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Bee Swarm Season on Penn State Campus

Posted: May 26, 2016

The recent swarms on the Penn State campus have come from managed roof colonies. Although swarming bees look quite frightening and dangerous to onlookers, the bees are actually quite docile and are not prone to stinging.
Philip Moore, Research Technologist in the Grozinger Lab, removes a large swarm from a linden tree on the Penn State campus. The cluster of thousands of bees was easy to remove since the branch they were on was already broken by the weight.

Philip Moore, Research Technologist in the Grozinger Lab, removes a large swarm from a linden tree on the Penn State campus. The cluster of thousands of bees was easy to remove since the branch they were on was already broken by the weight.

For honey bee colonies late spring is swarming season. This is the time of year when pollen and nectar sources are abundant and colonies are growing at a fast rate. Swarming is how the bee colony "superorganism" reproduces. Before swarming the queen lays lots of eggs, some of which will be raised as new queens. Then about half the bees will gorge on honey and after a period of frenzied activity in the hive, take off with the queen and settle on a nearby tree or other sheltered place. Scout bees then fly out from the swarm looking for a suitable home for the colony. The swarming process takes about a day or two. Back in the old colony one of the new queens will emerge and go about the business of killing rival queens even before they emerge from the brood cells. There can only be one queen in a bee colony!