t mean it’s okay to get close and bother the swarm. Always call a professional beekeeper to collect it for you. You may even be doing the beekeeper a big favor because now he has another colony to add to his apiary. Here in Oregon we have a swarm hotline where beekeepers share sightings with each other.

Now that spring is here, our 7,140,289 Rogue Farms honeybees are busier than ever. The fields are bursting with wildflowers and soon we’ll begin the summer nectar flow. Drop in and watch these fascinating insects at work. And if you see a swarm, for heaven’s sake tell us ASAP. Help us Grow The Revolution, one honeybee and one colony at a time.

roguefarms grow the revolution

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