> Great balls of bees! March 19 2012

 It's that time of year again:  Swarm season.

You may have seen this natural phenomenon, which starts as a whirlwind of bees, kinda like on "Winnie-the-Pooh," and ends with a ball of living bees hanging from a tree branch or moving into a wall.

Here's why it happens.

In the spring, honeybee colonies grow quickly, and sometimes they run out of room for the queen to lay eggs. Whether they are living in a hollow tree or in contrived hives, when the queen bee says, "We need more room!" the colony follows. (As it should be.)

This movement is called a swarm, and honeybees tend to swarm in the spring. We often get calls from people who have a swarm in their yard or in a wall of their home.

If you see a swarm, enjoy it! Not many people get to witness this phenomenon. And don't be afraid; honeybees without a home are at their most docile when swarming. Their only thought is to protect the queen, somewhere in that big     ball of bees, and they will not attack you as long as you don't attack them.

For beekeepers, preventing swarms involves constant monitoring of the hives to make sure there's enough room for eggs, larvae, honey, etc. If things are looking tight, a beekeeper puts another box on top of the hive. Beekeepers are usually happy to capture swarms; this means free bees (no pun, really) for the apiary and a nuisance removed for the homeowner.