Beekeepers: Spring swarms are harmless

Marathon resident Drew Mantlow took this photo outside his apartment Monday. By Tuesday, the bees had moved on.
Marathon resident Drew Mantlow took this photo outside his apartment Monday. By Tuesday, the bees had moved on. Contributed

Hundreds of honey bees buzzed in a tree outside a Marathon apartment Monday. By Tuesday, they were gone.

While a swarm of buzzing bees in one spot can be an alarming sight, beekeepers say leave them alone because they might not be there for long. Swarming is a spring trend across the nation.

Key Largo beekeeper Lisa Gray said this is the time of year when hive populations split in half.

“The hive gets big and a new queen hatches. Half of the colony leaves the hive with the old queen and looks for a new place to live,” she said. “The swarm will land and be visible in some places where they will build a new home or send scouts out to find a suitable place.”

Gray has owned Beez N The Keys for four years and said she’s seen her fair share of hives.

“The bees prefer certain cavities at certain heights off the ground. For the most part, they’re looking for a certain-sized cavity,” she said of the house-hunting scout bees, which eventually return with information about a suitable nest site. “It depends on how long it takes to find a permanent home. If they find a place they like, they might stay less than a day in the swarming spot.”

According to Tim Tucker, former president of the American Beekeeping Federation, honey bees across the nation are building nests fast and furiously.

“Reports are coming in of swarms across the country in some cases weeks before swarming usually occurs,” he said in a newsletter.

During a March 30 spring training baseball game between the San Diego Padres and the Colorado Rockies, thousands of honey bees swarmed across the field, eventually landing on a microphone.

“Bees only swarm when their hives get overcrowded, so really they’re just trying to find a new home. They’re like a group of schoolchildren being lead from one classroom to another,” Sara Chodosh wrote in a Popular Science article about the game, adding the bees can survive only for a few days on the honey they left the colony with. “They’re too preoccupied with each other to pay any attention to you.”

Gray said if the swarm becomes a problem, call a beekeeper to remove them from the property. Otherwise, let them bee.

Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219