A swarm of honey bees. Courtesy photo
BY DOROTHY BROWN
It is the beginning of swarm season for honey bees, and residents might wonder what to do if a swarm appears in a yard. A swarm is unlikely to stay put for very long, so a prompt call to Los Alamos Police Department Dispatch, (505) 662-8222, is the first step. The Dispatchers and Animal Control Officers have been provided a list of beekeepers who can rehome and manage a swarm. The same list has been provided to our local County Extension Office, (505) 662-2656. The beekeeper will need the permission of the resident to enter the property and assess feasability of swarm relocation.
The photograph shows what a swarm looks like. Honey bees are social insects, and the colony is a super-organism. This means that no one bee and no one class of bee (queen, worker, drone) can survive alone. The entire colony functions as one organsim, all needing each other to survive. Swarming is the natural means by which this super-organism reproduces and thereby perpetuates the species.
While honey bees are not native to this continent, they are well established here. If a swarm is left to become feral, the behavior can become aggressive through unmanaged genetic blending from other colonies in the area. This occurs when a subsequent queen bee is escorted to drone congregation areas for fertilization of some of her eggs. Genetic diversity occurs because drones from many colonies congregate in these areas.
Alternatively, if a swarm is re-homed, a beekeeper can manage the genetics for behavior, survival in this environment, and hygienic behavior against mites. The honey bee niche in our ecosystem then becomes filled with managed bees.
If residents would like more information about honey bees, there are two local Facebook groups found by searching on “beekeepers.” In addition, Sangre de Cristo Beekeepers is a regional online group.