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It's bee-swarming season. Here's what that means.

 A close-up of a pile of bees
Pixabay (CC0)

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As it warms up in Central Texas, all sorts of creatures and insects are making grand — and sometimes scary — appearances in our urban environment.

The latest newsmaking creatures? Bees.

Austin Travis County EMS treated seven people for injuries related to a bee swarm at Richard Moya Park in Southeast Austin over Memorial Day weekend.

So, what may have caused the bees to swarm, and what can you do to stay safe from the buzzy little pollinators?

Spring and summer are honeybees' most active reproductive periods. And when a honeybee colony becomes overcrowded, the queen and hundreds — or sometimes thousands — of her worker bees abandon the nest in search of a new location with more space and ample resources. Swarming is simply how bees survive and increase their population.

Walter Schumacher, Discovery Channel's Bee Czar and founder of the American Honey Bee Protection Agency, says there's often a misconception about "swarming" bees.

"A swarm is just a group of bees that are looking for a home," he said.

Swarming bees are generally not aggressiveand will leave you alone unless they feel threatened, Schumaker said.

“It’s not trying to get into a fight because it won’t survive the fight, even if it wins," he said. "The bee stings once, and it’s dead.”

That's why it's best to witness the biological spectacle from a distance while NOT disrupting the bees.

Juliana Rangel, associate professor of apiculture at Texas A&M University, says swarms are typically focused on the tedious task of moving, not attacking.

"Swarms are generally super tame and gentle because what they're doing is being preoccupied with clustering around the queen and taking off from that cluster to their new home," she said. "They're just moving from one place to another."

Rangel says if a colony decides to move onto your property — such as near a water meter or in a hallowed log — don't panic.

"Don't startle them. Leave them alone," she said. "Let's say you live in a household with kids or pets, and you use your backyard all the time and you feel uneasy about having a honeybee colony on your property, you should probably call a beekeeper and ask them to relocate the colony."

Why relocate bees instead of just eradicating them? Because bees, Rangel says, are essential to human survival.

"They're the most important beneficial insects on Earth," she said. "Without them, we would not have but a third of the food we consume on a daily basis. And not only that, we probably wouldn't have the beautiful plant biodiversity that we have, because they also pollinate a lot of wildflowers and other nonagricultural plants."

The City of Austin officially advocates for the relocation of bees rather than eradication, but it does not provide bee removal services. The city website does providea link to beekeeper resources, however.

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