‘Ball of bees’ on trees typical swarming behavior: expert 樹上見蜂球 專家︰蜜蜂分巢

Wed, Mar 05, 2014 - Page 11

Over a thousand honeybees forming an elliptical shape as they gather on a cherry tree instead of staying in a beehive was something that farm owner Tsai Cheng-ming had never seen in the several decades that he has lived on Jinjhen Mountain in Taitung County’s Taimali Township. After observing the bees for nearly two hours, the following day when he went back the bees were nowhere to be found. Tsai Nu-jen, head of Taitung District Agricultural Research and Extension Station’s Department of Crop Environment, says that this is a natural swarming phenomenon among China’s wild honeybees, typically occurring in the spring. It means that the local ecological environment is doing well, he says.

Tsai Cheng-ming, owner of Chingshan Farm on Jinjhen Mountain, says that on the morning of Feb. 23 when he was cleaning up his farm he came across a ball-shaped object on a tree by the side of the road. After walking closer to it, he discovered that it was a swarm of over a thousand bees. The “ball of bees” was squirming around on the 3m-tall cherry tree, approximately 1.5 from the ground, Tsai says, adding that the elliptical shape was about 20cm in diameter.

Tsai Nu-jen says that this particular swarm of honeybees from China was in the middle of swarming. Once a group of honeybees grows large and strong enough, it produces a new queen, he says, adding that the old queen leaves the colony and takes a swarm of bees with her, which gathers on a tree until the swarm is complete. Then it prepares to move to a suitable location to make a new colony, while the old colony is left to the new queen bee. The phenomenon of swarming is most commonly seen in the spring, particularly among wild Chinese honeybees. The so-called ball of bees is only a temporary gathering — a natural phenomenon that should not alarm people. Swarming means that a group of honeybees is gradually getting stronger. Seeing a group of bees swarming in the wild is good news, especially in recent years with increasing numbers of bee colonies disappearing.

(Liberty Times, Translated by Kyle Jeffcoat)