Saanich residents living near Swan Lake and Royal Oak are being urged to keep an eye out for a swarm of escaped honey bees.
Earlier this week, a portion of the Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary’s observation colony left their hive to find a new home to accommodate their growing population.
The process is a natural occurrence that sees bee colonies splitting in half once their hive reaches capacity. Half the colony remains in the current hive, while the other half leaves with the Queen Bee to establish a new home somewhere else.
“A bee swarm is a natural occurrence for honey bees because they’re social insects,” Alanna Morbin, Swan Lake Nature House beekeeper, told Victoria buzz.
“They tend to leave in a cloud—like a big cloud of bees—and there’s a very distinct hum in the air. Then the queen will alight herself to a tree branch or a car or something and they’ll reorganize themselves. That’s usually when people see huge clusters of bees like grapes on a vine.”
While the cluster of bees can look intimidating, Alanna notes that swarms are usually docile and safe to observe from a distance.
“A swarm is considered a little more docile than when bees are in a hive or a home because they aren’t in a physical space that they want to defend,” says Alanna.
“It is safe for the public to observe from a distance, it’s a very interesting and a wonderful phenomenon to see. But, we don’t recommend that anyone who isn’t a beekeeper to try to capture it or handle it.”
Who to contact for free swarm removal
If you spot a swarm of bees (which tend to emerge during the summer season between April and August) the nature sanctuary recommends contacting Victoria’s Capital Region Beekeepers Association at 250-900-5787, or your local fire department or local non-emergency police line.
These organizations will send in a team of volunteer beekeepers to safely remove the swarm from the area and relocate them to a new home. The process and removal is completely free.
The Queen of Swan Lake
If you spot the Swan Lake swarm, the nature house is hoping to retrieve the queen.
The queen can be identified by a white dot on her back, pictured below. The nature house is hoping to have her returned because she has strong genetics and has been particularly prosperous.
The request to have the queen returned is aimed mainly at the Saanich beekeeping community.
“That swarm has likely either gone into nature and found a lovely tree to live in or a beekeeper may have caught them using a “bait hive”,” said Alanna. “If a bee keeper has a new swarm that they caught with a queen with a white dot, we can identify it as ours.”
In the meantime, visitors of Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary can still observe a colony of busy bees at work. The other half of the hive that remained are in the process of creating a new queen, and guests have the chance to see this new monarch being crowned.
“Swan Lake nature house does still have a colony at the observation hive and it continues to thrive,” said Alanna.
“They will create a new queen and that process can be observed right now. The new queen is expected to emerge around may 21st.”
Check out photos of similar local swarms below: