Exciting Day the Sonoma Garden Park with the Bees PHOTOS

Received via email from

Tiona Gundy
Sonoma Garden Park Coordinator
Sonoma Ecology Center

Hello everyone:

It was a special time for everyone working at the Sonoma Garden Park  last Saturday, March 3.  Our feral bee colony living in a bird box  swarmed right before our eyes!  In the time span of about five minutes,  the sky was filled with tens of thousands of bees.  About fives minutes  later, the bees chose to land in the plum tree in front of our bee  yard, about three feet above ground.  This location was fortunate to  us, as Roger and Denise Fortain and I easily captured this swarm and  hived it directly into one of our empty bee boxes (see attached  photos).  As we set up our bee box, the swarm cluster continued to  grow.  Normally, a large swarm would be about the size of a football.   This was the largest landed swarm that I have ever seen.  It’s hard to  imagine that they all lived inside this bird box.

Swarming is a natural occurrence with honeybees.  This is the means of  expansion of their species.  As they outgrow their space, about 70-80%  of the bees will leave to find a new home.   The queen bee also leaves  with the swarm.  Before swarming, the bees will raise a new replacement  queen, which will hatch shortly after the colony swarms.

My plans last Saturday were to assess the condition and size of our  feral colony and at the next nice weekend afternoon, open the bird box  to hive the bees and comb into one of our boxes.  Now my plans have  changed.  We will wait about three weeks for the new queen and the bees  remaining in the bird box to expand their colony, and then we will open  the bird box to hive the remaining bees.

We want to move the remaining bees into a bee box so we may inspect  them to monitor their health and colony size.  As the colony continues  to grow, we can give them more space.  If we were to leave the colony  alone in the bird box, they would eventually swarm again.

About Swarms
Beekeepers do not look at the calendar to tell them when spring begins.   They know the start of spring when they either witness or hear about  the first swarm of the New Year.  Spring is the time when bees will  naturally expand their colonies by swarming.  There are techniques that  beekeepers use to prevent swarming with their own hives.

Before bees swarm, they gorge themselves on honey in preparation for  going without food for some time until they find a new home, build  honeycomb, and build up new foodstores.  As soon as swarm, they are  full of honey and a bit demoralized, as they have no home.  Therefore,  they are usually relatively gentle, and will cooperate when we hive  them.

If you see a swarm on your property, never spray them with water or  spray chemicals on them.  While they are clustered, scout bees are  actively looking for a permanent home.  When they find a new home, the  scouts will signal to the others to follow them to their new home.  A  swarm cluster will usually find a new home within three days.  Often,  homeowners will call the fire or police department to ask them to  remove the swarm cluster.  These agencies will refer to a list of  beekeepers that are willing to remove swarms.  Some beekeepers charge a  fee for their services, and some do not.  You can access this list of  beekeepers yourself by going online to www.sonomabees.org.  This is the  website of the Sonoma County Beekeepers Association.

If you see a landed swarm on your property, you may call me to capture  the swarm.  My phone number is listed below, and I am also on the swarm  list of the Sonoma County Beekeepers Association.  I’ll bring the bees  to the Garden to expand our program here.  We could use some more bees.   Our bees produced 140 jars of honey last year.  We sold them all at  $6.00 per jar, and we could have sold many more!  Imagine our demand as  word gets out that we have top quality local honey from hives that we  manage without the use of chemicals in our hives.


Bill Wiebalk
321-6645 cell

Click on photos to expand:

Bees preparing to swarm

Swarm in Plum Tree

Preparing to capture the swarm

Most of the bees are in the box

Bees coming out to examine their new home

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