Bee swarm shows up in San Antonio-area backyard and disappears hours later

Local expert says this type of swarm is common in South Texas around this time of year

Bee swarm in Live Oak (KSAT)

LIVE OAK, Texas – It’s bee swarming season and one Live Oak couple caught a glimpse of the phenomenon in their backyard on Sunday.

Toni Stewart sent photos to KSAT and said she woke up to find “a swarm of bees hanging out on our birdbath. It was awesome! Apparently it’s the season for beehives to split and search for new locations to build hives."

Swarming is the method honey bees use to reproduce, said Gary Rankin, who has worked with the insects for more than four decades and is the owner of The Bee Place, an apiary in Somerset.

“Once a colony of bees reaches the maximum capacity of a current living space (think: filling the cavity of a hollow in a tree with honeycomb and bees) and there are ample resources available, such as plenty of food-producing blooms in the spring, the colony receives signals from this growth state that they are healthy enough to reproduce,” said Rankin, who spoke with KSAT Monday.

It’s not uncommon to see swarms in San Antonio said Rankin. “I get a lot of calls for swarms. It’s very common, especially this time of year."

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Stewart told KSAT she spoke with a beekeeper “who predicted they’d just move along and, sure enough, they were gone about 6 hours later."

Rankin has a page on his website, TheBeePlace.com, that explains the swarming process in full detail. He notes that swarms of bees will sometimes rest after scouting for future home sites.

“A voting system is used to select the site of choice,” said Rankin. "The entire inspection team has to agree on a single location before the swarm takes flight again and the bees move to a new home site. On rare occasion, the scouts and inspectors do not find and/or agree on a cavity soon enough and the colony will begin to build comb where they rest. This creates what we call an exposed or ‘open air hive.’”

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Open air bee colony (The Bee Place)

Rankin notes that resting swarms are not aggressive as they have no food or young to protect.

So what should you do if you see what you think is a hive on your property? Rankin said contact a local beekeeper to assist with removals and swarm capturing.

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“If the bees are clustered on a structure, like a tree limb, that is typically a swarm resting and not aggressive. If the bulk of the bees are not visible, and only a few are seen coming and going through an opening, like a crack in a wall or hollow opening of a tree, then keep away and know they have taken up residence in that space and will defend their home and young just as we do with our own homes and loved ones,” said Rankin.

As for Stewart? “We thought it was very cool."


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