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Ronald Frazier | profile | all galleries >> Honeybee Colony Migration tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Honeybee Colony Migration

Here on campus at the University of Michigan - Dearborn, we got to witness quite an event. One of the bee colonies at the Environmental Interpretive Center decided they had outgrown their current habitat, and so they made a mass exodus across campus. Our first sign was a black cloud floating by our door. They decided to land in a tree just outside our office and set up a temporary home there. By the time I was aware what was going on, the bees had surrounded the queen, piling up on top of each other into a clump about 6 inches in diameter and 12-18 inches tall. Rick from the EIC was about to cut down the branch they had gathered on and place it in a box, which would later be transported back to the EIC. Unfortunately, I left my camera at home that morning, so I missed capturing the best part of the show.

I decided better late than never, so I took an early lunch, ran home, picked up my camera, and hurried back. I got back and took some pictures (including getting right up inside the swarm to shoot the inside of the bee box), and thought that was then end of it.

Over an hour later, we saw that black cloud pass by our windows again. I grabbed my camera, stuffed my zoom lens in my pocked, and darted for the door as fast as I could. We followed the great swarm to the other end of the building. They hovered around a small grove of trees for about 20 minutes. The sound of the bees buzzing overhead was incredible. Eventually, they disappeared into the grove, so we trekked inside and found they were making themselves at home inside of a split tree trunk. We figured that was the end of it (again), and that they had found themselves a nice home. Over an hour later, we came back to check on them and found that half the colony had migrated out of the tree and formed another clump on a branch hanging near the sidewalk. Eventually the majority of the bees that we could see had moved to the new location, though perhaps 100-200 had stayed behind.


Day 2 -

I arrived at 7:00AM to find the light was dim, the air was still, and the honey bees were fast asleep...not a single movement. The colony had grown quite a bit from the night before. As I was leaning over to take a picture from directly below the clump, I heard a buzzing below. A couple dozen bees were on the ground building a wax structure on a fallen tree leaf. I'm not sure it was the best place to build, and apparently the bees came to the same conclusion. By 2:00 PM, they had abandoned their creation. Meanwhile, back at the split tree trunk, there were considerably fewer bees still hard at work...certainly no more than 100.

So, for the most part, day 2 was pretty uneventful. A bit of growth and a few attempts at building something. At this point, the clump has been in place for well over 24 hours. I'm not sure how long they'll stay before moving on. From what I hear, those clumps aren't a permanent residence so they'll have to do something.

Update...apparently the bees left somewhere between 4:30PM and 6:00PM on Day 2. Unfortunately, nobody was around when the bees left, so we have no idea where they went to.
Bee Colony in Box
Bee Colony in Box
Home No. 2
Home No. 2
A Peek Inside
A Peek Inside
How Many Do You See?
How Many Do You See?
The Swarm
The Swarm
They're Everywhere
They're Everywhere
Home No. 3
Home No. 3
This Looks Like a Good Place
This Looks Like a Good Place
No One Will Find Us In Here
No One Will Find Us In Here
Then Who's Taking Those Pictures?
Then Who's Taking Those Pictures?
Back at Home No. 2
Back at Home No. 2
Where'd Everyone Go?
Where'd Everyone Go?
I Think I Smell the Queen
I Think I Smell the Queen
Nevermind
Nevermind
Starting Home No. 4
Starting Home No. 4
Getting Bigger...
Getting Bigger...
...And Bigger...
...And Bigger...
...And Even Bigger
...And Even Bigger
Protect the Queen!
Protect the Queen!
Which One's the Queen?
Which One's the Queen?
I'm the Queen!
I'm the Queen!
Who Said That?
Who Said That?
7:20 AM - Day 2Fast Asleep
7:20 AM - Day 2
Fast Asleep
Bigger Than Ever
Bigger Than Ever
Working with Wax......On the Ground?
Working with Wax...
...On the Ground?
It was a Bad Idea Anyway
It was a Bad Idea Anyway
We'll Never Give Up
We'll Never Give Up