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Honey Bees in May

Honey bees in May.... they may swarm!

Just when everything seems to be moving along as it should, the days are warm and bright, the sun is out more often than not, flowers are in abundance... the hive takes a dive! Or rather the queen takes flight!

In our wonderful children's book about honey bees, this month Izzie's queen bee takes flight. This will be because new queens will have emerged from special 'queen cells', larger cells in the hive whose occupants had been fed richer food, known as royal jelly. These larvae grow into queens rather than workers.

There can be only one queen in the hive, so the original queen,with Izzie and some of her other sisters, gather together and swarm away to find a new home.

A swarm can rest in a place temporarily while scouts go looking for a suitable new home, perhaps in a hollow tree. Maybe a beekeeper will collect the swarm and rehouse it in a nice, cosy, sheltered beehive. Or in Izzie's case, the scouts spotted a nearby vacant hive and the swarm lost no time moving in and setting to work.

There's an old saying: "a swarm in May is worth a load of hay; a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon; but a swarm in July is not worth a fly".

A beekeeper collecting a swarm
A beekeeper collecting a swarm

The beekeeper uses several techniques to discourage swarming. If his hives loose half their bees to a swarm, those workers will not be bringing nectar back to the hive, so it will produce less honey.

It's exciting, but can be quite frightening to see a swarm of bees pass by, but they will usually have filled themselves with honey before taking flight, and be peaceful, purposeful, and not aggressive. If you see a swarm in a tree, or an unusual place, it is likely to move on before long, a swarm 'knows' it will not survice in an exposed place. If you are worried, call someone for advice in your local beekeepers' association.


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