Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

April 8, 2009

Bee Migration

Filed under: backyard, behavior, curiosities, Non Birds — richditch @ 4:42 pm
Migrating Bee Swarm

Migrating Bee Swarm

We had a surprise in the back yard yesterday afternoon – a large dark “structure” showed up hanging from a branch just off the patio. It didn’t look right for an owl or hawk, and I couldn’t imagine some animal that it could be, either. A quick check with the binoculars revealed a large swarm of bees hanging in an inverted pyramid, with a few bees flying around the edges.

I’m not comfortable around bees, although I’ve never experienced a bad situation with them (unlike yellow jackets that made a serious impression on me 50 years ago in Pennsylvania). So, I declared the yard off limits until we resolved the situation. In our 15 years here in AZ we’ve had to have two colonies of Africanized bees removed from the property (one on the back wall, and one from under the patio roof), so it was easy to find a phone number for a bee removal service.

But the guy we talked to thought we had a migration in progress, and as long as the bees weren’t disturbing us and we weren’t about to try to spray them with a hose or do something else particularly stupid, he recommended waiting 24-48 hours. He said many bees were coming in off the desert right now, and this swarm was likely  just resting as they migrated somewhere else. It was something we’d never heard about before and we found it fascinating.

So, I got brave enough for a couple quick handheld shots with a 200mm lens – unfortunately in back noon light. I figured I’d get better shots later in the day and I’d be able to drag out more gear if they stayed dormant.

We watched them every 30 minutes or so, until at 4:00 PM we looked out and they were all gone. We would have enjoyed seeing the departure.

I’ve googled “bee migration” and found a little information, but I’d like to hear from any experts if you can tell us more about this.

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15 Comments »

  1. Thanks for this reassuring info! I found the same type of situation this afternoon in my yard in Phoenix. LOADS of bees hovering around the ground on my synthetic turf. I wondered what I had dropped there. I DId try spraying them with a hose…and it did nothing. So I went inside to check out a bee capturer. When I went outside again there were LOADS of them around a nearby tree…swarming. The message on the phone number I called indicated they were probably migrating….first I had heard of it too! tonight I saw the BIG cluster up in the tree…looked like your picture! At first I thought it was just a plastic bag that had gotten caught up there from the recent wind storms. Then I saw the bees buzzing around. It’s my tree…but the swarm is over the neighbors property! I’ve locked the dogs in the house…they try to eat the bees..not good. I do hope they leave soon! I’ll go and check every so often too!

    Comment by Wendy — April 22, 2009 @ 6:59 pm

  2. Wow! We discovered the same thing here in Tucson! Our bees are not on a tree however, they are clustered on the east side of a wooden play house in our back yard. I too called a bee removal company and they suggested we wait a couple of days. Assuming they leave in a few days, they are really interesting. The dogs don’t like being couped up but we got some great pictures of them. Thanks for the information!

    Comment by Stacy — April 22, 2009 @ 8:05 pm

  3. the same thing happened to me. i came home from work to find 9 honey bees inside my bedroom window,scared to death of course. i walked outside to see what was going on and there were only a few bees buzzing around, no hive in sight. the next day after work, i drive up and see this collection of bees the size of a soccor ball and at least 300 plus honey bees. i freaked no doubt. called the bee control company and the explained the same thing to me, that they were migrating and resting up and refueling for the rest of their journey. they were still there this morning and i hope to get a picture this afternoon before the buzz off. a great sight to see. (5-22-09– san antonio texas)

    Comment by monique — May 22, 2009 @ 5:55 am

  4. Same thing happened here in central Michigan. My son heard a swarm of bees hovering over him yesterday, June 2. I talked to him on the phone and he told me about the swarm. He mentioned a nest in a tree between the neighbors and us. I got home later that evening and truly found the most bees I have ever seen in one spot. The photo from richditch was identical to what we had in our tree. The bees stuck around all night (very cool night as well) and left just this afternoon. Pretty awesome!

    Comment by Trent — June 3, 2009 @ 2:37 pm

  5. that happened to my dad last summer while we were roofing. the swarm had to be at least 500 strong, and we heard them coming before we could see them, and while my dad was up on the ladder they swarmed around him, and then they were gone. he didn’t even get stung once, it was the scariest thing i have ever seen…

    Comment by billy — June 15, 2009 @ 5:29 pm

  6. Wow I just started my research and ran across this article. This just happened to me today and I too live in AZ and have never heard of this. Thanks for the info.

    Comment by Wendy — August 19, 2009 @ 3:40 pm

  7. Ours arrived yesterday around 4pm. We’re in far north Ft. Worth Texas. We saw them arrive. I’m hoping to see them leave.

    Comment by Letha — September 21, 2009 @ 7:51 am

  8. Great info. Am in a Boynton Beach,Florida condo. Last week approx. a thousand bees were under roof near fourth floor. Two days later they were split into two groups hanging in oak tree in back of building. Looked just like your photo. Last night they were in a smaller tree next to the oak. Can’t find them today. We had called an exterminator but may have to call and cancel.

    Comment by Eileen — October 6, 2009 @ 1:23 pm

  9. same thing here in fresno, ca 4/23 at 5pm

    Comment by aref — April 23, 2010 @ 9:47 pm

  10. same thing happened here in Phoenix, az

    Comment by reda — May 12, 2010 @ 5:07 pm

  11. That happened to us today and I’m glad I found your blog. We thought we were crazy except that we all saw it and we got pictures too. I’m surprised there’s not more about it on the web.

    Comment by CleaStagnitti — June 8, 2011 @ 2:52 pm

  12. Same thing here in southwestern Ontario Canada..just noticed them around 11 am…hope they don’t decide to stay very long

    Comment by jaycee — June 20, 2011 @ 9:22 am

  13. Here in Mo. in a Rose bush today. Wasn’t there yesterday will they come back again?

    Comment by Judy Fowler Kemry — May 30, 2013 @ 6:52 pm

  14. Just guessing, but I don’t think they will be back. If you had a swarm of bees as in the photo it usually means that an entire hive is on the move and has paused in their travels. The queen picks a place to rest and the entire hive forms a ball around her. When the queen is ready to move the entire hive travels with her.

    Comment by richditch — May 30, 2013 @ 6:59 pm

  15. Yesterday bout 12 pm a swarm made itself appear under or back yard awning/ grapevine over hang. It’s been 24 now.. if after 48 hrs they aren’t gone should I call professionals? Tomoro is super bowl Sunday and my husband’s bday with a huge party of guests expected tomoro … very worried they will not be gone and our planning and expenses for this event is about to get ruined .. 😦

    Comment by Sabrina — February 4, 2017 @ 12:57 pm


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