From left - a honey bee, a bald-faced hornet and a yellowjacket wasp. Photos supplied

From left - a honey bee, a bald-faced hornet and a yellowjacket wasp. Photos supplied

Honey bee swarming season is upon us

Comox Valley Beekeepers has swarm catchers at the ready

Ernie Daley

Special to The Record

Take a look at the accompanying pics and notice the differences in appearance of these common pollinators. There is one major difference the public needs to be aware of: hornets and wasps do not swarm in large numbers, only honey bees do. Hornets and wasps will pretty much leave you alone unless you stumble upon their nest by accident; this can result in a horde of angry and stingy wasps or hornets (which can be very dangerous to people and pets), however they are not swarming, but simply defending against intruders. Whereas honey bees leave their parent colony in great numbers looking for a new home with the original queen, this is considered a swarm and is not dangerous to humans or pets. This is how honey bees increase colonies and reproduce; they have been doing so for thousands of years.

While I was considering this article, I had a swarm leave one of my hives, I was fortunate in locating it on a low hanging branch in my yard and proceeded to document it’s ultimate re-hiving. The sound and appearance is intimidating, in fact our dog retreated to the safety of a back room and my wife came out of the house to say “what is that sound!” noticing it even from inside. Here is a short video of the experience. Be sure to turn the volume up to get the real effect.

This year has been particularly busy for the honey bees so far with swarms being reported up and down the Island. A honey bee swarm is a valuable asset to a beekeeper consisting of 60per cent of the flying (foragers) bees and a laying queen which makes up the bulk of the honey crop producers for the season.

So if you see a swarm, the Comox Valley Beekeepers are here to help. You can contact a swarm catcher directly here http://www.comoxvalleybeeclub.com/swarm-catchers/ or by phoning the Courtenay Fire Department 250-334-2513 who also have an updated swarm catchers list in their duty truck.

The Comox Valley benefits greatly from the presence of dedicated beekeepers. From farmers, backyard gardeners, fruit growers to flower lovers, everyone benefits from the pollination activity of our honey bees. Please help us help the bees, if you see a swarm please contact us so we can get them to a new home and help them do their important work for our community.