Mid-April to late June is a typical time for honey bee swarm season in Colorado and, for the 6th year, the Colorado State Beekeepers Association is running its “Swarm Hotline.” Colorado residents are asked to keep an eye out for swarming honey bees and report them via the hotline so that a local beekeeper can come and safely gather them up.

“We will be expecting swarms to emerge in the next couple of weeks,” according to Beth Conrey, president of the CSBA. “Do not spray a swarm with water or insecticide. Simply pick up the phone and call the swarm hotline at 970-213-3099. We will dispatch a beekeeper to pick it up — usually within an hour.”

A swarm is one of the true wonders of nature. Swarms emerge in the spring when a healthy hive becomes too crowded and part of them leave to form a new hive. When the queen lands on a branch or post, the rest of the bees all land near her forming a “ball of bees.”

Swarms are not only a fascinating natural process of honey bee reproduction, they are a
sign of something promising: healthy honey bees in Colorado.

The health and well-being of honey bees has been in jeopardy since 2006. Beekeepers began reporting losses of 30-70 percent of their hives, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The bees were just gone without a trace, the result of Colony Collapse Disorder.

Bee scientists say there’s no single explanation for CCD — it’s just everything that bees are
exposed to these days, including pests, pathogens, pesticides and the lack of floral diversity.

As Earth Day approaches, the CSBA wants to make people more aware of the important link between healthy honey bee populations, human interaction and our food supply.

According to the National Resources Defense Council, bees pollinate more than $15 billion worth of crops each year in the U.S. alone. Put another way, one of every three bites of food Americans consume comes from a plant visited by bees or other pollinators. Without bees, many fruits, vegetables and nuts (especially almonds) would disappear from our diets.

There are thousands of managed bee colonies in Colorado and they are typical of colonies throughout the country with losses in the 30 to 70 percent range annually. Bees that are healthy enough to swarm are called “survivor” bees and are crucial to sustaining bee populations in Colorado.

If you see a swarm, please call the Swarm Hotline at 970-213-3099. If you want to know more about honey bees visit www.coloradobeekeepers.org.

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