Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bee or not to Bee

Just today my husband and I observed something we have not seen before. During the last few days I have heard swarms of bees flying around our house at various times if the day and as suddenly as they appeared they would disappear. This morning we found out where they had gone to.

We have an older lime tree outside our back door and there, out on a limb so to speak, was a living swarm of bees, one on top of another. At first we thought maybe they were beginning to form a living cell to create a hive. For brief periods part of the swarm would break away from the "living nest" and fly about only to return and be absorbed into the crawling live nest. This happened over and over again during a few hours.

My husband approached and photographed the swarm and took a close up of the actual bees.

As you can see from this photo, there are literally thousands of bees, each climbing over the other. Several hours passed and then, suddenly, as quickly as they appeared they started dropping to the ground apparently dying. In less than an hour all the bees had dropped off the branch and were laying on the ground.

My husband picked up a few bees, held them in his hand and took this close up photo.

We have no idea what their final goal was or if they were in fact honey bees. The honey bees of the island were decimated by Hurricane Mitch and it has only been recently, due to the diligence of some of the foreigners and islanders, that honey bees have been reintroduced onto the island. Those bees that were introduced, however, are at the Northeast end of the island so we were surprised to see this swarm so far from their actual nests.

Maybe someone out there has insight into this phenomena and can shed some light on this strange behavior.


  1. It may not be the same thing, but I wrote about a mass suicide of "wasps" or maybe bees a couple of years ago. My photos aren't very good so it's hard to compare.

    Mass suicide

    We see that behavior in La Ceiba every year to one extent or another. But yours look more like a bee than I remember mine looking like.

  2. I have since researched the swarming of bees and found a very good description of the activity at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swarming_(honey_bee).Apparently this is what we had on the island. Quite possibly some of the bees that died either used up their food supply or it was part of a second swarm or they had lost their queen and perished. Whatever the reason I am sure that the swarm found a home for the new queen and are busy producing honey!

  3. Definitely honey bees. They swarm when they get too crowded or the queen is old. Then they make a new queen and the old queen and maybe half of the hive leave and look for a new home. They usually only hang out on a branch like that for a few hours while a few bees scout for a new home. Great pictures Mike.


  4. Hey Sharon:
    We have had bee swarms since this summer over here. I called Bill O’Driscoll to come and get them or to send the bee keeper over. No one ever came. Our guys built a hive and we had them in there for a while. They were taking over the Cosenza house and making a hive inside their walls for a while too. Then they got into the downstairs of Chapman’s house. We had them over at our house too. Call Bill. His bees ran away. Maybe they are from his hives. Susan has had trouble with her hives too. I don’t know the status of hers now though.
    They really like your lime tree. Never a dull moment here is there?

    Linda M.

  5. Guess the bees saw your beautiful garden and decided this was a great spot for them! Hmmmm…run-away-bees. Interesting!

    Joan C.