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  • Writer's pictureToni Cross

The Swarm

Honey Bee swarms make people slightly nervous, but seeing them in the wild is a spectacular sight.

I set off for a quick visit to the ponies on the Suffolk Wildlife Trust site at Knettishall Heath this morning. I like to pop by and see these guys every now and again, mostly because when I'm based down in the Norfolk Brecks they are the closest thing we have to wild horses! However, a wildlife photographer's life is never predictable, so whilst I did say a brief hello to the ponies, I got a bit sidetracked by a new and different sighting.

The Honey bee swarm had been cordoned off with a sign so I'm guessing the rangers had already spotted it. They can look a bit intimidating but the bees are mostly concerned with each other and finding a new home, and while they can sting, are unlikely to do so unless provoked. I should however say that these images were taken with a big lens!

Honey bees swarm in warmer weather when a colony becomes overcrowded. Each colony has one queen, and around 300 male drones. The rest of the colony, which can number up to 50,000 is made up of female workers. A queen lays 2-3000 eggs a day, which become drones or workers. When the colony becomes overcrowded the drones set about making a new queen, which is produced from exactly the same eggs. However, larvae intended to become queens are only fed royal jelly, which triggers the process of making a queen.

Once the new queen has mated she leaves the colony, with a swarm of worker bees in search of a new home to found a colony. Worker bees scout out the area in search of possible new colony sites and once one is identified the whole swarm moves as a group to the new location. Swarms such as this can be found while in the process of moving.

New nest sites or swarming colonies can cause people to worry if they arrive in gardens or urban areas. The British Bee Keeper's Association will help with removal of colonies to a new home if they are likely to cause problems and can advise on what to do. Hopefully this particular swarm is enroute to a safe new home, and will settle in to breed many more much needed new bee colonies in the future.

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