The Indiana DNR recently shared the science behind bee swarms, and why they are usually harmless.
As you've heard over the last few years, bees are a vital component of our ecosystem. Bees are pollinators, they help pollinate the food we eat and flowers which helps them fertilize and produce seeds, fruit, etc... In fact, the National Parks Service says that one in every three bits of food we eat, are thanks to pollinators. They are necessary for our food and for the habitat and food of animals.
Bee Swarms: Natural And Temporary
However as much as helpful as bees are, seeing a swarm of them can be quite jarring, as bees also have stingers and can cause quite a bit of pain if you get stung. But the Indiana Department of Natural Resources says bee swarms are a natural part of bees' lives, and they are usually harmless and temporary.
Starting in the late spring, honeybee colonies begin to exhibit a behavior called swarming. Swarming is the process which bees use to multiply themselves. A single bee (even a queen) can survive on its own so they live in a group called a colony (also known as a superorganism.) Each spring, a colony will build up pollen and honey stores. The queen will then lay fertilized eggs fed a diet exclusively of royal jelly to produce new queens. When these soon-to-be queens are close to hatching, the original queen and about 60 percent of the hive will swarm. Swarming begins when the old queen leaves the hive and lands on a nearby object and the rest of the swarm congregates around her. This is called bivouacking, as shown in the photo. During this phase, the bees are usually very relaxed and do not show any signs of aggression. Certain bees in the swarm are scouts, and will search for a new cavity within to nest. The main body of the swarm will wait until the scouts have found a suitable site. The whole colony will then leave in mass for the new nest location.
What to Do if You have a Bee Swarm on your Property
If you see a swarm either flying or resting, nothing needs to be done as they will leave within a few hours to a couple of days. If they are in a high traffic location or other area where someone is worried about being stung, you can contact a local beekeeper using the DNR swarm list. Many beekeepers will come out to collect the swarms and move them to an apiary. Find a local beekeeper to take a swarm at https://www.in.gov/.../ind.../indiana-beekeepers-swarm-list/