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Honey bees swarm neighborhood for 5 hours, then buzz off

Swarming a natural process for bees relocating hives
A honey bee swarm landed on a tree April 26 on Montelores Street in north Cortez. Swarming is a natural process that occurs when bees and their queen leave a crowded hive. They stage somewhere, often a tree, while scouting bees fly around looking for a new home. The colony then flies to the new location and builds a hive. (Courtesy of Jordan Sella)

A Cortez neighborhood witnessed a rite of spring recently when a swarm of honey bees arrived, explored and landed in a tree.

In late April, Jordan Sella was in his yard on Montelores Avenue in north Cortez when he and his dogs heard loud buzzing. He looked up to see a swarm with thousands of bees flying around.

“It was an amazing sight,” he said.

He gathered his dogs and put them inside, then watched and followed the swarm to the neighbor’s yard, where it landed on tree branches.

The swarm stayed in the tree for about five hours, then suddenly left.

Local beekeepers were contacted and arrived to monitor the swarm. They said it contained several thousand bees. Swarms can reach up to 10,000 bees or more.

Honey bee swarms are a natural event that occur every spring when the colony leaves a crowded hive to find a new home, said Nancy Logan, president of the 4 Corners Beekeeping Association.

“After over wintering, the queen gives a signal it is time to leave and the colony departs the hive,” she said.

Before they leave, the bees usually eat a lot of honey to have the energy for the journey and building the new hive. During the swarm, the bees are docile, focused on finding a new home, Logan said.

When a colony swarms it typically settles in a tree, then scout bees are sent to find a suitable location for a new home, she said. They return, inform the colony and the swarm flies to the new location to build a new hive for their queen, which can live up to two years.

A honey bee swarm landed on a tree in late April in north Cortez. Swarming is a natural occurrence every spring as colonies leave a crowded hive and build a new one somewhere else. (Courtesy of Jordan Sella)

Meanwhile, in the original hive, a new queen is created, matures and the hive repopulates until it is time to swarm. Then the process is repeated.

“Swarming is a way honey bees to create new colonies in the world. It also fosters healthy genetics with new queens each year,” Logan said.

Honey bee swarms should be left alone, and they typically leave by the next day.

Natural swarms and their queens are sometimes captured by beekeepers, who create box hives for them and harvest the honey and honeycomb.

The 4 Corners Beekeepers Association has a swarm hotline for this purpose at (970) 769-2661. It will safely remove the swarm for free.

Sella said he has seen lots of wildlife, and witnessing a bee swarm was a cool highlight, and a first.

“It caught the attention of the neighborhood,” he said.


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