A swarm of bees landed on a window of Topshop in London back in May.
May and June are peak times for honeybees to begin swarming, looking for a new home with plenty of food and flowers within the vicinity. The reason bees swarm is that after the weather begins to warm up the queen produces more eggs, and the colony grows rapidly. The queen of a colony communicates with the worker bees by using pheromones that are transmitted throughout the hive as the bees pass food to each other. However there comes a point at which there are too many bees in the hive for them all to receive the pheromones from the queen. When it gets to this point the worker bees start raising a new queen. However, as there can be no more than one queen in a hive, when the new queen matures the old queen takes off with a number of the worker bees and they leave the hive to find a new home, resting along the way whist other bees scout ahead to find a suitable place for a new hive.
If you have empty hives, there are several ways of getting bees to fill them.
1. Buy a “nucleus” which includes a mated queen and several thousand workers, which can cost up to £250.
2. Attract a wild swarm by positioning the empty hive in an attractive place and putting out some bait to attract the bees.
3. Collect a swarm that has landed in an undesireable place (like the Topshop window!).
When we eventually get the funds together to buy some hives, we’ll most likely end up using option no.1 to begin with, as we’ve not the experience to collect a wild swarm together, but I’m sure we’ll try options 2 and 3 once we have more experience.
Just today a swarm of bees was found just outside Dorking main station, and were swiftly collected by a local beekeeper. One day that’ll be us!