The Swarming of honey bees…

Low-hanging swarm on rose bush in Lewiston, ME 2009

Swarm on rose bush

“A swarm in May –
is worth a bale of hay.
A swarm in June –
is worth a silver spoon.
A swarm in July –
isn’t worth a fly.”

Why is this old adage so often repeated?

Because it tells us a bit about honeybees and their needs.  A swarm is the honeybees’ method of reproducing.  In a swarm, the entire colony organizes itself so that the “old” queen – the one who flies off to find a new home – takes with her the right number of nurse bees and house bees and worker bees and drones, and leaves behind not only all the honey comb the colony has built, but also all of their existing stores of food, and brood – the “unborn babies” – ensuring that the colony who stays behind can raise their new queen, and she can take her mating flight, and their life can begin again.

In May the colony is likely a bit ahead of itself – a bit small to build up quickly, a bit early in the season for the nectar flow.

In June, things are just right – swarms are larger, nectar and pollen are everywhere, and when they find a place to begin their new colony – they go “gangbusters”!

In July, things are a little bit past prime.  The nectar flow has been in full swing for awhile now, and most colonies are already built up to maximum size and strength.  A swarm in July may or may not have time to bring in the food stores, and raise the brood they will need to survive the winter.

Does this attitude match up with yours?  Check us out at  We’ve been looking for you – we need your help in saving the bees.


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3 Responses to “The Swarming of honey bees…”

  1. Hazel W. Says:

    Love your informative notes. Thanks, much. I send them along to others.


  2. Phil Chandler Says:

    I think a load of hay would always have been worth more than a silver spoon in an agrarian economy, making a ‘swarm in May’ the most valuable of all, which indeed it is, as it has more time to build its stores for winter. The list is in decreasing order of value.

  3. Christy Hemenway Says:

    Well you make a good point. I have heard it a “bale” of hay, and a “load” of hay both… I guess the important bit is where are you and what have the bees got to work with for the rest of the season. Suppose if we were down under, the months would be ALL mixed up!

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