Will a Swarm Survive Cool, Rainy Weather?

Ask the Expert!

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Morgan writes:

Bees swarmed yesterday from our hive. They are in one of our fruit trees. Today it has been raining all afternoon with temps in the high 40s to 50. Is the swarm able to survive in this weather?

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Rusty Burlew replies:

Your swarm is fine. I have watched swarms survive for up to nine days in rain, wind, and 40-degree temperatures. They will likely take off on the first warm day. A swarm has a system for keeping itself warm in inclement weather. As the bees on the outside of the cluster get cold, bees from the toasty-warm center come out and cover them. In time, as the new outer layer gets cold, more bees emerge from the center.

What looks to us to be a static group of bees is actually in constant motion, always changing position and always protecting the queen who stays in the center. When the temperatures are warmer, you can often see the scout bees flying around the outside of the cluster as they search for a new home and report their findings to the others.

Some bees will die during their stay, mostly from natural attrition. Worker bees only live a few weeks, so some will come to a natural end of life. Also, some may run into regular hazards such as hungry birds. It helps to remember that even a healthy, fully-functioning colony may lose up to 1000 bees a day in the summer.

When the sun finally comes out, the swarm will not leave instantly. Bees can’t fly with wet wings, so they wait until everyone dries out and is ready for flight. Then off they go.

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