January 7th – Heart-Shaped Swarm

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Today we chanced across this odd formation – a excited swarm what looked to be your standard honey (or Western) bees (Apis mellifera).

What is occurring is one of those amazing natural phenomena , when the Queen chooses to leave the hive and find a new home, taking up to 60% of the worker population from the original hive.

Buried under this writhing mass is a Queen, and potentially a number of ‘Queen Cups’ – eggs laid by the queen and encased in a structure to transport them.

This location may be temporary, as the bees tend to move on sunrise each morning until they find a new home for their Queen. In some cases the swarm may initially settle relatively close to the original hive, while scouts canvas the area for a new suitable location.

All things considered, it’s another benefit of owning a telephoto lens – there was little chance I was getting up close and personal to this cluster (and this photo was taken out of my car window).

And a cautious note for the curious – if you find a swarm, do not inspect it at night with a torch. According to some, the slightest irritation could send hundreds, potentially thousands, of worker bees straight at the source of light – your torch. But the bees are not generally aggressive during this phase of their life-cycle.

 

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