Nature Notes from Common Ground

Week of May 3, 2021

Swarm Season Begins!

The bees are keeping beekeeper Tim super busy these days. With more and more flowers blooming every day, the hives are getting stronger and stronger. Once the dandelions bloom (which happened a few weeks ago) swarm season begins. When you think about a swarm of bees, does that sound scary and dangerous? Look at this picture of Tim catching a swarm at common ground - they're actually very gentle!

The honeybee hives are getting crowded. As the queen runs out of room to lay eggs, she leaves the hive with a bunch of worker bees to search for a new home. They leave behind some workers to care for the hive as well as new queens to take over from the old queen. (Because each hive can have only one queen, the new queens will fight to the death to become the new queen.)

The old queen and the bees that left with her will cluster, usually in the branches of a tree, in a big clump called a bivouac. They hang out there while scout bees fly off to search for a new home. When the scouts return they do a special dance to show the other bees the location of potential new homes. The scouts that find the best homes dance with more excitement and for a longer time. Other bees in the group fly off to check out these sites and return to do a dance of their own. Eventually, usually within a few hours to a few days, the very best site will get so many bees dancing with such gusto that the entire bivouac will take off, all at once, to move into their new home. In the video below, Tim catches the bees while they are still in the bivouac, and then moves them into a home of his choice.

Fun fact: honeybees usually only sting when they are defending their home. When they are in a bivouac (swarm), they don’t have a home to defend - so even though it might look scary, they’re unlikely to sting you!


Nature activity of the week


Honeybees give us honey, and they also help us by pollinating our plants. Bees and other pollinators move pollen from one flower to another, enabling plants to make seeds (and many of the fruits and vegetables that we like to eat!)

Click here for a lesson on pollinators!


Weekly Video

Relocating a Honey Bee Swarm


Hike of the Week

Chaffinch Island and Grass Island

Each week we share a family-friendly hike or outdoor adventure. Click here to visit Chaffinch and Grass Islands!



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About this series

Our programs for children at Common Ground are place based, hands on, and focus on community, friendship, and nature-based learning and play.

In this time of virtual learning and social distancing, we seek to support teachers and families in getting outside in safe and healthy ways. We hope this series provides content and activities to help your students or your family engage in nature-based learning, whether you are learning in person or virtually.

Some of the funding we rely on to keep Nature Notes free comes from the Robert F. Schumann Foundation and The Claire C. Bennitt Watershed Fund, established by the South Central CT Regional Water Authority.